Q) What exactly is Reinventing The Tattoo?
A) Reinventing The Tattoo is a continuing education program for professional tattooists and apprentices of professionals, written and produced by recognized artist Guy Aitchison. For much of the 24 years of his career, Guy has taught seminars and written books on various subjects in tattooing such as color use or composition. In 2001, he released the first edition of Reinventing, which at the time was designed to accompany a day-long seminar that he was teaching at conventions. Eventually it was released as a stand-alone book, consisting of a 250 page looseleaf bound black and white book plus a small number of color pages and web links to color versions of all the book's black and white illustrations. Although the format of the book's first edition was simple, it embodied a clear overview of the most important elements of tattoo design and how to apply these ideas on skin. The forum that was started in connection with the book has had contributions by hundreds of artists of all levels of experience.
In February of 2009, Guy released the second edition of Reinventing The Tattoo. Far from being a minor upgrade to the first edition, the new version is a complete redesign and rebuild in a vastly more colorful, user-friendly format. It's a 368 page, full-color hardbound boxed edition that comes with a 75 minute DVD including 40 video clips relating directly to material in the book. This deluxe educational package is the end result of three years of work; if you've ever had a question you've wanted to ask Guy about tattooing, the answer is probably here.
Reinventing The Tattoo is for professional tattooists and apprentices of professionals. It is NOT an A-Z guide, and will not show you how to tattoo from scratch. It is not meant to show you how to tattoo, but to show how to tattoo better.
Q) I already have the first edition. Besides being in full color, what's different enough from the first edition to justify me buying the book a second time, especially now at a higher price?
A) Color is just a small part of the upgrade. You'll recognize the basic format of the book; starting with chapters on design, we discuss flow and fit, positive/negative relationships, color, lighting, all that stuff. Many of the tattoos and illustration from the first edition are still there, but some have been phased out and replaced with other examples; in most cases chapters have been lengthened. In addition, the text is now broken into smaller bits; there is still the main text of each chapter, but this is supplemented by smaller boxes with side comments, suggestions, definitions etc. Some major additions include a discussion, including detailed diagrams, of the major muscle groups, along with exercises at the end of many of the chapters that can be downloaded from the website. Web links are provided for exercises and for detailed answers to the book's review questions, which have also been upgraded from the first book.
The discussion of technical matters has been upgraded in even more noticeable ways, with far more detailed discussions of machines, needles, tubes and all their related details. The section on machines has almost tripled in size, including many new diagrams. The technical parts of the book also contain a number of new troubleshooting checklists, which detail ways to work through problems with machine performance, ink flow, precision, etc. This is followed by the chapters showing step-by-step execution of some tattoos; although this includes some of the same pieces as the first edition, the chapters are all upgraded and a number of new pieces have been added, including two magnum-first projects and an example of a project on a difficult body part- the neck.
One very noteable addition to the book is the DVD. At 40 different times in the book, the reader is instructed to watch the corresponding video clip. These vary in length from 16 seconds to 5 minutes, and are meant to be watched as an accompaniment to the book rather than a stand-alone educational video. These clips feature closeup footage of tattooing, painting and other subjects, and include a voiceover by Guy explaining the content of the footage. These clips are also accompanied by a musical soundtrack featuring the music of Sunchannel, Satchi Om and Ajja Leu.
So this isn't just a color version of the first edition with a few of the typos ironed out. This is a totally new educational package, based on the first edition. It comes in a deluxe slipcase; all books are signed by the author.
Q) I've heard about a rebate for people who have the first edition... how does that work?
A) Unfortunately, the rebate expired in 2010.
Q) So what kind of tricks does Reinventing The Tattoo have to show me?
A) It's not just a collection of tricks- good tattooing is far more than just that. Guy does share quite a few small hints, suggestions and tricks that can help your work, but all of them are useful only in a larger context where the design and execution are all handled the right way. Most importantly, this book and video aim to help gain a better artistic understanding, allowing for an easier grasp of better tattoo design, which is at least as important as good technique. In the technical parts of the book, the machine tuning area in particular, are details of developing a closer relationship with your equipment and a better feel for how small changes to its tuning can effect its performance. This isn't about tricks, but about a better understanding of your equipment. Along with that comes less technical struggle, and when coupled with a better compositional skills makes for for stronger tattooing with way less struggle.
Q) I don't care about tricks, I just want to know what brand of colors Guy uses!
A) If you have a copy of the book, you'll have access to the Reinventing forums, where guy's latest pigment preferences are there along with discussions of many other subjects, most which are far more interesting than that. Here's the truth: There are many good brands of color on the market, and not that many bad brands. Mostly, the success of your color work is up to you, not the products you use. Combining colors the right way, using contrasting colors in different design elements and understanding how to use color strategy to maximize graphic impact is what's mostly responsible for the results you see. Good technique, equipment and pigments are all important too, but the design and color use is of absolute importance.
Q) Guy is known for doing that crazy biomechanical stuff, and I just want to know how to do better normal tattoos. Is there anything in the book for me?
A) This is not a book on doing biomech, don't worry... although there are a number of examples of the sort of abstract work that Guy does, they are presented as a way of demonstrating ideas such as lighting or depth that can be used in any subject. In addition, the majority of the work featured in the book is of more conventional subject matter, tattooed the way that Guy tattoos.
Q) So what's up with the forum you keep mentioning?
A) The Reinventing The Tattoo forums are discussion boards for anyone who has either the first or second edition of the book. It's a forum that welcomes artists of all levels of experience, and encourages contributions from everyone. You can begin by browsing through the thousands of entries that have been posted by hundreds of participating artists over the past 8 years or so. You can then post your own comments on some of these subjects, or start discussions of your own. You and other members can privately message each other as well. The forums also include areas to submit tattoos or other artwork for comment by other artists. This is a safe place to submit work, where you will get honest answers without being torn apart and fed to the dogs. Participation in the forums provides a chance to extend your education as far as you want.