January saw the start of the 2018 tattoo convention season. Already well underway, this season is proving to be bigger, better, and even more talent-filled than previous years.
With the conventions come the competitions. For some, the competitions are the focal point of the convention—the sole reason they attend. For others, it’s just a spur of the moment decision to enter after seeing how great their piece is.
As a representative of Tattoo.com, I have sat on several judges’ panels over the last year. I have met several other competition judges and shared tips and frustrations and have scrutinized over thousands (no joke) of tattoos at this point.
Of course, there is more to a competition than simply showing up and displaying your art—there are steps you have to take prior to jumping on stage and swaggering up to the judges’ table. Believe it or not, there is a wrong way to present your tattoo to the judges.
Let me be clear about one thing—we are judges. Our sole purpose is to judge your work. We aren’t up there to be nice. We are there simply to judge your piece for what it is and assign awards given the quality of the pieces entered. Awards are not given out based on backstory, personality, or notoriety of the artist and/or shop.
If you’re considering entering a piece in a tattoo competition, check out these helpful tips to help you enter the competition the right way.
This is surprisingly important. There is a huge selection of categories into which you can enter your piece. It is vital that you select the right category to ensure you are getting judged appropriately. If you’re not sure what category your piece belongs in—ask someone. Your artist or the person accepting the entry forms will be able to help you decide which category your piece belongs in. In some cases, you may be able to enter into several categories with one piece. Picking the wrong category can count you out before you begin.
I can’t believe I have to say this, but seriously guys…BATHE before coming to one of these events. Judging tattoos gets us up close and personal with you. We’re going to sit close, stare, and analyze the piece—and depending on where the piece is located, that may put our faces in some awkward places. So please, if you want us to really get a good look at your piece, don’t smell like you haven’t bathed in three weeks. We don’t want to smell your B.O. and are likely to move on quickly.
If your tattoo was done at the convention, chances are your artist shaved the area before they began tattooing. Great. That’s awesome. We love that. However, if you are entering an older piece, do yourself a favor—SHAVE THE AREA OF THE TATTOO before stepping onstage. Believe me, this can be a huge difference between whether your tattoo gets properly analyzed or not.
Tattoo competitions aren’t usually in well-lit buildings. Convention halls generally don’t make for the best lighting. Each artist is often equipped with lighting for their own tattoo station which can alleviate this issue for them, however, onstage there usually aren’t these lights. When your tattoo is covered in hair, it can be very difficult for us to see the details on the piece. If you have particularly thick, dark, or curly body hair, it can be hard to get a clear view of the piece regardless of lighting—so it is best to just shave the area and avoid any issues.
Clean and Clear
If you are entering a fresh tattoo, it is important to make sure the area is clear of any oozing fluids. This allows the judges to get the best view of the tattoo in order to truly analyze and rank your piece. Just prior to getting into line, have your artist provide you with a paper towel doused in green soap and wipe it down as you approach the panel. Many artists will stand in line with you, gloved up, ready to wipe it down for you—particularly if they have requested you enter the piece.
No matter how you do it, make sure it is clean and clear for the judges to look at.
When the tattoo artist puts your stencil on prior to starting the tattoo, note the position in which you are standing. Generally, it is a natural position where you feel at ease. This position is how you want to present your tattoo to the judges. Don’t flex, stretch, or pose in an unnatural position. Not only do you look silly, but it can distort the tattoo’s appearance. Stand naturally but still. Don’t shift and wiggle or the judges won’t get a clear view. Be polite—don’t just flop your leg up on the table ungracefully. Be gentle, natural, calm, and patient. Whichever way you are standing, expect to hold that position for an extended period of time while the judges look over every inch of your piece.
At the start of the competition, most announcers will tell contestants not to inform the judges of the shop or artist which did the piece. This is to prevent any bias in either direction. Despite this being announced beforehand, many people will still approach the judges and proceed to announce their shop and/or artist. It’s great that you’re proud of your piece and your artist but, and I reiterate, WE DON’T WANT TO KNOW. So please, don’t tell anyone on the panel who your artist is. It is one of the rules, after all.
Happy competing, everyone! Hopefully, I’ll see you out there!