How to choose your next tattoo

Thinking about getting a tattoo? Not sure what to go for? Worried about it going wrong?

I have a tattoo of a wonky scorpion on my forearm and it has been there for a decade. I have tried, over the years, to fabricate some fascinating meaning for having it but the truth is simple; I was 17 years old, I walked into the shop, nervously, looked around at the pictures on the wall and said ‘I want that one!’

Some of my other tattoo efforts aren’t much better either

I don’t think that I am alone in having meaningless tattoos; in my army years, most of the guys would visit tattoo shops, often whilst intoxicated, and make dubious, spontaneous decisions on which tattoo we would have. It shouldn’t be a decision to take lightly, given that the tattoo will be with us for the rest of our lives. Tattoo removal is getting better but the technology involved is expensive, invasive and it doesn’t always fully remove the markings. That being said, I still want more and I often struggle to get an idea of what I actually want to have done.

“I am a canvas of my experiences, my story is etched in lines and shading, and you can read it on my arms, my legs, my shoulders, and my stomach.”
Kat Von D


So how should you choose your next tattoo?

Getting a tattoo is a personal and intimate procedure that allows you to forever commemorate and remember something or someone important to you. You can remember the fallen, feel pride in your origins or remind yourself of a point in your life that you would like to learn from. Alternatively, some people prefer blue jeans and some like black jeans; some like tattoo sleeves and others like bare skin. If it is done professionally and looks really good, unlike my wonky scorpion or my Chelsea tramp-stamp, it doesn’t really have to have a meaning. It all depends on your personal preference and taste.

Think about a time, place or experience that made you extremely happy and think about how you would like to immortalize that feeling. Many of us have been through hardships in our lives and whilst we might not want to be reminded of dark times, we can remember that we made it through and feel proud of ourselves by displaying a symbol of what we achieved.

Think about people that have touched your life, celebrities or artists (not Justin Bieber) and immortalize their words and actions that have inspired you to be a better person and do good things. Consider friends and family, names and dates of births and deaths that you want to keep with you and think of interesting ways to incorporate these ideas into a design.

Think carefully and speak to a GOOD tattoo artist. They can turn your ideas into designs!

“My body is my journal, and my tattoos are my story.”
Johnny Depp


Choose carefully – don’t rush it

Choose carefully what you want to get and don’t rush it. Some tattoo shops have longer waiting lists and that usually means they are good. Don’t let your mate ‘Big Dave’ do the tattoo with his dodgy, homemade starter set, or you may end up with something totally different to what you had in mind. Choose a reputable tattoo artist who can show you previous designs. Describe what you want and they can create a personalized design for you. If you don’t agree with the design, tell them! I have an odd, confused looking dragon on my right arm because the tattoo artist thought it was what I wanted, when in fact I just wanted a butterfly..

If it’s your first tattoo, think small and discrete. If you don’t like it after time, you can always cover it up with clothing. Think about quotes that are inspiring, but if you do have writing in your tattoo, make sure it is a language you understand. Hebrew might look cool, but you will spend the rest of your life explaining what it means and unless you actually understand the language, how will you know what is actually being said?

Tattoos can be an awesome way to express your artistic side, your individuality and your unique style. They can be used to commemorate and memorialize people or experiences that mean something to you. They can also be a pile of crap if you don’t do it right.

“Our bodies were printed as blank pages to be filled with the ink of our hearts”
Michael Biondi


The artwork displayed on this page comes courtesy of:

Bradley Fleming – Tattoo artist





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