Ep. 37: My Design Process

I couldn't be more grateful for the surge of reviews that's been pouring in lately, and yes, you have two ish more weeks to get yours in. 

For every ten reviews I will pull one random winner. The more reviews the more winners!

The rewards? One-hour of tattoo time with yours truly or a unique piece of jewelry, co-designed with your input. You could indeed be the lucky winner!


My ramble today is about my design process. Both stencil and freehand. There is probably much more to say, but I said what I could think of. 

Where and how I start, why I would use one process over another, what I pay attention to when I am designing, it's all right here. 

Whether you're an ink enthusiast or just curious, tune in for a lively narration of my creative process and behind-the-scenes insights.


For my jewelry making instagram page, have a look here:



You can connect with me as well as see my tattoo art on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/micahriot/

Transcript for the episode:

Yup, hello, hello, my darlings, micah Riot here. It is August the 14th when I'm recording this and I have a question for you. Do you have a bristly dog and do you step on the hair and does it stick in your feet? It really feels quite like a paper cut, I would say, or like you have a little piece of glass in your foot. Anyway, I have many more reviews to read to you. I'm happy to report. I just sent out a newsletter last week. In my newsletter, I requested that people leave me reviews. This is one of the ways to get the podcast out there. The algorithm really likes it when podcasts have lots of ratings and reviews, and in return, I'm going to do a drawing for a prize, and a whole bunch of people wrote me reviews. Keep writing them. I believe there's now 15. And I will be pulling out a winner or perhaps two in the next couple weeks. So September 1st is when I'll be pulling out a winner or two, or maybe more by that time. For each 10 reviews, I will have one winner. The prizes are an hour of tattoo time with me or, if you live far away or don't want tattoos, a piece of jewelry that we can co-design together and there's examples of my jewelry work in the newsletter. Also on Instagram. To get to my jewelry specific Instagram, my username is Shka-dulkai, that's S-H-K-A, underscore T-U-L-K-A, that's a treasure box in Russian, and if you would like to leave a review and be entered into the drawing, you can do so by going to the app where you listen to the podcasts. Although there are ratings on both Spotify and Apple podcasts, there's only reviews on Apple. So I'm only going to be looking at Apple for this round. I know it's unfair, but there'll be other opportunities. So if you want to leave me a review on Apple podcasts, you go to the podcast app. You go to my page on its ink medicine. Type that in. You'll see the first page that's my page on there with the red and black symbol at the top that says ink medicine. It will say the title of my name. Have a big white button that says latest episode and then it will say how many days ago the last update came. So right now it's four days ago for Kinky Barbie and then it will have a bunch of episodes listed and you scroll down past the listed episodes it's like maybe 10. And you'll see there's going to be the trailer and then there's ratings and reviews. So there's stars, so you can tap the stars to rate and please do that's also super important and then, right below the first review teaser, you'll see the Write a review Link. So you click on that and then it will take you to a review writing window and that's it, okay. Okay, this is the last one, and that's a really good one. It's called intimate conversations and here it goes. Micah has a knack in creating a warm, non-judgmental, caring space, both at their tattoo space and in their intimate podcasts. Micah has skills beyond the needle and can create the most interesting, intriguing and thoughtful discussions with their podcast guests. Try one and you'll be hooked. Micah is an amazing human and if you have a few minutes to enjoy these podcasts, treat yourself, thank you. Thank you so much. The username for this reviewer is beautiful agony, and how perfect. I have no idea who you are. That would be. The other thing is, when I'm pulling out names, I'm gonna have to find out and figure out who folks are based on the names they gave when they wrote their reviews, so hopefully that will prove to be not too difficult. Thank you so much. Beautiful agony, this is just a heartwarming, just such a huge compliment, thank you. So today I wanted to Chat about my design process. It's something I get asked about, for sure basically every time I do a console, and so I thought I would lay it out for those of you who are curious. Probably some of you already know how it works, because a lot of you listeners are my clients, and if you don't know how it works, if you don't know much about how I think about how it works, then Well, hopefully it will be interesting for you to find out. So my designing process works a couple different ways. There's a stencil based Tattoos that I do, and then there's freehand based tattoos, and between the stencil and the Freehand there's also a variation, right? So there's stencil based tattoos that sometimes just depend on the placement. Let's start with that. So stentals are pieces of paper that have design printed onto them through a special machine. I First, you know, have my design on paper and then I put it through the specific machine we call the stencil machine very creative and it prints onto a like a thin sort of paper. It's a type of paper, but it's then Stencil stuff another very creative name gets applied to the skin in a really thin kind of a sticky layer and and the stencil ink sticks to the skin and creates the image that I then will be able to preserve long enough to tattoo over it. So that will be the line work, so that Image does not have any shading on it and oftentimes not a ton of detail, so that you can see really clear picture on the skin and you can tattoo over the line work. And then you'll you know, you'll detail and shade as you go. So it's a. That's what the stencil is, and Oftentimes I forego the stencil completely and draw directly on the body. That's called freehand. But when I do use a stencil it's usually because it's a bigger, more complicated piece. It has more precise sort of lines, maybe it has a lot of different elements that it would be really hard to just draw on. You know, sometimes also when you draw things onto the body, you have to move it or you have to change the size. So with stencil it's much easier to go and change the size. You know you just copy it bigger or smaller, make the stencil again. Also, stencils are great for when you're working with patterns. Like I cannot draw a precise pattern onto someone's skin in a big area, so of course I then need a stencil. So I either take a pattern that exists and make it into a stencil, use that on the skin, or I design my own pattern, which I can do with the help of my trusty iPad and some of the apps that I have for drawing, and then also I can use a stencil for that. So when I do freehand tattoos, usually I again there's a couple of