Yesterday morning I checked instagram and saw my friend Mike had tagged me in a comment. I check the comment and see my custom fish head in a rose tattoo done on some other person’s ankle. It wasn’t clean, it wasn’t executed well. The guy didn’t even try to change it. He just stole it straight up.
How did it end up on someone’s ankle? Mike came into town and wanted a decent picture of that tattoo. He’d drawn the original art as a painting. He took a photo and posted it to instagram. The person who stole it followed Mike on instagram. You can see where I’m going with this and how the kid ended up with access to the photo.
I’m still trying to figure out the why because I know the how. Mike is a great tattoo artist, he’s got tons of art posted online. He’s been tattooing since 1998 and has tattooed thousands of people. Why did this person choose to snag this one? He attempted to copy it straight up. The problem with copies is they’re never good. Ever. If you look at the mouth of the fish, it’s wrecked. The lines are bad. Everything about it is off. A friend said she thought it looked like a dead fish wearing a hoodie. She’s not too far off. To add insult to injury, the thief even tried to add the blue fill which is only there to tie in the rest of the sleeve.
This is a problem that runs rampant through the tattoo community. Years ago when I first started getting tattooed you heard about people jacking other peoples work, but it was the rarity. It shows a complete lack of artistic integrity and is a big fuck you to both the original artist and the client. It’s a disservice to the person getting the stolen art put on them. They might not even realize they’ve got my sloppy seconds for life tatted on their leg.
What floored me is this person’s friend asked me over instagram what me calling this guy out did (she said “talking shit”, I don’t consider truth to be talking shit). I’ll be the first to admit, that got me raging. If you think about it, both Mike and I were ripped off. Custom is custom for a reason. It’s not a fucking shitty flash page hanging on the wall. Unless she was blind, it wasn’t just me calling him out. It was friends who are tattooed and friends who are tattoo artists. They understand what purpose it serves. It lets people know who you should get your ink from and who you shouldn’t. Who has the core values you should adhere to as an artist and who doesn’t. This transverses not just tattooing, but all art. People who steal art like this, especially permanent art, need to be publicly ridiculed. It’s common sense and needs to be done every time a thief does something like this. They should not get away with it. If you’re ok with that, I’ll walk in your house and steal a custom painting off your wall. According to that girls logic, she’d have to be ok with me doing that. In talking with Mike this morning, his exact words were “These young guys don’t have a fucking clue. They will destroy tattooing eventually if this shit doesn’t change.” He’s right too.
Is it because tattoos are almost safe these days? I noticed a few years ago that shit was changing when kids were getting hands and necks done before being sleeved out. Trying to earn those tough guy scene points with job killers. Is it a problem with the new generation that’s come up watching these tattoo shows? Now every kitchen magician can order a kit and scratch away. I’d like to think it’s not, but it really seems to be, these kids have no clue. No one to school them in the rules. They have a complete lack of respect, a lack of honor, and a lack of integrity. I have younger friends and they know the rules and follow them so it’s not everyone. I have one friend with a custom sleeve. It’s beautiful work. It was stolen and put on shirts without her permission. The shirts were sold in stores. You can’t justify that. You just can’t.