Once you’ve decided on an idea that you want to turn into a tattoo you are faced with the task of choosing an artist. Let’s discuss how to take the referrals you get from enthusiastic friends and loved ones and turn them into choosing the right artist for you.
The first part of your task doesn’t even require you to get off your couch. Most professional studios will have a website/social media presence where you can peruse tattooists’ online portfolios. A portfolio is the best way of determining whether an artist’s skill and style appeal to you. A portfolio is a collection of what the artist considers their best work and should include enough quality photographs to show that they are competent at both outline work and shading.
The most up to date work the artist has available will be online and it will save you some time and energy if you narrow down your search before hitting the streets. Once you’ve done your research you can make a day or two out of going to different studios to look at portfolios in person. Visiting shops will allow you to gauge if the environment: cleanliness, friendliness, and location work for you.
When looking at artist’s portfolios, there are a few things to keep in mind. Some portfolios may include a wide range of subject matters and styles, and others may be filled with a particular type of tattoo that is their specialty. Look for a range of work with the focus on tattoos that are similar to ones that you want. Judge for an overall level of skill and professionalism. Remember that tattoos are a collaborative process so don’t eliminate someone just because you don’t like a couple of pieces.
If you want to get the likeness of a loved one tattooed on you, you will want to find an artist who has at least a couple good portraits in their portfolio. However, you can draw some conclusions from tattoos that are not identical to the one you want. If they do great dragonflies they can do butterflies. If they do great roses, they can probably do your lotus flower. You don’t have to see the exact tattoo you want! You are looking at examples of their work, not picking out your tattoo. Choosing a tattoo is a separate article!
See also Getting a Tattoo: First Steps
Linework: Are the artist’s lines clean, free of wobbles, and straight where they should be straight, round where they should be round and solid and connected where they should be solid and connected.
Shading: If there are areas of black or color, do they seem solid and smooth or patchy and uneven? Are the transitions between colors smooth? Do you like their use of colors-bright and bold or soft and pastel?
Placement: Do the tattoos flow well with the contours of the body? Do symmetrical designs seem even and balanced? Do they look attractive or oddly placed on the body. (Though, remember that some of the placements may not be the artist’s choice. We can only suggest and guide. We will not dictate the choices you have to live with.)
Skin Damage: Many tattoo artist’s only have the opportunity to photograph their work immediately after finishing the tattoo, so seeing a small amount of reddened skin or swelling around the tattoo is normal. However, look out for things like ragged-looking skin and extremely raised lines. On healed tattoos, these are signs of scarring caused by a poorly trained tattooist.
Looking through artist’s portfolios can be overwhelming. Most clients don’t have art degrees and it can be difficult to determine what is “skill” and what is “style”. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you are uncertain. Tattooists and counter people alike are there to help you and should greet your questions and ideas with enthusiasm and respect.
Anne Morando worked side by side with the owner from day one to help make Adorn what it is- a proudly woman-owned studio. She has been tattooing since 1994 and intends to keep making timeless and vibrant art for her loyal clients til the end of time. She’s the mama bear at the shop, providing an ear to listen with and a shoulder to cry on for both clients and co-workers alike. Her no-nonsense down to earth approach make her a perfect choice for the veteran and her patented hand-holding make her an ideal fit for the first-timer. Specializing in cover-ups and beautiful color saturation. Outside the studio you can find her knocking one out of the park playing softball or cuddling up with her adorable pibbles.
Anne works at Adorn West every Tuesday-Friday.
Andy Blubaum is what you get when you put a tattoo machine in a fluffy little woodland critter’s paw. Goofy and sweet, his charisma bounces against every wall in the tattoo room and he always has the “best” jokes. He’s a dedicated artist who is exceptionally easy to work with and whose gentleness transcends into his work with intricate fine detail, symmetry, realism and soft flowers. He’s been tattooing since 2002. In his free time you can find him daydreaming about turtles or playing hockey. He loves long walks on the beach and spontaneous trips for smoothies.
You can find Andy at Adorn West every Friday-Monday.
Agnes Hamilton got her start as a tattooist right here at Adorn. She got her license in 2014, though you wouldn’t believe that looking at her portfolio. Her path to tattooing began in 2009 when she acquired her BFA from the Pacific Northwest College of Art. Her graphic design abilities made her invaluable as a counter-person at Adorn and respect for her overall artistic talent led to her apprenticeship. Now she is up and running and will be soon be famous artist known across the globe for her illustrative, neo-traditional tattoos. When she is not tattooing, running the front counter or doing graphic design at Adorn, Agnes can be found drawing in the park and daydreaming about monsters. She will be making east her home but currently tattoos at our west side location on the weekends.
Contact either studio for an appointment.
Dustin Cameron loves all kinds of art. He is a human copy machine specializing in both color and black and gray realism. Dustin excels at fine tiny little details that seem almost humanly impossible. He’s a quiet one but once you get him talking he’s an open book and likes that tattooing connects him to people from all walks of life. He’s been tattooing since 2008. When he’s not quietly sketching up your tattoo in the corner of the studio, he likes to paint, take pictures and following Die Antwoord.
Dustin is at Adorn East every Tuesday-Thursday and at Adorn West each Saturday.
Karla Yvette comes from a family of artists — painters, actors, and photographers. At eighteen she began a formal apprenticeship in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and has been tattooing full-time since 2005. While she is enthusiastic about every style of tattooing, she is particularly excited about pieces that combine her love of art and science. Karla is a nerd through and through, and is overly fond of natural oddities, baby sloths and aliens who travel through time in blue police boxes. She is still waiting for her acceptance letter from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
She can be found at our East studio Friday-Monday.
Skot Olsen has been a professional artist for over 18 years. Skot was originally trained and achieved success as a published commercial illustrator. Skot then made a switch to fine art, showing paintings in galleries and museums across the U.S. and in Europe. His work began to get noticed by the growing community of tattoo artists and enthusiasts; they collected his paintings and published them in tattoo magazines. In the years that followed, Skot learned to tattoo and fell in love with the medium. He applies his knowledge of color theory, composition, and form to every piece he creates. When he’s not tattooing he’s hanging with Karla and Coco-Bear, their lovely Chow.
You can find Skot at Adorn East every Friday-Monday.
Check back soon!