This is an old post from a former blog that I felt was worth sharing. Enjoy!
I do a fair amount of work for walk-in clients who just want a tattoo. I do a lot of words, names, and simple designs often culled from somewhere on the Internet. I am greatful for every opportunity to work, and do my best at every tattoo I do, but often these kinds of tattoos do not allow me to fully express myself artistically. What I would like to do is custom work, some original designs that would not only challenge me as an artist but also bulk up my portfolio.
To that end, I ran an ad on Craigs List about a week ago, offering to do tattoos for $25, the cost of supplies, as long as I liked the concept the client wanted and I was allowed to tattoo a custom design created based on that concept. I was very thorough in the ad about my requirements, what I was looking to do, and the limitations involved. Part of the length of the ad was simply as a means to weed out the inevitable undesired responses I would get. Most people would not read the ad. They would just see "$25 tattoos" and contact me about a name or something. From those that read the ad, most would not grasp the requirement of having a good idea that I like. I provided a list of things that interest me as an artist; pin-ups, fetish art, horror, sci-fi, but several responses I've gotten have been completely removed from that list. One guy wanted me to tattoo a bear fighting a bull ala "Lonesome Dove". Of those that had a grasp of what I was into, most would not check out the work I do in those genres to understand my style. I'm not interested in doing an Olivia pin-up... I want to design it myself (at least not at the price of $25).
I knew all this was coming before I even ran the ad, and resolved to take it in stride. Still, potential clients always find a way to surprise me.
One day, I get a barrage of texts from someone interested in my ad. The following has not been edited:
TEXT 1: Saw your add on craigslist and im very interested in be park of your tattoo project my boyfriend tpt is a rapper and is in need of some ink to build his
TEXT 2: image and im in need of something different that includes Betty boop so please contact me back
TEXT 3: We will even advertise you his website due to whatever ink he gets will be professionally photographed for album covers and magazines
TEXT 4: We both are open for cretive ideals you may have and are very focused on knowing what ideals you have so contact us back even if the answer is no you can
TEXT 5: look at his site at. (and she lists the site, but I am not advertising for these people).
Now, here's the thing. Years ago at another shop, one of the young artists ran across what he considered a real opportunity. A client, claiming to be an up-and-coming rap artist, wanted to get some ink to create that "street" image which seems to be desirable to his fans, but he didn't want to really pay for the work. He offered the artist acknowledgement on his future albums and ventures, promised his photograph displaying those tattoos would be seen in magazines and on album covers, and even welcomed the artist to come to the rapper's regular weekly gig to speak to the audience and offer his services. This was going to be a huge boon to the artist, an opportunity to make a name for himself, or so he thought.
The first real problem was that the tattoo artist wasn't into street art, the kind of art the rapper desired. Doing those kinds of tattoos wasn't fun for the artist, so every session with the rapper became a chore. The next problem was the rapper's attitude, especially when he would come into the shop with his "crew". The rapper had been very humble when negotiating the deal initially, and appreciative of the artists time and talents, but in front of his crew he was demeaning, arrogant, and rude. It seemed like that since the deal was done, there was no longer a need for the pretense of courtesy. A third problem was that the rapper began demanding too much of the artist. The artist was already working outside his genre, and the rapper began asking for work that looked like that of other artists, never-ending touch-ups, and was unrealistic about the limitations of the tattoo process and the ink in his skin. Making things even worse was that in order for the artist to make good on the opportunity to speak to the rapper's audience, he often had to wait until 2 or 3 in the morning at the end of the rapper's set, which means the next day he was napping in his station in the middle of the afternoon.
The two to three clients that did trickle in from all this effort wanted more street art.
I don't think either person was more responsible than the other for this disaster, but rather that both grossly over-estimated what they could do and assumed far too much about the other.
I have no problem with rappers, but a quick look through my artwork would tell you that street art is simply not my forte. In addition, Betty Boop is not a custom design, even if it is a custom Betty Boop. What they wanted simply did not fit with what I want out of this project. I would happily do the work at my normal rate. So, I simply responded with the following:
YOUR TATTOO HERO: I'll pass. Thanks.
To which I get the following response:
GIRL WITH A RAP ARTIST BOYFRIEND: No prob already at atomic but ty for ur response hmmm wondering why us passing is it because of race
TEXT 2: Ya know what never mind u have a nice day
What the fuck?
I honestly have no clue where this kind of response comes from. I have a theory, but that's all. In my ad, I never mention if I am white, black, Asian, or from Mars. In her messages, she never mentions her race, but because I passed on her offer she wants to insinuate that I am a racist? Isn't it kind of racist to assume that because you are a rap artist that you are also a minority? Isn't it also racist to suggest that just because someone chooses not to do business with you that race is a motivating factor? I don't like rap music, and I do not find the street culture promoted by rap-music inspirational. It is not the direction I want to work in. Does that make me a racist?
I think not. My theory is that this person is a racist. Obviously she believes that "rap artist" equaled "minority", and that most tattoo artists are white. Furthermore, she seems to think that race-baiting is a way to manipulate people. If you don't get your way as a member of an ethnic group from a person who is white, insinuate they are a RACIST, then they will kiss your ass to prove they are not.
Fucking hypocritical. Here was my response:
YOUR TATTOO HERO: The fact that you even suggest race was the issue indicates you are a racist. You don't even know what color I am.
To which she replied the next day:
RACIST BITCH: Sorry for the assumption but ive had three people pass for that very reason
Really? Are you really suggesting to me that you contacted three tattoo artists in Austin, Texas, the capital of Weirdness, Peace, and Love, and that three adult businessmen who strive to have a good reputation among their clients TOLD YOU that YOUR RACE was why they declined to do the work? Could it be more likely that they simply did not want to work in trade for a promise that their efforts would be featured as a part of the rapper's career? More than likely, these other tattooers, if she even reached out to anyone else, simply did not want to work for free.
LYING RACIST BITCH: It would be hella cool if we could get the ink this week sorry for being rude when can we get the tattoo?
YOUR TATTOO HERO: I think I'll pass. I don't tattoo racists. Didn't Atomic Tattoos hook you up?
I have yet to get a response. Sometimes it feels good to be the instrument of social justice.