By Steven Zapel
Chances are if you do not have one, you know someone who does, and most likely several people that do, and of those people you know that have them, they probably have more than one. In today’s society, tattoos are as popular as dying your hair, or wearing designer sunglasses. Young people start planning their first tattoo before they can even drive a car. There are as many tattoo parlors as grocery stores, liquor stores, or movie rental shops in any major city.
Tattooing is the art of inserting ink into the dermis layers of skin to create a permanent change of the skin pigment for various reasons, most common of which is being decorative. For centuries the art of tattooing has existed in cultures worldwide. From Japan to the British Isles and America, tattooing has been practiced among civilized people as far back as human records can show. The earliest known practice of tattooing in Europe dates back to the Neolithic time period, while in Japan the art is believed to have been practiced since the Paleolithic era.
In countries like Samoa, tattoos are a symbol of manhood and display a tribe member’s accomplishments as a warrior or hunter. Tattoos have been used as rights of passage, to display spiritual and religious devotion, to portray status or rank within a culture's hierarchy, as a means to identify slaves or outcasts, as punishment, as signs of love or commitment, as sexual enticements and signs of fertility, and for countless other reasons.
Tattoos exist in today’s society for many of the same reasons. People have crosses, pentacles, stars of David, the moon and star, or the yin-yang symbol tattooed on them to show religious devotion all over the world. Soldiers and other members of the armed forces get tattoos to signify their status or rank every day. People get tattoos to show their loyalty to their significant other, their favorite sports team, their fraternity brothers or sorority sisters, or to their family and friends.
Cultures all over the world still use tattoos as rights of passage. Biker gangs will often times require new members to get their insignia tattooed on them before they can be considered members. Even the Nazis (as horrible as it was) used tattoos as a means to identify Jewish people, portraying them as outcasts from the rest of society. As well, men and women often times get tattoos because they think it makes them more appealing to the opposite sex.
There are many different styles of tattoos. Tattoo styles range from tribal and Celtic to Japanese kanji and Irezumi. With any type of fashion statement, tattoo styles go in and out of popularity over a period of time. With all the variation in styles, some tattoo artist become better at tattooing a specific style over other styles. Some artists will only do traditional, classic style pieces that are very clean and colorful and avoid clustering; some classic pieces include the “Pinup Girl,” Japanese Koi, and Chinese dragons. Other tattoo artists excel in a style that involves more line work, such as tribal bands and Celtic crosses.
Even with that said, every tattoo artist has his or her own way a visualizing a piece and making that piece come to life. Just like a painter or a sketch artist, tattoo artists are indeed artists, and each artist has a unique way of tattooing and creating the piece of art they're putting on an individual’s body. As some painters excel at specific painting techniques, certain tattoo artists excel at different tattoo styles and techniques.
It is very important when choosing an artist to view their work and make sure they excel in the style of tattooing you want to get on your body. With the growing popularity of tattoos comes an increase of tattoo artists and like any other kind of artist, they're not created equally. I have seen thousands of tattoos and many of them are bad tattoos because the person getting the tattoo rushed into it and did not take the time to find a quality artist. Another reason people end up with poor- quality tattoos is because they try to find they cheapest artist they can.
If you want a painting by Picasso, you’re going to have to spend a lot of money to get it. On the other hand, if you do not want to pay that price you’re going to get a far less quality painting. Tattooing is no different; if you want quality work on your body, it’s going to cost you. But if you're looking to save a buck on your tattoo, the quality will reflect that. Since tattoos are, for the most part, permanent, I highly recommend finding a quality tattoo artist and paying their price, because if you penny pinch on your tattoo you'll be reminded of that every time you see it -- for the rest of your life.
I have many tattoos and am not finished getting work done. Like most people who have tattoos will tell you, there are few things in life as addicting. I have tattoos all over my body: on my calf, my ribs, my back, and all over my arms. I have black and grey work as well as color work. I'm currently having my sleeve finished on my left arm. I have a few pieces of Chinese kanji that are fairly simple and did not cost much, and most tattoo artists are able to do that kind of work.
The majority of my ink is very in-depth and detailed and considered to be very artistic tattoos. I have spent many long sessions at the tattoo parlor and spent a good amount of money on my tattoos, but the quality of work I have received has been more than worth the cost. I hear from people all the time how beautiful my tattoos are and how impressed people are by my ink. A good tattoo doesn’t just happen in a few minutes; quality tattoos require time and patience, but the end result is something you will love for the rest of your life.
People always ask what getting a tattoo feels like and if it's painful. The simple answer to that question is yes, but it generally depends on an individual’s levels of pain tolerance. Getting a tattoo involves having a needle repeatedly inserted into your skin at very high speeds, but it is something one gets used to. At least I have. The tattooing process to me is now very therapeutic and I become quite relaxed when getting new ink done, blocking out any pain I feel. I go to Boulevard Tattoo on Niagara Falls Boulevard to get my work done. The owner, Kyle, is a brilliant artist and does amazing work.
The INSIGHT is going to have bi-weekly contests in which we ask our readers to submit photos of their tattoos to our editor at firstname.lastname@example.org and our staff is going to vote on the best tattoos. Every two weeks we are going to interview the person who has the tattoo that we selected and get the story behind the tattoo (because every great tattoo has a great story behind it) and publish the story as a part of our next issue. At the end of the 2010-2011 school year, we will have our readers vote on their favorite tattoo from the bi-weekly winners and the tattoo that receives the most votes will receive a $100 gift certificate, courtesy of Boulevard Tattoos.
So, INSIGHT readers, please submit pictures of your best tattoos with a brief message explaining your tattoo and you could win the $100 gift certificate to put towards your next tattoo. Who knows: maybe you'll get to see me getting worked on when you come in to use your gift certificate. Below are a few of my own tattoos. Some are completed and others are still works in progress.
The prize from this contest cannot be redeemed for cash value. All entries must be submitted via email with only the tattoo visible in the picture. No sexually explicit pictures will be considered for bi-weekly winners. This contest is limited to Daemen College students. Contest winner must be able to show a valid Daemen College I.D. to receive their prize. If the winner of the contest is unable to meet the rules of this contest, the tattoo with the second highest amount of votes will become the winner. All contest participants must be 18 years of age or older. The INSIGHT, Daemen College and their affiliates are not responsible for any lost entries. One entry per email. The INSIGHT, Daemen College, and their affiliates are not responsible for replacing the gift certificate if the winner loses it. The INSIGHT, Daemen college and their affiliates are not responsible for any bodily harm that may result from use of the gift certificate. Redeeming the gift certificate is done at the winner's own risk. Failure to read and abide by these contest rules will result in forfeiture of the prize.