Tattoos are a highly personal art form that represent an expression of the client’s inner life on the canvas of their body, achieved through a process of collaboration between the client and artist. This page is intended as a guide to help clients come into that process with an idea of how I approach it.

While you are welcome to bring in your own design ready made, most of my time is spent on custom design with a focus on working with the client to create a piece of art around the meaning and spirit of what they wish to express in such a manner that appeals to their tastes and compliments their physical form. Though in person meetings are the ideal I can work on designs with clients from a distance as well and this information covers both approaches.

First there is a consultation process which involves the following elements:

Exploring symbolism and intent. This can be many faceted, involving personal history and bonds, cultural roots and spiritual affiliations, archetypes and totems, desires and dreams. Sometimes people have a very clear idea of how they wish to represent such concepts, in which case we go on to the next stage, but often they arrive with a strong sense of the meaning of the piece but are uncertain as to how to go about visually representing it. Discovering how best to do so is part of the consultation process and I am happy to spend time with you exploring the potential that various images have to evoke your own story. The richness and depth of symbolic language is one of my continuing fascinations and it is a joy to be able to weave it together to create visual narratives and metaphors.

Determining style and feel. I am versed in and fond of a wide variety of artistic styles both historical and modern. While each of my renderings has my own artistic flavour, as does that of every artist and so it should, I like to start from a point of being as inclusive as possible about stylistic references in order to get a broad idea of the kind of look you are aiming for and narrow things down from there. In order to achieve this I will compile a file of reference material of images that appeal to you. Some may not be related to the subject matter of the tattoo at all but showcase style and colour preferences. If you are able to come into the shop for your consultation I will do this with you in person, if you are not able to be here this will involve a back and forth of images over email. When sending reference images by email please include some description of what it is about each one that appeals to you. It can also be helpful to do long distance consultations over Skype as screen sharing allows real time discussion of images. Skype sessions can be arranged by appointment in the same way as booking an in person consultation.

Placement and size In order to design tattoos that flow with and compliment the body it is essential to go into the design knowing where and how large you would like it to be. Also, if there are existing tattoos in the area these need to be worked with to consider overall visual impact. Scarring or stretchmarks also need to be taken account of. When clients can come into the shop for their consultation I will usually take a rough size map of the area on paper and often pictures as well and if you are looking for a sizable piece that really flows with your body structure it can be extremely helpful to spend some time drawing a rough layout with felt markers directly onto the skin. This allows for a far more personalized and dynamic process and can enliven the design a great deal. For long distance clients I will often ask for pictures as well as size measurements to get a sense of your proportions. A design is never complete until it fully works with the client’s form and it can be advantageous to make freehand adjustments with markers just before the tattoo rather than relying on a stencil transfer of the 2d image to translate perfectly to a 3d format.

Moving onto the design process

Once I feel I have a good grasp of what it is you are looking for I will do some rough sketches and send them to you for feedback. Sometimes once I’ve started the design in earnest I’ll need additional clarification about something or realize that an idea we had discussed during the initial consultation needs modification to be workable visually and I’ll need to spend some more time in consultation with you. Once a rough drawing had been approved I will render a polished design and send it to you for feedback. Often there are still tweaks and changes that need to be made to a design at this stage and further refinements will be made until it is just right.

Tattoo design is an organic, co-creative, process that frequently involves considerable back and forth to achieve the desired result.