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Ask Guy Aitchison

Welcome to my column, Ask Guy, where I'm responding to questions from both artists and collectors. Since this column is available to the general public, I won't be answering any questions about nuts-and-bolts technical matters. Instead, I've found that most questions about doing better tattoos can be addressed with discussion of design, such as color theory or contrast, and that understanding these ideas can be helpful for both artists and collectors. Other tattoo related subjects are welcome too. Go ahead and hit me up at this contact link to submit a question.

A version of this column can also be found monthly in Tattoo Magazine.

Ask Guy Aitchison

Q) Hi Guy, I've run into this situation a couple times now and thought I should ask you about it. I've got an idea for a half sleeve that I think is killer, my mom and all my friends think it's a great idea too. So I live in California with all these great artists, and I've taken the idea to a couple of these guys, people you've seen in magazines. And all of them have problems with my idea, and say that I want too much stuff in my tattoo. The thing is, I can't think of a way to use less stuff, because it's kind of like a complete idea. It's for my grandmother Diana, who was a very strong woman and a big influence on me. She identified with the Roman goddess Diana, who carries a bow and usually has a deer with her, showing her righteous nature... I'd like to see her in a strong archer's stance. There needs to be an oak tree too. She's a moon goddess, so you need a moon, and my grandmother was a peace protester in the Sixties, so I want to include a dove. She was a Virgo, and so am I, so I really want to include that symbol, plus her name and an RIP. I'm ready to give my whole upper right arm to this piece, and I'm a big guy. Why can't I have all my important symbols? Q) I've been tattooing for almost five years, and where I'm at, black and gray is really popular. It's really what I want to specialize in, and believe me, I've had plenty of practice. I feel like my work is smooth and my lines are clean, but I admit that it's a little flat. I'm ready to take it to the next level... Could you tell me some good general rules for doing great black and gray work? Q) I look at a lot of magazines and see this amazing brightly colored work, but the stuff in my collection just looks dull by comparison. The linework and shading looks just fine, and everything seemed to heal the way it should... but the colors just don't pop the way I want them to. Right now I'm seeking an artist who can do some really vibrant work, and I wanted to make sure they are using the right pigments to get these kinds of results. What brands of pigments do you recommend? Q) I was wondering about reactions to red pigments and any solutions to the very difficult heal that comes from it...any advice on severe reactions to red inks? Q) I've been tattooing about 5 years now and feel I've hit a barrier. I want to push myself in new artistic directions. Other artists at our shop seem to be happy doing only traditional and Oriental style tattoos (which I completely respect). I, on the other hand, am dying to learn the insanely smooth color transitions and blending, and I feel I won't be able to learn these techniques from the artists here. I guess my question is: Would going to an art school open my eyes a little? I know conventions are a really good source to learn, I just can't travel too much because I have a family. I'm extremely hungry to learn, and frustrated. I watch artist's DVDs and it helps a little. I know there are more routes like getting a tattoo by someone I can learn from watching, etc. Any advice?


A) Well, if you are looking to find an answer that creates the least disruption for your family, going off to art school probably isn't the solution unless there is a good school nearby that you can fit into your existing lifestyle. That being the case, look through their catalog and see what classes you think would hel…

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