The great tattoo debate includes a variety of topics: do tattoos make you less employable? Do they make you more or less attractive? Aren’t you going to regret that Tweety Bird on your ankle ten years from now? Will your peers think you got that wrist tattoo while in prison?
To ink or not to ink, tattoo or taboo. If you ask me, tattoos are a form of self-expression, no different than wearing your favorite band t-shirt or coloring your hair. The notion that tattoos are works of art is seemingly becoming more mainstream (read: acceptable!). And the talented people who permanently ink your body? They’re artists, just like painters and sculptors and sketch artists—they just so happen to work with a different canvas.
I can tell you one thing; there are some seriously skilled tattoo artists in the Metro Detroit area that will leave you with body art that rivals the work of Picasso. Whether you prefer traditional, realistic or watercolor style tattoos, there’s an artist in the Metro Detroit area who will give you exactly what you’re looking for.
Chris Guinan of Red Anchor Tattoo, 614 S. Main St., Plymouth, has been drawing and painting since he was a child. He opened shop in his hometown a year ago and has been building a stable client list at Red Anchor ever since. Guinan describes his tattooing style as “clean,” and he says the most memorable tattoos he’s ever done were portraits of Buddy Holly and a photo of a child on his father. If you’re looking for portrait work, Guinan is your guy!
Alex Boyko also works out of the shop, as well as Keith “The Apprentice” Opalinski. All artist portfolios can be viewed via the official Red Anchor website.
Jay Wheeler grew up down the street from Eternal Tattoos, 27590 Plymouth Rd., Livonia, where he now works. Wheeler has been tattooing for 22 years, after briefly studying fine arts and drawing at Wayne State University. His favorite aspect of tattooing is the ability to make a living doing what he loves—making art!
There is no typical day in the life, either, which is what most tattoo artists will tell you.
“Generally, in the beginning of the week, I get all of my tattoos prepared and drawn out. When I have a custom piece to do, I make a preliminary drawing for my client and present it to them at their appointment, and if any alterations need to be done, I work right there, together with the client,” Wheeler said. “If it is a reproduction piece, then I basically make a map of the image that I can follow to do the tattoo.”
If you’re nervous about getting your first tattoo, or just looking for a new artist, Wheeler should be at the top of your list. He spent years traveling to learn more about his artwork and perfecting his craft. During this period, he did guest spots, worked tattoo conventions and even had a tattooing stint in Austria.
Check out Wheeler’s reproduction of Alex Grey’s painting on his portfolio site, then Google the actual piece. Your mind will be blown! Be sure to take a look at the rest of his work while you’re there.
Dana Forrester is the owner of Lucky Monkey Tattoo Parlour, 308 S. Ashley St., Ann Arbor, and she provided some great insight on what it’s like to run a tattoo shop. Forrester has worn many hats—she’s been a freelance production assistant/casting assistant for films and television as well as an event coordinator, and she currently owns a boutique PR/music licensing company in addition to Lucky Monkey. She even lived in Jamaica for four years!
All of Forrester’s prior experience has helped her roll with the punches and face the challenges that come along with being a business owner. She, along with two friends, opened Lucky Monkey 13 years ago. Four years after that, her business partners moved to California and Forrester has owned the shop herself ever since.
“Every day is different. Making sure my artists have everything they need to tattoo successfully, making sure the shop is clean, supplies are stocked, and our customers are getting the best service possible,” Forrester said. “I also spend a significant time on marketing and promotion for the shop, and of course balancing the books.”
She said one of the best parts of owning a tattoo shop is experiencing the ritualistic aspect of the tattooing process.
“Our clients are transformed after getting inked, and I’m honored to be a part of that. I also love seeing creative ideas—designs that my tattoo artists have worked on with their clients on paper—come to life on their flesh,” Forrester said.
Lucky Monkey would be nothing without the shop’s artists (including Brian Massey, Amanda Snyder, Brad Nugent, Patrick Haller, Tony Caporusso and Steve Flores) and staff, according to Forrester, and she praises each of them for their talent and customer service.
When it comes to tattoos, here’s my opinion: you wouldn’t buy a $10 steak from Walmart (would you really? Ew) when you know a 20 oz. prime rib from the best restaurant in town is going to taste better, even if it costs three or four times as much.
Take this life lesson and apply it to tattoos! You get what you pay for. If you seek out a professional artist who is meticulous and gives you the time of day (like everyone mentioned above), you’re going to be happy with the results. Personally, I’d rather (and did, shout out to Geary at Eclectic Art Tattoo Gallery in Lansing!) sit in a chair for nearly nine hours and cry tears of joy at the finished product than get something done in a half hour and be stuck with it forever.
Like they say, “If your body is a temple, why not decorate the walls?”