Fresh with the scent of Europe and all its hot couture and smugness that befalls it, I thought it as good a time as any to point out the differences we experienced in the tattoo culture abroad. After walking around for a day, we managed to reattach our jaws, plug back our eye sockets and get back to doing what we do best.
From the start, we encountered a kaleidoscope of obstacles that seemed to bother only us. Things like proper placement of clients and lighting were two of the most frequent little hurdles we encountered. This however did not look like it presented a massive problem to the other tattoo artists around us. Yes, yes, a lot of other studios did bring the above-mentioned tools. Many, however, did not, and they seemed perfectly content with an uncomfortable situation in horror movie-like lighting. It was difficult to adjust or climb out of our comfort zone and tattoo away from the familiar settings of our comfy studio back home. I learnt that we are very much set in our ways. Although this might have been a physical attribute, I fear that having a particular mindset when it comes to tattooing might hinder us when trying to broaden our horizons artistically.
I mentioned above that there was an abundant source of skill and ink-like magic at the Frankfurt Tattoo Convention, but how this skill was distributed across such a wide artistic platform is something that we here in sunny S.A. are not used to. In Gupta country, you will find that there are very few specialists. What I mean is that although there are only a handful of good studios in S.A, you will find that the artists there can, and will be able to do most if not any style of tattooing. We found it not to be the case in the rest of the world. Studios seem to specialise in a style, whether it be realism or neo-traditional, you will need to go to a shop that concentrates on the style of tattoo that you might want. Not only do they focus on said specific style, but they are damn good at it too. I can only presume that pouring all your time and energy into perfecting a style of tattooing can only be beneficial to your craft.
Another benefit that goes along with being a specialist artist is a definite halt in artistic criticism and bullshit. Here in S.A., you will not easily find one studio praising another studio or one artist giving thumbs up to another if they do not know each other personally or have worked together. We are extremely competitive and never ever take criticism very well. Any studio will tell you that they are the best, and the best at everything… The Europeans have seemed to move past petty artistic rivalries and feuds. To be honest, it was absolutely refreshing to be in such a genuine artistic melting pot of friendly and brilliant artists. Artists listen to and exchange ideas or advice so freely that you cannot help but feel inspired.
All this being said, there was one more thing that I discovered about our shop and the artists at True Blue. We can hold our own with our international tattoo artists. Sure there are some absolutely fantastic artists out there and we can only strive to be better, but as the saying goes, if you are the best in the room, you are in the wrong room…