Posts Tagged how-to

On finding a tattoo artist; the annotated edition.

Posted by on Monday, 9 August, 2010

One in a possible series; The following presumes you already have an idea of what you want, and can verbalize it with some decent level of clarity. An example drawing is even better, as artists love visual aids 😉  Rather, what I intend to impart upon you here is how to take that next step from deciding you want a tattoo, and have an idea for a design, into the space of actually seeking out someone to ink it for you…

First and foremost: talk to your friends who have tattoos you like. Ask where they got theirs, and who did them. More often than not they will have recommendations for you. And really, recommendations are worth their weight in gold. (My recommendation: Wendi Ramirez, who is now in Austin, Tx. as owner of Dovetail Tattoo… or Eli Falconette at Blacklist Tattoo, Portland, Or.)

Like anything you commit a large sum of money or any permanence to, you will want to do your research. is a great single resource for a lot of articles on (and photos of) tattoos, as well as key tips for sanitation and what to look for in a shop on their Tattoo FAQ wiki:
Doing your research now will pay off in the long run and help you understand what to look for in an artist and a shop.

Failing any local friends/artists, start on the internet and do some searches for prevalent and established shops within your comfortable travel distance. Check out the online portfolios of some of the local artists and make a list of a few whose art you like. In general, I’d recommend finding someone who has some portfolio pieces of the quality you want in the style you are also looking for.  (As an aside I don’t take my own advice here, typically I look for quality of work over the actual content. I chose one of my favourite artists based on a particular piece, a blackwork leafless tree, because the skill to do that work would translate well to the piece I wanted her to do for me. I didn’t want the same content, I wanted someone who could provide the same quality, and her portfolio proved to me she had the chops, even though nothing resembled the style I wanted.) If the artist does high quality American traditional work, well, bets are that they will provide you with the same high quality work if you want that same style; asking someone to go outside their normal artistic style may not prove to be as fruitful.

Before doing anything at this point, do not expect to get a tattoo the day you walk into the shop. Expect to schedule an appointment for a later date with the artist you choose. While most shops do handle walkins, you will likely get whichever artist is available, not necessarily the one you choose. And you want to choose! Be prepared to schedule as far as a month or two out, or as quickly as later that week, or next week.

Once you have found a few shops and artists you’d like to visit, do just that: go to the shops. Literally shop around. Take a look at as many shops as you can stand, and thumb through all the portfolios each shop has on their artists. If the artist is around and available to talk, speak with them. Tell them what you are looking for, where you want it, how big, and keep an open mind if they have ideas to change the piece a bit to make it work better. While you are talking with them, tune in to how they treat you, and what questions they are asking… and be sure to ask some good questions yourself to get a sense of their craft and the shop they work in. Following are some of my initial questions I find useful:

  • How long have they been tattooing
  • how long have they been at this particular shop
  • do they autoclave their tools
  • do they wear latex gloves
  • what style do they prefer (celtic, american traditional, japanese traditional, new school/oldschool, realism, portrait, custom, etc.)
  • do they primarily work from flash or do they do mainly custom pieces (flash is the pre-drawn stuff you find littering the walls at most shops)
  • If you don’t have a final drawn piece, are they willing to work with you to draw something up

There are really no wrong answers to the above (aside from the obvious medical safety items like autoclaving and glove usage, etc.), but rather these types of questions are intended to give you a starting point for a better idea about the artist’s skills and establish a comfort level with the artist; to stimulate the discussion, if you will, so you can feel your way around the artist and make sure you are comfortable with them. The more shops you visit and artists you talk to, the more likely you will find the artist who is right for you.

Now, while you CAN and should ask about pricing, I’d highly recommend not making that your first or main question, as when it comes to tattooing the primary focus should be in finding the right artist first, not necessarily the lowest price. After all, this will be something you carry with you the rest of your life, do you really want the task of inking it to go to the lowest bidder?
When it comes to pricing, from my experience, most artists worth anything charge around $85 to $150 / hour for their work on custom pieces. Of course some may be more, or some less costly; it is up to you to decide where the balance is in terms of quality/comfort/and cost for you. Some may quote you a set price per piece depending on the size and amount of work involved. So be prepared to deal in hourly rate or price per piece. Some pieces may take more than one sitting, so be prepared for that as well, and know how your artist will charge for multiple sittings etc. Being clear up front will help avoid misunderstandings later.

I’ll leave you with this: Taking the time to research before you commit to getting inked will help ensure your happiness after you get your first tattoo… and your second… and your third…  and so on.

Seamus’ Opinionated Guide to buying Whiskies as Gifts…

Posted by on Thursday, 29 November, 2007

Just in time for the holidays! As posted to

Are you close to a Whiskey, Whisky, or Scotch lover? Do you want to get them the perfect bottle as a holiday gift? Do you have no idea how to shop for a bottle of whiskies?

