Dallas Ink: Mike Tidwell Talks Tattoos

An expert's take on clients, stereotypes and the tattoo you should never, ever get.

“Our industry had a bad reputation back in the 70’s and 80’s - artists were drug addicts and criminals.”

Mike Tidwell isn’t your stereotypical tattoo artist.  Good thing he doesn’t have much use for stereotypes.  At age 34, this native North Texan has been perfecting his craft for some 13 years.  He now commands upwards of $100 per hour at Hold Fast on Greenville Avenue, specializing in hauntingly realistic portraits and elaborate designs.

He’s also married, soft-spoken and holds doors open for ladies.  Really.  Just don’t cross him when it comes to indecisive clients, inexperienced artists or what he deems relationship “suicide”.

NBC DFW: How does one get into this business?
“Basically, you have to find a tattoo artist and convince him that you would make a good one by showing him a portfolio of your artwork.  …If he likes your work, he’s gonna shoot you straight like Simon Cowell would.” 

NBC DFW:  What are the biggest misconceptions about tattoo artists?
  “A lot of people think that a lot of us are jerks, or we’re rude.  …We want to get rid of that negative stereotype.  Our industry had a bad reputation back in the 70’s and 80’s - artists were drug addicts and criminals.  …I’m not saying those guys don’t exist in the industry.  …I’m sure there are criminals and ex-cons in the culinary industry, but they’re not as glamorized as the ones in our industry, for some reason.”

NBC DFW:  What factors should you consider when choosing a tattoo artist?
“Look at portfolios and look at your artist’s work.  …People think, if you work at a shop, you must automatically be good, and it’s not that at all.  There are too many people in this industry who don’t know what they’re doing, but they have money to open a shop and get a license.  …You’ve gotta look through portfolios.”

NBC DFW:  What if a client has no idea what design to get?
  “We don’t do it that way.  You’ve got to point us in some direction.  …We can’t choose what you want to eat for lunch, we can’t choose your clothes, what car you want to buy, so we definitely can’t choose what you want on your skin for the rest of your life.”

NBC DFW:  Names – do or don’t?
“If they’re your kids’ names or maybe your parents’ names or someone that’s always going to be in your life – guaranteed – that’s not a problem, but lovers’ names are never a good idea.  …It’s almost a suicide for the relationship.”

NBC DFW:  Are there any tattoos that you’re just tired of seeing?
  “For a while, [it] was the Tasmanian Devil.  …It’s not popular anymore, but there are thousands of guys out there with Tasmanian Devils tattooed on ‘em.  …Tribals, barbed wire - there’s a lot of tattoos that are going to come and go.”

NBC DFW:  What are the most popular symbols and pictures right now?
“They used to be Japanese characters, but people aren’t really getting those so much anymore.  …Now, we’re getting into nautical stars.  …No telling what it’s gonna be a year from now.  Whatever makes you happy.  …If you’re happy with it, it doesn’t matter what other people think.”

Hold Fast Tattoos
2919 Greenville Avenue, Dallas

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