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Tattoos: Love 'Em or Hate 'Em

By: Allison Rhea Email
By: Allison Rhea Email

It's not exactly what every child dreams of being when they grow up, but Doc Hughey just knew after an apprenticeship on the west coast he had to be a tattoo artist.

"It wasn't really my first career choice or anything like that, but art to me is like a self expression," says Doc Hughey, Manager, River City Tattoos.

Doc, the General Manager of River City Tattoos in Marietta, has been helping people express themselves for 28 years.

He calls it art and that's exactly what it is, just not the kind you hang on a wall.

Most people feel one of two ways about this type of art, they love it and probably have a tattoo, or several, or they don't.

And if you have a tattoo, you know that a lot of thought goes into it.

Doc says, many times, he has multiple consultations with clients before even inking them.

"Any artist that's worth their salt is going to take the time to draw something custom. If it's something simple like lettering, we may be able to do it that same day, but more of than not, we're going to want to take our time. It may take overnight to put something together, depending on the complexity," says Doc.

Whether the tat is simple or complex, it's permanent. So, Doc says it should always mean something.

"I see a big trend right now in memory tattoos and tattoos should remind you of something or provide some kind of closure, something to help the person move on, in one way or another, in a positive way".

For Doc and the person getting the tattoo it certainly is a positive experience, but what about those nay-sayers?

"We're all criminals, we've all been to jail, we're bad people," says Doc.

Or even that tattoo shops are dirty!

It couldn't be farther from the truth.

"Everything we use is disposable, it gets used one time and then it's thrown in the trash. So, there's virtually no opportunity for cross-contamination".

In his nearly 30 years of tattooing Doc has seen a lot.

You could probably tell that he loves skulls, his studio is decorated in them.

But his favorite piece of art?

"A picture of Sir Lancelot and Lady Guinevere I did for this guy from Norway. I've been to Norway and we established a kind of rapport and he's coming back in December to get a couple more pieces from me," says Doc.

It's no surprise most clients establish a close relationship with the artist who worked on them.

Because whether its simple text or a symbol of a trip you never want to forget, you carry their work of art with you forever.

Doc says he does an average of ten to fifteen tattoos a week.

He adds that tattoos can range anywhere from $50 to thousands of dollars.
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There are all kinds of reasons why people get tattoos.

In memory of someone they've lost, teen rebellion or sometimes, it's just a really cool design.

"It started when i was 18 and I got one and it kind of just spread from there. It's kind of addicting, the more your get, the more you want to get," says Matt Parsons, has tattoos.

Matt Parsons can't say exactly how many tattoos he's acquired over the years, they all kind of run together, but each one is unique in what it means to him.

"I have a few that have meaning for my daughter, she's 7 now. I have one that has her initials and I have another one that has a drawing that she did just recently, it's a shark and I thought it was really cool," says Parsons.

It seems innocent, to have a permanent piece of art to serve as a constant reminder of a loved one, but not everyone sees it like that.

The Manager of River City Tattoos in Marietta, Doc Hughey, has seen plenty of discrimination.

"In the past, I was always looked down on, in that same stereotypical view," says Hughey.

"I get a few different reactions when people see my tattoos. Either they say "Oh, that's cool, where'd you get that" or they say "How could you do that to your body?," says Parsons.

Luckily, both Matt and Doc have jobs that don't mind their self-expression, but not everyone that's tattooed is so fortunate.

Matt has several friends that have been punished for the ink they own.

"They've had some bad experiences where they haven't been able to get hired at certain places, but their tattoos are popping out of their shirt collars, they can't really hide those," says Parsons.

But tattoo enthusiasts have found a loophole, just cover up the ink.

Doc has been tattooing for decades and says you'd be surprised at who is doing most of the concealing.

"Even some of our local politicians I've done work on. I'll keep them private, but doctors, lawyers, teachers, medical professionals," says Hughey.

Even with all the negative talk and stereotypes against people with tattoos, Doc says society has made strides towards accepting them.

"Twenty years ago if I was in the grocery store and a little old lady couldn't reach something on the shelf, she would just leave the aisle, but now, she may approach me and ask me to reach something on the top of the shelf for her," says Hughey.

Their tattoos don't define these men, but instead, they believe it gives them character.

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You've heard the old saying..."Take care of your skin -- its the only one you've got!"

So, we stay away from smoking and we lotion up in the summer sun.

And if you've thought long and hard about getting a tattoo, the concern probably also crossed your mind about what it would do to your skin.

I mean, the tattoo gun is kind of intimidating.

"It's like having a painting on your body and that's how we approach this too," says Doc Hughey, River City Tattoos in Marietta.

Tattoo artist, Doc Hughey, says tattoos are a type of scaring, to a certain degree, but not the kind to be concerned about.

So, you finally went and got that tattoo you thought long and hard about, flash forward ten, twenty years and your skin has stretched.

Doc says not to worry.

"As you get older, you cells of your skin open up, so lines are going to get wider. You can notice it a very little bit, it's not anything drastic," says Hughey.

And he says, just like art work, sometimes the colors can fade and the elements can wear it down.

"Tanning beds, sauna, Jacuzzis, whirlpools, working out in the sun," says Hughey.

If its just an aesthetic issue, a touch up is no problem, but what happens if its the subject matter that has you thinking maybe the permanent ink wasn't such a good idea?

"If I'm doing a cover-up, I'd say 75% of the time it's a name; an ex-wife, ex-husband, boyfriend girlfriend".

So, Doc says make sure you think twice about what kind of art you get.

Matt Parsons has more than a dozen tattoos and has never looked back.

"Before I get any tattoo I think about it for months. I've even thought about it for years before I've gotten them, so I don't regret any tattoos I've gotten so far," says Parsons.

But there are options for the people who don't want to just cover up the original tattoo, they've had it with body ink.

"They use a laser to go underneath your skin and break up the solid tattoo pigments. Right now, it's goes for about $1,000 a square inch," says Hughey.

Doc says what's left behind could be white scarring.

And we've all seen the ads for lotions, creams and potions.

"I've never seen anything good come from those products," says Hughey.


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