Something I'm very aware of is that I get to do a lot of work that the client didn't ask for. I get away with doing tattoos on people that might be a good idea from a certain point of view (mine!), but I have to talk them into seeing what I see and make them believe it's going to be great. The amount of self-confidence required for this in any other case, I would consider as arrogance, but it’s this firm belief that what I am trying to do will look good that allows me to get my ideas into their skin, so I’m left with the question, what am I? Artist, asshole or both?
A lot of times I will do a drawing, and I think its good but the client isn't quite sure. They might be too polite to criticize it, and I can sense their discouragement and I start having doubts in the back of my head, and this in turn creates a cycle that leads to both myself and the client being unhappy with the result. Of course if they don't like it then there is no way I push it onto them. What we do is create fear that isn't even there, I try to get beyond that and be present in the moment, while staying inside the boundaries the client has set for their tattoo.
As far as confidence, as an aesthetic design sense, the gentleman who taught me to tattoo, Jim Macairt, gave me a bunch of photocopies from a book on Borneo tattooing and design called Pantang Iban and this was and still is my bible. I always try to keep that in mind (especially when I'm doing bigger work) and when these people from Indonesia and other early tribal tattooing regions in Australasia were on the beach, or coming out from the jungle and their opponent is seeing these huge tattoos and they are like, "Oh Fuck!"
Then the next thing you know they have a spear stuck through their chest. My goal is for my tattoos to have that same kind of impact.
When someone takes their shirt off and sees one of these tattoos the result would be more in the strength of the tattoo and maybe upon second look they might notice the beauty, or detail, or shading or that I can barely tattoo! That is where the confidence of the design comes in. It's the strength of the tattoo.
(From the full article as seen in Tattoo Artist Magazine issue #23)
Thomas Hooper can be found at:
New York Adorned
376 Bedford Ave.
Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY 11211
http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/558943 (Book of Skulls)