Jim Jarmusch’s Golden Rules
In creative fields (let alone tattooing) creativity and style are often main subjects of debate and enquiry. As a young tattooer I made the mistake to think that my job was to constantly reinvent the wheel, to come up with a unique, mindblowing, different solution. You don’t know that you don’t know.
After 10 years on the road and working in more shops than I can remember, I have seen how some of the best artists in the world don’t think this way.
The masterful use of references is an art on its own. That doesn’t mean to plainly copy but to re-elaborate that original information creatively. One of the best comments on the subject is by Jim Jarmusch, from his 5 Golden Rules For Filmmaking, and definitely transcend that art form:
“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic.
Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent.
And don’t bother concealing your thievery—celebrate it if you feel like it.
In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from—it’s where you take them to.”
In the end remember: nothing is created, nothing is destroyed, everything is transformed. Even the first person who drew a circle, the night before saw the moon
Tips from last week’s story
Last week I posed a question on my stories: What do you particulary struggle with/would like to improve with your tattooing?
The questions touched different fields, here my quick tips to give some sense of direction on how to improve our skillset, productivity, creativity.
FIND YOUR OWN STYLE
I believe that style is a subproduct, not a goal. You find a subject/palette/texture/composition etc you’re passionate about, you research and practice the different aspects/sources/interpretations of that.
Once you’re very familiar with it, you’ll naturally start playing with it, expanding the horizons of creativity. The pattern that will naturally emerge can be called style.
You can’t do the other way around, it’s like trying to logically decide who you will fall in love with. Artificial and empty.
DRAWING FROM IMAGINATION
Structural drawing is what you need to set yourself free from reference, or at least less dependent. Using references is totally normal, being more free to change them tho pushes your work to the next level.
It’s the longer path, don’t expect results tomorrow, but if you put in the hours with patience and dedication you’ll really become a whole different artist.
MORE CONSISTENTLY BOOKED
Study marketing, branding, sales psychology. We put up a post and hope it brings clients. There’s much more to that. Invest in advertising, put out a book, put together an exhibition, expand your network, redesign your branding strategy etc.
It’s not just about quality, it’s about exposure and reach your potential section of the market.
DESIGNS READABLE FROM ACROSS THE ROOM
Draw small, use thumbnails and avoid too much of the Procreate Zooming in and out,
it can make you lose sense of proportions.
STEADY LINEWORK AND MACHINE KNOWLEDGE
For the first I recommend to isolate that skill and practice it on paper, fake skin etc, to get confidence in the movement in a safe environment.
For the second (apart for good seminars given by great machine builders, such as Scott Sterling and Juan Puente) I can recommend the book THE DEMYSTIFIED COIL TATTOO MACHINE.
SHAKING OFF A MINDSET OF MEDIOCRITY
Bit of a longer topic, for this I have dedicated sections in the seminars and Mentorship. It’s definitely something that requires courage and kindness, as we need to look in the darkest corners of our minds. Totally worth tho, the healing that follows is priceless. As a place to start l’d say to make space for self-reflection, sit down and look at where those feelings might come from.
FEELINGS, NOT THOUGHTS,
As thoughts are just a subproduct of a subconscious underlying feeling, most likely related to something in the past we’re not even thinking of.
Social medias definitely make everything worst, try to limit that.
A bit of analytical thinking might help.
Break down what you did and write down what worked and what didn’t. This can give you a more grounded idea towards the direction to take and the decisions to not repeat.
TO GET MORE ANATOMICAL FLOW
Some degree of anatomical knowledge definitely helps.
In general, as I often repeat in classes, I’m a big fan of reverse engineering. Certain dynamics of the body and placement are often the same (not always, often), look for patterns.
MAKING A SLEEVE LOOK COHESIVE
It’s definitely a lot about Composition, studying fundamentals from outside of tattooing helps. For that result it’s also important:
-putting the design together as one
-be mindful of anatomy (joints, flat areas, repetition)
More than looking at your favourite tattooer’s piece from yesterday, study how the older artists crafted these designs in the first place and try deduct sort of rules.
BLACK AND GREY
It’s really all about Value, as you have no colors to hide behind. Understanding the fundamentals of Composition in terms of contrasts helps, always mindful of readability.
SMOOTH GRAY SHADING
A lot boils down to how the machine u use is set up, greywashes, hand movement, control of give(that can also be done by your hand when experienced enough).
Fake skin practice might help.
TATTOOING BETTER ON LOOSER SKIN
Key is definitely understanding of to optimize the stretching (hand movement, body position, angle). Also tools have a saying, as you might need a machine with a different kind of hit for the needle to flow better.
LARGE SCALE COMPOSITION
The key word is Composition.
Try to learn and practice in isolation its fundamentals, not from tattooing but outside of it. Painters and graphic designers that studied specifically that for years. Then bring it back in the mix.
TO KEEP DRAWING/PAINTING SIMPLE
Someone said: “A painting is not finished when you don’t have anything else to add, but anything else to remove”. Like Dan Higgs did, try to remove one line at the time, one detail at the time. If the purpose of communications is met, that line isn’t needed. Every line with a purpose.
BECOME MORE EFFICIENT
The bottom line really here is productivity. Time management, prioritization, process optimization. I’m a big fan of this stuff, that’s why I have dedicated sections in my programs. As with other things, study the people who do this best outside of tattooing(aka the business world) and integrate it in your routine.
A great book: ATOMIC HABITS, by James Clear.