Unfinished Business

The art of tattooing has a long history, full of traditions and old ethics. The ideals of tattooing cover a range of practices for artists to uphold. Although the history of tattooing has developed from taboo to mainstream, certain principles have remained. Some areas are often discussed, like the hand and face tattoo stigma, but some are less talked about.

An artist does not complete another tattooers unfinished work.

A client wants me to finish an unfinished piece. What do I do?

When asked to finish someones work, any reputable artist knows to ask these questions…Who did it? Why are you not going back to them? Maybe they don’t like the piece, or maybe the artist is dead or locked up. But it is the responsibility of the artist to understand the situation before proceeding. After hearing the clients’ story, the artist can make an educated, ethical decision. To cover up or complete unfinished work is, essentially, disregarding and disrespecting the original art – so you need to make sure you’ve got the whole story.

If the artist is someone you know, you should probably give them a call. It’s the classy way to go about a tricky situation. The tattoo community, as much as it expands, is still a small one – try not to make enemies. If you don’t know the artist, reaching out to the artist is still the best way to go – and with Instagram, everyone is easy to find – you’ll build some credibility and some respect along the way. If the artist is unavailable for whatever reason (distance, incarceration, death), you can make the call. There’s a lot of grey area, but I usually base this decision off of the quality of the work. If the tattoo is crap, then it’s usually fair game for a cover up. If it’s good work – then it’s up to you. If you complete a good piece, remember to give credit where do.

I sat for my outline and I don’t like it. What do I do?

So you probably didn’t do all your research and picked an artist you weren’t familiar with. Whether for price reason, or out of convenience, you have a tattoo started that you don’t like. What do you do? First of all, do some research this time. Find artists that you like, and ask for advise. They’re the experts and visionaries.. and they can guide you in a better direction. Additionally, although it may be hard to face, you should try and let your original artist know if you’re unhappy with their work. Try and be as considerate yet honest as possible with your critique – they need to hear real customer feedback in order to grow their work as a tattooer.

Finishing unfinished tattoos can be a sensitive topic, both for artists and clients. It’s important to remember that tattooing is an art form, and as personal as wearing a piece for a lifetime can be for the client, it is just as personal for the individual creating the art. In the end, everyone should be proud of the art they wear and the art they produce, but not at the cost of disrespecting each other and the community of tattooing.