How to get that tattoo you’ll love for life

We Asked! Vol. 3: How to get that tattoo you’ll love for life.

Maybe you come to the time in your life where you feel like you want a tattoo? You’ve had a moment you want to remember or a family member you’d like to commemorate. Or maybe you just really like cool-looking tattoos with bold, bright colours and need one on your back right now so life will feel complete. Whatever your motivation, it’s not a decision to take lightly because, well, they don’t exactly wash off. So we went to five of Downtown Kelowna’s best tattoo shops to ask a few questions, and get some advice on where to start when you’re thinking about getting your first ink.

Who you are, where do you work, and how long have you been tattooing?

Clay Castles, Don’t Look Down Tattoo, 6 years.

Andrew Oranchuck, Five Diamonds Tattoo, 13 years.

Brandy Campbell, Narrow Waters Tattoo, 7 months. I’m an apprentice here.

Ryan Scarpino, Dynamic Studios Tattoo, 9 years.

Rainbow Monds, Brass Tacks Tattoo, just over a year.

Where’d you learn to tattoo?

Clay: I learned to tattoo in Edmonton, Alberta starting when I was 23.

Andrew: I grew up in Saskatoon. I apprenticed at Tantrix Body Art with Mike Thompson-Hill for four years.

Brandy: I’m apprenticing here. It’s a three years process.

Ryan: I learned here in Kelowna at Young Guns Tattoo, which was in Rutland at the time.

Rainbow: I learned here at Brass Tacks Tattoo from my brother, Gabriel Hunt.

What style of tattoo do you yourself like to do most?

Clay: I like to do neo-traditional style as well as geometric. There are bold lines and bold colours. It really stands out.

Andrew: I specialize in bright bold colour. Really bold and vibrant tattoos.

Brandy: I like neo-traditional. It’s very graphic and cartoony, but it still has a sense of realism about it.

Ryan: I specialize in black and grey realism.

Rainbow: I’m still new so at this point I love everything, but I do like things that are a bit whimsical.

Do you have a favourite tattoo you’ve done? Was there a story behind it?

Clay: I like a lot of them. Generally, some of my favourites are of women’s faces. I like the way they evolve as you go, they get prettier the more you add.

Andrew: Larger scale things. Back pieces. I like to do those.

Brandy: I did a really cute Neko cat on a childhood friend. It was good to catch up with someone I hadn’t seen in twelve years, and also do a nice tattoo.

Ryan: I love animals, so I like to do animals. Dog portraits. Tigers, lions. I do faces as well, but more surreal than actual portraits.

Rainbow: [Rainbow took a gameshow pass on this question]

Have you ever refused to do a tattoo? Can you tell us what it was?

Clay: There’s lots of different reasons why. Sometimes it’s not suited for the body or person. Sometimes it’s not something you agree with.

Andrew: If I don’t like the design, I won’t do it.

Brandy: I’ve tried to talk people out of things. Like getting names and things. You’re not always going to feel the same way you do right now, so...

Ryan: I’ve never had anyone ask me to tattoo their private parts, but I’m sure I’d refuse that. If it’s not my style, I’ll redirect them to another artist.

Rainbow: I don’t refuse to do tattoos, but I won’t tattoo under 18, and at this point in my apprenticeship I won’t do hands, faces, feet, or the throat. Partly because they’re difficult, but also because they need some real thought.

How old do I have to be to get a tattoo?

Clay, Andrew, Ryan, Rainbow: 18.

Brandy: 16, with parental consent. Or 18.

What’s the oldest person you’ve tattooed?

Clay: Oh, geez. In his 70s. It was his wife’s signature.

Andrew: A woman named Pat, she’s in her early 70s. She got a bunch of butterflies and flowers on her lower arm.

Brandy: Probably 65. It was a little infinity symbol. They were matching friend tattoos.

Ryan: A 78 year old man. It was his first tattoo, and he wanted to get one before it was too late.

