Tattoo

Via the Inked Blog, a link to a new blog by a graphic designer and tattoo apprentice. He’s been doing freelance graphic design for awhile, and wanted to add tattooing to his body of knowledge to provide a steadier stream of income.

The post about practicing drawing things he doesn’t like was particularly interesting for me, because it reflects a lot of how I feel about the commercial arts. Whether you’re a professional writer, a fashion designer, or a visual artist, you’re going to end up with commissions you don’t really care for. How you react to those determines a lot of your success and it’s a fine line between taking a few not-very-interesting jobs and whoring yourself out, never doing anything you actually like, and ending up with a portfolio of crap you can’t be proud of.

I’ve written a lot of things that aren’t great art, but which I’ve still been proud of, because they’ve been useful. And I imagine a visual artist is the same way: you might not like your client’s idea, but you can steer them to something that will be better, if not perfect. And that way, even if it’s not perfect, you both end up happy.

Then, there are the things I’ve written that I’d just as soon disown: advertising writing aimed at search engines as much as humans, brochures that nobody was going to read, web copy that was just a string of slogans and buzzwords. And I’m guessing it’s the same for the other arts. You’ve got your good tattoos, your good paintings, your good buildings, in your portfolio. Then there’s the tasmanian devils, the portraits of jerks, the giant McMansions where the owner says “just make it bigger than the Jones house down the road.” And you swallow your pride and ink it, paint it, build it, and hope it never comes back to haunt you.

Not everybody can be the pure artist who only does the work they like. Not everyone has that luxury. And not everyone is enough of a jerk to deny a paying customer something they want. So, we try and advise or educate, and when we can’t, we let them make their own mistakes with their own money.

It kind of makes me want to be a better customer. I’m not commissioning houses or portraits of my family, but maybe I should go into my local tattoo shop and say “I want a tattoo you’ll be proud of.”

2 thoughts on “Tattoo”

  1. the way i see the crappy commissions is that they let me afford to do the work i’m really proud of. but i don’t add them to my portfolio, that’s for damn sure.

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