Tattoo Master 09

Tattoo Master 09

This is a trade publication and so this must be a studio where you are working.

Sat at a table with fellow judges to my left and right, the bright lights of the stage illuminate a bevy of fresh and healed tattoos, all vying for arbitration. 

What characteristics set apart a good tattoo from a great tattoo? If beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder, then surely passing judgement on a tattoo is as much about personal preference as any other criterion? Penchants must take a back seat to impartiality, and for the time spent marking and critiquing tattoos, I become Switzerland (no, I don’t manage questionable bank accounts for tax exiles, I become neutral).

I can but proffer my own brief checklist and attempt to shed some light on the often-mysterious world of tattoo competitions. It’s certainly not a science, but there are distinct traits that I am keen to see.

If a tattoo is lined, I want to see lines of an even weight; are they straight? If there are power lines, are they sculpted and do they portray a depth of field to the piece? Blowouts are an obvious faux pas – a little piece of me dies whenever I witness ink spread where it obviously should not be. 

Colour work: is it evenly saturated? Are the blends smooth? Depending on the style, do the utilised colours compliment one another, and how is a light source implemented?

Portraits are relatively simple…if it’s a famous face and you need to ask whom is in the picture, it’s probably not about to emerge victorious. 

Black and grey work is another example of a simple category to judge. A lot of black and grey can look wonderful from a distance, but then, upon closer inspection, the façade comes crashing down. If the tones aren’t built up sweetly and the graduations fail to blend consistently, then the marks come down.

Each and every tattoo should be well executed, with consistency as king. It should be placed with consideration and incorporate the wearer’s physique to maximum effect. On a personal note, I love being able to make out a tattoo from across a room, but then find intricacy and fine detail when it’s right in front of me – granted, that deviates from being totally impartial, but an award winning piece should be blessed with that ‘je ne sais quoi’. 

So, there you have it, ladies and gentlemen: a whistle-stop tour of things that make my judging persona go “Hmm”.  Thankfully, there’s always more than one judge, so your arduous slaving over a tattoo that doesn’t emerge triumphant can never be blamed on a sole person, unless you were to sneakily obtain the paperwork from the convention organisers…

… And that’s why we never write our names on the judging sheets.

Bon apéritif,