An homage to the painted people of our community…
By Michael Love
You don’t have to spend much time in our circles to know that our community loves their ink… I don’t know if what they say about tattooed people being more promiscuous is true, but the Portland scene could definitely be raising the bar… we’re definitely raising the bar in quality of work.
According to MSNBC, in 2018, Portland ranks 5th in the nation for the city with the highest number of tattoo shops per capita, with 12 shops for every 100,000 people, and that is just in Portland. Believe it or not, that put Portland ahead of Los Angeles, who came in at #10! There are some mighty fine tattoo shops in the greater Vancouver/Battle Ground area, including a couple of our favorites, as well as some really great shops down in Salem, Oregon including Ledhead Ned, who sponsored this article and has some of his work featured here on a couple of our models.
Just a couple of decades ago, it was considered taboo to have tattoos. They were just for sailors, bikers, and people with loose morals. For some, tattoo’s were an indicator of which gang you belonged to, or for those in the military, memoirs of adventures in faraway lands. In the old days, tattoo artists didn’t adhere to as stringent of hygiene standards and were not as tightly regulated as they are now, as far as using sterilized equipment. Modern advances in regulations and equipment have made getting a tattoo much safer, but also with processes and inks that are much more vibrant and colorful.
Even just a decade ago, it was pretty tough to find employment if you had visible tattoos. In certain social circles, you could be judged harshly for what could be considered poor judgment. As society has evolved, and people are getting body art done for the love of the art, and the permanence of it, along with entities like the Suicide Girls, and L.A. Ink… along with countless celebrities and sports figures who are sporting some sweet ink… Tattoos have become more glamorized and accepted.
Does it hurt? You bet it does… a tattoo machine has tiny needles in it that pierces the skin from 50 to 3,000 times per minute, so they can deposit inks under the skin. If you want an idea of what it feels like, its kind of a cross between having a sharp needle raked across your skin and just a touch of electricity. For me, and I’m a huge baby, It hurts like hell for as long as the tattooist is applying the ink, but as soon as they lift the machine (don’t call it a tattoo gun) the pain stops. This process can go on and on for hours. Some people get their tattoos done an hour at a time, while others will sit in the chair all day. Different people have different levels of pain tolerance and some locations on your body are more sensitive than others. Interestingly… women seem to handle the pain better than men. Some tattoo artists report that women have fallen asleep while being tattooed. I think it’s because women are made to handle pain. Imagine how much pain would be involved in passing a child through a tiny birth canal. Guys only think they’re tough!
The pain though is but a blink of an eye, compared to the lifetime of beauty and joy you will get from your ink, which will be with you for the rest of your life. It’s literally the one thing money can buy, that you get to take with you when you die.
Tattoo’s are not cheap… sure you can go get a cute little bauble of a tattoo for under $100… and if you put enough of them together you might get something cohesive. You’re better off to work with an artist who will put together a plan for you, to create a larger canvas. Expect its going to cost you though. The average cost per hour these days is $150 with some well known artists starting to break into the $200 range. Typically the more talented the artists, the more you can expect to pay. A typical sleeve could have as many as 20 or 30 hours in it.
You’re also not going to walk into a Tattoo shop and get a tattoo the same day… almost never, and certainly not with a well and widely known artist. I literally just booked a tattoo session and the earliest I could get in was 2 ½ months from now. That is a bit on the long side… Most tattoo shops are booking 3-4 weeks out, but I know my artist, and he is worth waiting for.
With thousands of local artists… How do you choose one? Word of mouth really seems to be the best means of advertising. When you meet someone who has some great ink, ask them who their artist is. Most people are happy to share. One thing you don’t do though is touch their tattoos. This is a huge annoyance for a lot of people with tattoos. A tattoo is something you see, it doesn’t feel like anything so why would you want to touch it? Especially if it is a fresh tattoo… One of the things that you have to be most careful with when you have new ink, is an infection. So, someone touching it with dirty hands is a recipe for potential problems. Ask, be friendly and courteous, but don’t touch.
You can also visit local tattoo conventions to get out and meet artists and see them in action. When you select an artist, part of that selection process should be seeing a portfolio of their work. Different artists have very different styles. Some artists excel at portrait work, where others are better at traditional styles, some love tribal stuff, others hate it. Some artists prefer line work, some artists prefer lineless (watercolor) work. It really varies, so getting out and seeing an artist’s work is your best bet to ensure that you’re going to get the results you want.
We’re going to help you out though… we’ve photographed a handful of people with some of the most beautiful ink in our community, but most of the photos are not suitable for this forum. Check out the magazine article in its original layout in our July 2019 issue.