Because of my love for whiskies and my involvement with the 3 Drunken Celts, I am often asked for suggestions as to which bottle would be a good gift for a friend, family member, or boss. To this end I present: “Seamus’ Opinionated Guide to buying Whiskies as Gifts”

When accosted for a recommendation, my initial response is: “Find a bottle of ‘The Balvenie’ which suits your price point and buy it. You won’t go wrong…”

However, I have found that not everyone is as enamoured with the distillery as I am (cough, Raz, cough). So in a vain attempt to help out those recipients who don’t always prefer The Balvenie, I will attempt to provide some basic guidelines to choosing a suitable bottle as a gift. (If you just want Seamus’ top picks for each price point, scroll to the bottom past all the drivel in between…)

Ok, if you are still with me, let’s get to the substance of this article:

First and foremost, figure out what your price point is. There is no use finding the perfect bottle, only to realize it is way out of your range. Price can be used as a general guideline: the more costly, odds are it will be better than the cheaper stuff. But don’t let that get you down; there are some GREAT whiskies on the market which far outshine their lower price points. Just remember, there ARE deals to be had! Find some whiskies in the price range you are comfortable with, and then begin narrowing down from there.

Like price, Age is also a decent guideline where the older is typically better. On general principal a 21 year old whisky will be smoother than a 10 year old whisky. This guideline, however, tends to only stand up within the same distillery. Once you begin comparing differing distilleries and differing ages, the guideline begins to break down with too many exceptions.

When using Age as a guideline, it is also best to add Region in as well. You may well find a great 22yr Single Malt, only to discover it is from a region known for its brine when your recipient prefers peat.

If at all possible, you should try to determine of the recipient has any specific preferences when it comes to his/her whiskies. If so, you have it easy… stick with those preferences. Straying from a preferred distillery/region can be a risky venture as most connoisseurs are quite particular with their drams.

Assuming that the recipient has no particular preferences, you’ll have your work cut out for you. At the least, try to determine if he/she likes the smoky, peaty, briny, or sweeter whiskies. This will help you narrow down to a smaller regional subset and progress from there.

Some general regional characteristics to help you along the way:

Highlands – Arguably the most popular region appealing to the widest range of tastes including peat, brine, and smoke.

Speyside – A very popular and quite prolific region. Sweet, delicately complex; some with a refined smokiness, some with fruity finishes.

Islay (pronounced “Eye-la”) – Gives the Highlands a run at most popular. Challenging, Peat, brine, smoke and sometimes a tinge of salty seaweed

Skye and Orkney – Similar in character to the Islays but tend to be softer on the pallet. The Peat on the Orkneys is from heather which imparts a honey like flavor.

Lowlands – This region no longer boasts the copious number of distilleries as it once did. Soft, smooth and mild. A little of the peat and brine of the Highland malts, but much more subtle.

Campbeltown – This also use to be a prolific region, but is now in rarity. Slightly briny but not as aggressive as the Islay malts.

Irish – Not as popular as Scotch malts but this is a developing malting region its blends are quite popular. Distinguished by the un-malted barley used along with malted barley. Smooth, complex and frequently with some fruity flavor. Once known for peated whiskies, this is rarely done now.

Bourbon – From the Bourbon County, KY area of the US. Sour, sweet and smoky

American – Not from the Bourbon County area. Many are quite new to the market place with varying differences in flavours.

Assuming you have a set price range, you can really start narrowing down your selection set based on Age/Year, region, and the particular palette imparted by each bottling. Of course none of this can take the place of experience (i.e. sampling and knowing how each tastes); but if you knew already, then you wouldn’t need this guide would you?

At this point the internet is your best friend. You can find some great tasting notes on darn near any bottle ever produced! Start your searches on some on-line liquor retailer websites to find the bottles in your price range, and then do a few Google searches to find tasting notes and ratings on each. You should have a short-list selection in no time. From there, either order your choice from one of the sites who will ship to you (even with shipping you can get some wonderful deals on the internet), or take your list to your local purveyor of spirits to fill your order.

Now, it seems that even after I espouse my diatribe above, people still look at me and ask “…well that’s fine and all, but what do YOU recommend?”. I have two answers to that question:

1. If you are asking this question, then you haven’t understood a word I have said. Whiskies are a complicated thing and can be very personal for each drinker. You are best to follow the advice above, lest you buy a bottle which doesn’t meet the recipient’s desires…

2. If you are still going to demand a particular bottle recommendation, and were buying said bottle for MY palette, here you go:


Seamus’ Top Picks by Price Point (2 bottles each category):

$250 and higher: 

The Balvenie 25 year  /  Bowmore 35yr

$120 – $249:     

The Balvenie 21yr Port Wood / Edradour 22yr Port Wood


$100 – $119:     

Midleton Very Rare / Compass Box Hedonism


$75 – $99:       

Compass Box Flaming Heart / GlenRothes 1987


$50 – $74:      

Oban 14yr / GlenRothes 1991 14yr


$30 – $49:       

Sheep Dip / Knappogue Castle 1992


$10 – $29:       

Aberlour 10yr / John, Mark, & Robbo’s The Rich Spicy One


Other picks…

For the Bourbon lover: Bulleit Bourbon is an amazing distillation, which at $15 can’t be beat at all!

For a fun grab-bag type surprise, choose any Bruichladdich bottling (pronounced ‘brook’- ‘law’-‘day’). NONE are the same and will challenge the connoisseur’s palette and expectations. You never know what you’re going to get!