It used to be that Steve Lowery’s customers walked into his Lancaster shop with a story they wanted to put in ink.
Now, the photo-sharing site Instagram is as likely to be a muse as any real-life experience, an indelible fact that can really get under a talented tattoo artist’s skin.
Never have tattoos been more accepted, with many of the old stereotypes replaced by an appreciation for improved technique, a broader range of color and profound creativity. The idea of tattooing as an art form seems to have finally found its way out of the corner studio and into the mainstream.
Search through enough portfolios, and you’ll find local artists specializing in biomechanical, gray wash, illustration, tribal, Asian, portraits or pretty much any other style a client has ever requested.
But even if almost anything goes when it comes to ink, opting for a tat that looks just like one featured on Buzzfeed last month won’t ensure long-term happiness. Do an image search for a tattoo with tree and birds, and you’ll see hundreds of people with a nearly identical splash of branches and crows across their shoulder blades.
"Pinterest is our downfall," says Lowery, owner of Transcending Flesh, 118 W Chestnut St. "People, now, they use the Internet and find something and bring it to us. …We try to talk to them, but sometimes that’s all they want."
With 23 years’ experience, Lowery is a skilled storyteller who also happens to be an artist. His paintings — along with drawings and skateboards designed by the shop’s other tattoo artists — adorn the hallways and reflect each employee’s personal style.
Even if experts develop a niche, they sometimes hesitate to define themselves by a single look. Their portfolios, either online or in an old-fashioned photo album, often will reflect diverse abilities.
"I do sleeves, figures, faces," says Michelle Radz, who tattoos at Addictive Expressions, 3566 Lincoln Highway East, Kinzers. "I don’t pin myself to a specific style."That’s because tattooing remains a […]