Copyrighting Tattoo Art

It is difficult to identify a more personalized statement or method of collaborative endorsement than utilizing our bodies as canvases, permanently marking one’s skin. Tattooists might constitute some of the most prolific producers of artwork. Their client’s tattooed compositions are more broadly and readily visible than works done perhaps in nearly any other medium. Yet within the tattooing field sufficiently detailed or serious analysis of activity as well as associated technological and socioeconomic impacts are rarely accorded.

We turn briefly to an article from New Zealand. As is most common with online tattoo-related writings, content often primarily serves as an advertisement vehicle for images hyping inking as a practice and is then peppered by quotations from a handful of easily contactable [often just mainstream] artists. Implications of copyrighting tattoo designs and associated body art forms, particularly completed tattoo works, are however worth exploring in greater detail:

“Tattoo artists calling for right to have copyright on their work | There’s an unwritten rule in New Zealand – decent tattoo artists don’t copy designs. Right now the Copyright Act 1994 is under review, and artists behind the ink say stricter legislation could protect original tattoo designs. House of Natives founder Gordon Toi would champion tattoo protection. “I would like to see some kind of governance over Maori tattooing and Polynesian tattooing… there’s so much exploitation.” Original designs were often replicated, often overseas without even talking to the New Zealand artist, he said.

“Skin is probably the hardest thing to copyright, because everyone is copying it.” Pacific Tattoo owner Tim Hunt wanted artists to respect the meaning of Maori and Pacific cultural patterns and symbols. “Any artist could say, I can do you a design that has korus and looks Maori”, Hunt said.

“But if you want something authentic, you will have to go somewhere else.” Overseas, tattoo artists are suing when their designs appear on in the media, like television. In 2011, the artist of Mike Tyson’s Maori-inspired facial tattoo sued Warner Bros over a depiction of similar facial art on a character in The Hangover: Part II. If copyright law protected cultural images, Hunt would respect the change. “I want more tattoo artists to stand up and say: ‘I don’t know enough about it, I don’t know the history behind it, and I don’t know the context behind it’.” Overseas, tattoo artists replicate images without a second thought.

New Zealand was different, he said. “It’s kind of an unspoken code in New Zealand that you just don’t do that.” Hunt believed the customer owned the tattoo, not the artist. Union Tattoo owner Craigy Lee agreed there was an unwritten code of conduct to not copy a custom tattoo. Decent artists would not dare to make money from someone else’s design, he said. University of Auckland associate professor Alex Sims said technically what is currently occurring in New Zealand is probably copyright infringement – under the banner of artwork. However Sims cautioned against strict enforcement of copyright laws on tattoos, which could include removal of tattoos, preventing the tattoos appearance in films and advertisements, or requiring the removal of tattoos from social media.”It would give the copyright owner the power to control images of a person, which would be extremely concerning and just wrong.”

Tattoo vs art

For use in the tattooing world, a distinction between copyrighting designed or applied tattoo artwork must be made. We address professional practitioners tattooing as their sustainable, primary means of income.

Tattooists may have multiple images and other as yet non-applied media content such as designs, compositions, sketches or custom artworks. Like representations of various traditional art forms, these are relatively easy to recorded as well as upload allowing clear digital ascription of copyright ownership.

Separately, as worn by clients, tattooists typically have portfolios of tattooed pieces. Using a three-dimensional canvas introduces complexities to automated digital identification. In numerous image copyright tracking software, positioning alone can entirely throw off investigation techniques. While Instagram and alternate photo uploading databases offer some form of time-stamped verification but, due to comparatively openly editable structures subsequent source and ownership attribution can become diluted. Whether tattooist’s produced artwork is documented on skin or another type of canvas is the first practical distinction.

Artist vs technician

In order for copyrighting considerations to be adequately reviewed, grouping serves as a tattoo industry specific starting categorizations. On one side of the tattooing art form creative spectrum there are those tattoo artists only implementing their style and techniques.

Forgoing reflections on how tattoo artist’s styles and aesthetics may have been derived or inspired, the tattoo artist’s works are independently recognizable as “being theirs”. In a senses, the tattoo artist has a stylistic monopoly.

Proportionately with other creative mediums, the tattoo artist has a particular vision, knowledge and or expertise that may not be readily substituted for or by anyone else. The tattoo artist can therefore be classified as practicing the tattooing craft so as to convey a unique style and or furthering the continuation of a single aesthetic or technique.

