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Main \\ Unusual hobbies \\ The History of Tattooing \\
  Finding Your Tattoo

Getting a tattoo is the most permanent commitment that many of us will ever make. And if you're thinking -- "but I can always get it removed" -- then you are definitely not ready to get a tattoo.

We live in a disposable society and tattoos are decidedly permanent. That's what makes them scary, and that's what makes them powerful. Making an irrevocable choice is good for the soul.

tattoo head

If you put energy and thought into choosing your tattoo design, it can become much more than just a piece of permanent jewelry. Properly chosen tattoos confer blessings on you. Ask yourself "What am I willing to commit to forever?" "What do I aspire to?" "What gives me strength?" Thinking about the answers to these questions can help you decide on the image or images that will compose a very personal tattoo. You'll also learn something about yourself in the process.

You may want a custom tattoo, something created by the tattooist just for you, or you may find just the image you want in the flash designs hanging on your tattooist's studio wall. Flash designs are often altered slightly for each person anyway so you'll still have something of a unique piece.

When it comes to tattooing your imagination is your only limitation. But a word of caution; although any image can be tattooed, some translate more successfully into the medium than others. In general, a big, bold image will look better on your skin than a overly detailed small piece. And if your artist urges you to go bigger with a design, listen to him. Those big pieces often have an impact that the little ones lack. American tattooist Walt Dailey sums up the "bigger is better" issue by saying "A beautiful, big, fierce bear head design just looks like an angry hamster's face when you shrink it down."

There are many different styles of tattooing. Here are a few of the most popular:

· Black and Gray Work: Just what it sounds like. The tattoo is done with only tones of black and gray. This style originated in the prison systems of America, due to the prisoner's difficulty in obtaining colored ink. When several tattooists, notably California's Jack Rudy and Good Time Charlie Cartwright, saw the work they realized that there was great artistic potential in adapting it for use in tattoo shops outside of the penitentiary walls. They went on to develop this ultra refined and highly detailed style that has become so popular today.

· Traditional: These pieces have bold black outlines, strong black shading, and bright colors. The style was first developed to meet the needs of busy tattooers near military bases (it was a no-nonsense and quick way to tattoo) and to utilize the limited color palette available to a tattooist in the thirties and forties.

· Fineline: Delicate outlines, often highly detailed. Black and gray work is almost always done in this style, as are many color pieces. The success of the finished tattoo depends a great deal on the artist's use of negative space, and his or her refraining from adding yet more detail. An overly detailed fineline tattoo, or one that was not carefully planned out, may dissolve into mush after a few years.

· Tribal: Bold, black, silhouette style designs. Most of this work is based on ancient tattoo designs, though nowadays artists tend to go more for the feeling evoked by the traditional designs, rather than copying them exactly. It's a wonderful strong look that, when inked by a skilled tattooist, will certainly stand the test of time.

· Realistic: Photographic quality work, usually portraits or nature scenes.

· Custom: Original work designed just for you

· Oriental: This style of tattooing is more concerned with approach than subject matter. It utilizes the entire body as canvas, rather than the western approach of adding a tattoo here and there as the spirit moves you. The Oriental style usually incorporates swirling patterns and figures from eastern mythology into the designs.

Do try to be practical when choosing a tattoo design. Getting the name of your current love on your arm is almost always a sure route to a cover-up. And, hard as it may be to believe, the band whose music turned you on when you were 18 may not have the same effect on you when you're 40. Your infatuations will often fade much quicker than tattoos do. Pick something that's a little open ended. On the other hand, some of the best tattoo collections have been almost like a personal scrapbook of the wearer's life. Perhaps they aren't dedicated deadheads anymore but that "Keep On Trucking" tattoo reminds them of a wonderful period in their life. Sometimes you just have to follow your heart.

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