Rainbow: 60 plus, for sure. It was a wolf head on the back of the calf.

So, I’ve decided I want my first tattoo, but I don’t know what kind of tattoo I want. Can you help me figure it out? Where do we start?

Clay: I guess we’d start with what you like and what you think represents you. We like to start with where your head’s at and then we work together as a team to figure out what you might like.

Andrew: Reference pictures help a lot. Save some images on your phone and bring them in. It always works best to combine a few images rather than just copy one directly.

Brandy: That’s a very personal process. You need to explore some pictures online. The more concrete an idea you have in your head, the better it will turn out in the end.

Ryan: Always come with a vague idea. Something you’re interested in, something to do with family, something that represents you, and then we can help you elaborate on the idea and the style that’s right for you.

Rainbow: Our process is to email the shop to set up a consult, come in and talk to someone in person. If you really don’t know what you want, you might not be ready yet, but we’ll talk about that and look at pictures and come up with a plan. We like you to come in with ideas but not a finished design. More how it should feel than exactly what it’ll look like.

Where do I put it? How do I decide?

Clay: Put it where you want it. I wouldn’t shy away from a spot because it hurts too much.

Andrew: You need to figure out where in life you want to be. Don’t go on the neck, face, hands or lower arms for your first tattoo. Backs, arms, upper legs, shoulders are good for first ones.

Brandy: Depends on the tattoo a bit. We’ll design it to fit the part of your body that you want it to be on.

Ryan: Certain tattoos look better in certain places, so if you wanted something that wouldn’t work in the place you wanted, we’d try to find a better place for it.

Rainbow: Some spots are a little more painful than others...we can talk about that. But if you stand in front of a mirror and envision it, where do you see it?

Five years from now, I look at my tattoo and think, “What was I thinking?” What are my options?

Clay: You can do a cover up, or you can also go the route of laser tattoo removal. Laser lightens the tattoo, but it doesn’t eliminate it completely

Andrew: Re-do it and change it into something else. You can layer another idea overtop of it.

Brandy: Laser removal. Or cover-up. If there’s a lot of dark in your tattoo, it’ll be hard to cover up so I usually recommend laser in that case.

Ryan: Depends on the tattoo. Cover-ups are an option, but I suggest laser removal if they want it gone. We’ll be offering that service here soon.

Rainbow: If we do what we’ve talked about today, and we make good decisions together, five years from now you’ll come in here and you’ll still love it.

What’s your favourite tattoo on you? What’s the story?

Clay: I like the one on my chest. It’s geometric. It’s a cuckoo clock with a bird coming out of a skull’s nose. I generally chose my tattoos to be aesthetically pleasing rather than for a specific meaning.

Andrew: Hmmm...I don’t know if I have a favourite. Maybe an alien brain spaceship with tentacles coming out of it. It’s everything that’s outside the realm of what we see every day.

Brandy: I have a ship in a bottle on my leg with grapes and wine. I went to Toronto for a convention and I wanted to get tattooed by the person from furthest away. So this was done by someone from Quebec, and the wine and the grapes represent the Okanagan.

Ryan: I have a Mario Brothers tattoo that I love. I grew up playing Mario Brothers, love the games and it reminds me of my childhood.

Rainbow: My newest one is always my favourite. The latest one is balancing out all of the water elements on my sleeve with some fire elements.

If you’ve made up your mind and have to have your tattoo today, go see Clay, Andrew, Brandy, Ryan or Rainbow. They’re good people who do great work and they were nice enough to answer all of our questions. You’ll find them at:

Don’t Look Down Tattoo
Five Diamonds Tattoo
Narrow Waters Tattoo
Dynamic Studios Tattoo
Brass Tacks Tattoo

There are 12 tattoo shops in total in Downtown Kelowna. For a complete list, look HERE.

Interviews have been edited and condensed by the Downtown Kelowna Association.