Tattoo technicians may have distinct portfolios of completed, tattooed, works. While the tattoos in such portfolios cannot be exactly replicated, such unique quality attributes are due primarily to placement on a bespoke canvas, i.e. on one entirely individual person. The cohesive result is bespoke rather than the isolation of a composition. Likewise such tattooed work is formed within specific, often non-reproducible proportions. The resulting tattoo may indeed be faithfully replicated by any number of other tattoo technicians, albeit on a different exclusive canvas.

And as proportionate to qualified technicians in any field, a tattoo technician may be substituted with no inherent loss or degradation to results. A technician is the tattooist physically and technically capable of applying categories of tattoos yet may do so indiscriminately in regards to a single style, size, technique, aesthetic and or design. Capacity rather than artistic temperament or vision here is the limiting factor.

Tradition vs technique

Tattoo artists may be thought of [as just two examples from millions] Ondrash conveying a unique aesthetic to Horioshi III in Japan continuing the culturally rich art of tebori. Both being solely in the tattoo artist’s jurisdiction, delimitation of copyrighting unique compositions as opposed to reproductions of traditional iconography forms another noteworthy separation.

Like any configuration in the more classically mainstream mediums such as painting, such a dichotomy is not to state that tattoo art itself necessarily neither neatly falls onto one side. As with all artistic pursuits, sources of inspiration as well as subjectively justifiable conclusions that the same compositions labelled as ‘homage’ by some or ‘theft’ to others remains to be objectively qualified in any manner whatsoever. As often said, good artists copy – great artists steal. In practical terms though the tattoo artist producing traditionally inspired works may automatically and logically be precluded from copyrighting registration of tattooed art off of the human canvas.

Copyrights vs claims

There may be a twofold purpose of copyright registration. Firstly this functions as externally verified recognition, by a third party, of bespoke or attributed authorship. Such adds credibility, weight and or authority to content. Not least of which often lending substance to sales pricing.

Secondly the purpose of holding a copyright ownership registration could be preparation for cataloguing proceedings when initiating formalized legal protections. These proceedings nonetheless require the violator(s) be identified, engaged with, refuse to honor the registration and then successfully convicted in a manner constrained by their geographically applicable court(s) of law. Quantification of receivable remuneration depends on violator’s accurate identification, owned content’s documented use, set culpability through response and achievable legal ramifications as determined in part by physical location. All form notable, complicating factors.

Recognition vs protection

It has been found as commonplace for a tattooist to use the designs or even completed tattooed portfolio pieces of another. While a large portion of accredited tattoo artwork is searchable online, sheer volumes accessible via disparate sources fractures attempts for single point [i.e. one tattooist's] crediting. The illicit or unauthorized use of tattooed works conceivably only being in printed or offline portfolios, as with those shown to studio clientele. Tattoos often serve as an individually enacted and privately held art form.

Online display and thereby essentially public ‘registration’ of tattooed works may therefore purposefully not exist. Its wearer could have requested this.

These factors translate into an ability for tattoo technicians, dealing directly with individual clients, to potentially be quite liberal in statements of completed works as well as, by extension, claimed tattooing experience or expertise.

In a practical manner, the motivations or impetus for copyright ownership registration of tattoo works apply more broadly to the tattoo artist and perhaps only as form of registration of completed portfolios to the technician. While achievable remuneration or punitive actions against copyright ownership violators is far from universally predictable, a focus on digitally time-stamping both tattoo artwork and portfolios through say blockchain verification is the first step towards assurances of authenticity. However used the creator now has immutable, single-source substantiation of ownership.

As with the technology’s decentralized capacity, ability of trust reallocation onto individual sources as opposed to ‘hubs’ equates to potentially ushering in a new standard of work verification. This is hugely significant for the client in the process selection. For tattoo artists the effects and benefits of copyright ownership through blockchain are also significant.

Things You Should Keep in Mind While Searching for a Tattoo Shop

If you are planning to get inked, there are some insights you should keep in mind while searching for a tattoo shop. Finding the best tattoo shops in Miami takes a brief period and some making an inquiry or two. Getting a tattoo is lasting, so we suggest doing your analysis. Now that tattoo is becoming a thriving business, you ought to take your time. There are some red flags that you most definitely should avoid.

