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June 5, 2011

Guy Aitchison and Don McDonald collaborative back piece tattoo

June 6, 2011
Welcome To Tattoo Education!

Twice a year, Pittsburgh tattooer Don McDonald comes by Hyperspace Studios so we can work on projects, varying from elaborate collaborative paintings to big collab tattoo projects. Recently Don came by so we could put the final two sessions into Baltimore tattooer Markuss Decker's back. We started this project last spring, and including this visit have put a total of 6 long sessions into it, with both of us tattooing at the same time for the bulk of that time. We almost broke Markuss- the back can be pretty tricky to sit for- but everyone's happy with the end result. Pictured here is a healed photo of the previous visit, then a fresh one of what we got accomplished this time around. There's a bit of coverup in the upper area, but rather than simply going dark we chose to use enough texture and detail throughout the piece to absorb the old tattoo without a need to go any darker than necessary. The finished project took roughly 36 hours, with probably 2/3 of that involving 2 machines at once- close to 60 hours worth of tattooing.

Guy Aitchison Don MacDonald Collaborative back piece tattoo

Throughout my career I've always been involved in collaborative projects with various tattooists on paper, canvas and skin. Collaborating is a great way to learn and expand your boundaries, plus just a fun way of hanging out with other artists and picking their brains. If you choose to work with another tattooer on a project, I recommend that you:

1) Work it out on paper first!
2) Try to tap into both artists' strength, so you can both have elements in the finished piece that reflect your current skill level.
3) Aim to have each artist work all parts of the piece, both on paper and later on skin, so that the piece is not divided into "their" parts and "your" parts... the piece will be more unified and you will learn a lot more if both artists are involved in all parts of the project.
4) Trade places from time to time, to ensure that each artist can put their touch in all areas of the piece. Before each switch, and before the beginning of each session, talk through your strategy: how will dark and light be distributed? How thick will the lines be? How will black be used, and where will it not be used? A good collaboration should be a partnership, not a competition, so the more communication, the better.

Mix it up well enough and you'll end up with a finished piece that looks like it was done by an artist who can only exist when the two of you are working together... a rare meeting of minds, and a great artistic challenge. You can see a whole bunch of collaborative work I've done with various artists at our Hyperspace collab gallery.

I've also posted some new material in the Ask Guy page. This time I talk about getting smoother gradients, working with gray washes and applying solid black so it will heal smoothly. I also address a big taboo question: Should a gay person even bother pursuing a career in tattooing? Is our industry ready for that?

Check it out, and as always, please feel free to submit your own questions... I'll do by best to answer them the best that I can.

Thanks, and I'll be in touch soon!
Guy Aitchison