Here are the things you look for:

• Working environment- when entering the shop, you should take a proper look inside the shop. It’s the most pivotal part because if their surroundings are not clean and tidy how will they assure the same while operating. Apart from the surroundings, the next important part is their furniture. They should also be properly cleaned and sanitized in order to prevent the spreading of germs.

• Due Testimonials- when asking for tattoo shops do not forget to get the comments or reviews of their previous customers. You can easily look it up online and look for customer reviews. The testimonial proves to be the most important part as it tells you a lot about the tattoo artists, their services, and health and safety which will help you look for the best tattoo shop whether in Miami or anywhere.

• Personally meet the personnel- it is very crucial to meet the artists and personnel of the shop and let them articulate your thoughts before proceeding with them. Communication has proved to be the most integral part of tattoo making. It will let you know whether the artist addresses your concerns or not. It will also provide you with ample of time to connect with the said artist and help you understand their style of working and fortes. The artist can really let you broaden your horizon with their experience and can rightly guide you through the process.

• Appropriate license of the shop- before making a decision do not forget to check the authenticity of the licenses of the tattoo shops. Searching a tattoo shop in Miami which is licensed may take up some time but will help you through the operation. There are numerous shops offering cheap tattoo services which can either mean that they are not licensed or they do not have the updated mechanism. This will help you avoid the disappointment which also means the possibility of getting a dreadful tattoo or getting some sort of skin infection or pigmentation.

With the information provided above, now you can conduct a proper evaluation before getting inked because getting a tattoo is permanent but making a bad decision is not. Great abilities and experience of the artist, general cleanliness of the shop, legitimate treatment of the gear, and sterilization are principal components to consider when you are finding a tattoo studio.

Entering Art Competitions – Nine Tips to Making Your Experience Rewarding

When you are ready to enter your artwork in local art competitions, here are nine art tips that can help make this a great experience.

Art Competition Jurors

One of the favorite pastimes of entrants is trying to predict the kind of artwork a particular juror will accept, based on that juror’s painting style. Sometimes picking your entries in this way works and you get in, but I’ve also seen jurors choose an eclectic mix of styles and subjects, only some of which were like their own.

Art Tip # 1 – My advice is just enter your best work – art that shows skillful use of your painting medium, a well-designed composition and an image that shows creativity. These are three important criteria of most jurors.

When you enter your best artwork, you are showing your strengths. After that, it is up to the juror and his or her viewpoint. And you’ll just have to accept the vagaries of the judging process. As a more extreme example of what can happen, I once had the same juror for two different shows. I entered the same painting in both art competitions and the juror rejected it from the first show and gave it an award in the later one. A nationally known artist told me a similar story about a painting of his. It was rejected from one national show and won Best of Show in another. I’m pretty sure he didn’t have my juror.

Photographing Your Art

Art Tip # 2 – The second most important factor you control, after painting a great piece of art, is taking a good photograph of it. This is what the juror sees to judge your art; it needs to represent you well.

The picture should, of course, be in focus and show colors that closely match your art, so become proficient at shooting your own work or find a professional to do it.

What people who take pictures of their own art may not realize is the lighting conditions affect the color of your picture. Just like the old film cameras, shooting pictures with a digital camera using incandescent light bulbs will turn your picture more orange. Using fluorescent lights can turn the pictures greenish. Shooting outside when the sky is overcast can create a bluish tint, so look at your pictures closely before entering them.

A lot of people make the mistake of leaving their digital camera set on Automatic. To get the color in your picture to match your artwork, you need to understand how to set the White Balance. Every time you shoot under different lighting conditions you should reset the White Balance. Check your manual for how to do this on your camera.

Another award and entry killer is not submitting your entry in the required format with the required information. Always read the art contest prospectus. It’s amazing how many people don’t follow instructions, which instantly converts their entry fee into a donation.

Art Tip # 3 – Film is going away, so my advice is to become familiar with how to prepare and send digital pictures.

Art competitions that require digital entries often want your pictures to be formatted in a specific way. The prospectus will often say your entry should have a black background and be X number of pixels square. If you don’t want to buy software (like Photoshop or Photoshop Elements) that will help you do that, there are free internet sites you can also use to format your pictures.

Framing your art

Okay, you’ve been accepted into an art competition. There is another important decision to make. How well are you going to frame your work?

Art Tip # 4 – Often, the juror doesn’t pick the award-winning art until he or she can see the actual work. Your whole presentation affects that decision.

Matting and framing your art well are very important for two reasons.

Reason 1: If you have a nice piece of art surrounded by a cheap-looking frame or a frame that’s scratched or dented, you’ve just reduced the award-worthiness of your work in the eyes of the juror.

If you also have your art surrounded by gaudy or inappropriately colored mats, you’ve lowered your chances of an award even further. It’s best to be conservative. Use white or off-white mats.

Reason 2: If an art buyer likes your art and would consider purchasing it, he or she often wants to be able to take it home and immediately hang it on their wall. If she feels she needs to spend more money to re-frame your art more appropriately, she is likely to decide it isn’t worth the wait, the cost, or the hassle.

Art Tip # 5 – My advice is to frame your work as well as your budget will allow. If your work doesn’t sell, you can always reuse the frame for other art in other shows…but take into consideration Tip # 6.

Art Tip # 6 – Ask yourself: How experienced are the people hanging the show?

Let me explain. At one time I used to enter some of the smaller local art shows. The problem that changed my mind about this was I had so many frames scratched and ruined because they were badly handled. I use nice frames for my art – not the really high-end ones, but not the cheap ones either. In the smaller shows, what happened at times was the art was stored with the back of one piece of art leaning against the front of another. When that is done the screws on the back of one frame can easily scratch the frame or artwork behind it.

Small art shows and small organizations may have volunteers who have little or no experience handling art. In these small shows especially, you have to make a judgment call as to how expensively to frame your work.

I am much more trusting if the show venue is a professional gallery, since they have experience handling and hanging art.

Glass for Your Frame

If you create art that needs to be framed under glass, you’ve got another decision to make. Do you use regular glass or the more expensive, non-reflective glass?

Art Tip # 7 – Use the best glass you can afford.

As expensive as it is, let me explain why I’m a strong proponent of non-reflective glass. Some years ago I was accepted into an art competition at a gallery. Normally, galleries have track lighting that can be positioned to reduce reflections.

Unfortunately, my art (under regular glass) was hung on a wall facing the front windows. When the sun was shining on the street outside, the scene outside was all you could see reflected in my glass. This is a very effective way to guarantee you get neither a sale nor an award.

But, being a slow learner, I continued using regular glass until a weekend a few years later. I had registered to display my art in an art fair. Now in an art fair, the artist pays for space to set up his canopy or tent to show and hopefully sell his work.

Tents for this use are almost always white, as was mine. The white walls of my rented tent set up a reflective situation that the lights I was using could not overcome.

Standing in front of some of the art was almost like standing in front of a mirror. Again, the only way to actually see the art was to stand off to the side. I had one sale that weekend.

I may be a slow learner, but eventually the lesson does sink in. Since that disastrous weekend I have used nothing but non-reflective glass. It is almost as expensive as gold, but it works very well and eliminates a very important headache.

Shipping your art

You might decide at some point to enter an art contest in another area, where you will need to ship your art.

Art Tip # 8 – Total all your costs before you enter a competition, because the costs add up quickly.

First, you need to buy a sturdy box to ship your painting. Air Float Systems (www.airfloatsys.com) carry boxes made especially for shipping art. The boxes are very sturdy, but they are not cheap. Or, you can build something similar to the Air Float boxes by purchasing a mirror box (available at U Haul and other packing stores) and some foam.

Second, the art group organizing the show will designate a local shipping agent to receive your entry. The agent will unpack your art, deliver it to the show venue, pick it up after the show, repack it in your box and ship it back to you. The fee for this may be several hundred dollars in addition to the expense of your box and your original shipping costs.

Art Tip # 9 – Never enter more pieces of art than you are prepared to deliver.

If you call the art show organizer and try to weasel out of shipping one or more of your pieces that got accepted, you are not going to get a sympathetic ear. Or, if you just don’t deliver all of the art that was accepted, you could, depending on the rules of that art competition, be banned from entering for several years.

So remember: Do your planning well ahead and follow these tips you are much more likely to have a rewarding experience when entering art competitions.

Gary Gumble has been using his creativity in one form of art or another for over 40 years. He graduated from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design with a BFA. Thereafter, he was a commercial illustrator for 18 years before returning to his early schooling in fine art.

Since then his artwork has won numerous awards of all sizes.