different types. There are the more factual out of freehand tattoos, right Like something like a floral piece, and I can look at photos of flowers and draw it onto the skin. I kind of render it onto the skin in markers. I have skin markers, so similar ink as the stencil. They stick to the skin really well and I then can go over them with my needle and tattoo ink so I can hand draw those things onto the skin. Oftentimes things like filigree or florals are easy for me to draw on the skin. Sometimes some simple animals can be two leaves, vines. Those things I will probably freehand draw onto the skin. Other types of freehand tattoos I do are abstract work. So there I will oftentimes give myself a map, kind of sketch out on the skin where the brush strokes might go with a splatter where there might be an area of color. Sometimes I have geometric figures in those. So then I might use a stencil like a plastic stencil thing. It's different than the other stencil I was discussing. This is like a plastic shape right With like holes where the shapes are. They can be triangles, circles, more precise sort of geometric figures. I might use one of those to draw a circle onto the skin. Make it real easy that I usually design with a lot of like kind of stepping back and looking, coming closer, lots of intuition, lots of following the contours of the muscles in that specific body area, depends on where it is. Also, I will make marks on the skin with the skin markers or also sharpies and then kind of tattoo it right. So the person gets to see around about ideal, what it looks like, but not necessarily every detail. I do a lot of texture kind of as I go. I can't really draw that on, but I can make that happen with the needles that I work with. To rewind a little bit, usually in the consultation process we discuss what approach for design I'm going to take and most of the time when people approach me for a new tattoo they have some idea whether it's. They just say, you know, I want a bunch of florals to honor these specific people in my life, or because I like them, or because, you know, just think it's pretty. Or if they say I want like geometric, together with I don't know a whale or something or bear, I want these elements put together I want. Sometimes people literally just say and I love this because this is very much up my alley Like I love doing very abstract work and work just based on like sensations and feelings and energies. So I've had people be saying to me I have a poem I love, I want to use this poem as inspiration for the piece, or places, specific places. You know, I did a couple of pieces on a client of mine who's from Italy and so we did a piece that reminded both of us of like the golden fields and the olive groves and the sun and the hills and the plants, right, but it's abstract. So there was those colors. It was like gold and sage greens and olive greens and shapes of hills and some water, some kind of wavy, watery, like watercolory stuff in there. So it was about like the inspiration from a place, the sounds, the sights, the colors, the shapes that we put into the tattoo, without actually painting, like a countryside of Italy. I really love working that way. I love working with just a poem or feeling or sensation. And then, even if people don't give me something so abstract, if they give me, if the idea is very straightforward, like, for example, florals, a common ask I still, you know, especially when it's a bigger piece and it's gonna take up a big part of the body, maybe a whole arm, it's a sleeve or all the way down the leg, I like to ask what is the mood of the piece? What do you want it to look like? Is it edgy, is it soft, is it romantic and sweet and nostalgic, or is it about overcoming something difficult? Is it sharpened, pokey and weird and quirky, and is it heavy? Is it black? Is it bold, is it light, right, like so? I like to get a lot of descriptive words onto it. I write all that down and I work with the energy you know. And then the other piece is that one of the reasons I don't design and send designs over is because I really love to work off the energy of the human who is getting the tattoo. So I really need to be in the same room with you and then be designing that piece in mind with your energy. So I want you in the same space with me, I want to be in your energy, I want to feel your energy and I want to draw on you as we go. That is oftentimes how I work and that is what I love to do. I really feel like my strength in the tattoo world is my intuition and my enjoyment of energy, so that all my tattoos end up looking kind of different because they're for different people and, as I've talked about it before, it's not the best for a business perspective, like there's not so much a niche in my work, there's not so much a focus, and so it can look kind of disjointed when you look at it from far away. I think that when you come up close you can tell that their pieces that are mine that I did. But yeah, I really love to work with your specific, particular energy and give you what I feel like is appropriate for your specific person. The other things about my design process is I do love to have references, I love to have inspiration. I will look at other people's tattoos for inspiration. I don't love it when people seek out specific pictures of things they specifically want of other people's tattoos, because I don't want to copy anyone else's work and so it's not super helpful to me to look at like specifically. You know, okay, you want a sunflower, here's a tattoo of a sunflower. I'd rather just look at, like you know, if you say I really love this artist's work, and I would look at their line. You know the line, weight and the way they do. Their color is a delicate. Is it bold? Are there transitions when colors really soft or are they bold? Is it really graphic? Is it watercolor? So I'm interested in to know what type of style you're looking for and that you're attracted to. People can't always word like phrase that out loud, but they often just can show me things that they really like. And if there's not another tattoo artist, then of course I welcome a couple of pictures of my own work that people really love. Maybe what made you choose me is helpful so that I can give you elements that I know how to do. That I've done before. That I know you'll be happy with. The best references for me really are photographs. You know, if you're wanting sunflowers, I want a photograph, a really good photograph of sunflowers. If you took that photograph even better, unique. You know it's your eye, it's your vision. Otherwise, you know, I do my own research. I look stuff up online myself, or beautiful photography of the things that you might possibly want, especially animals. Animals are, I would say, much harder than flowers because they have faces and expressions and much more of like a mood that there's. Of course, a sunflower it can look angry or it can look soft and gentle, but much more obvious on a bare face or a wolf face what kind of mood the wolf or bear is in. So because there's expressions and eyes and mouths, they're harder. So I do like to have a really good photograph and then I treat it kind of like a portrait. I am gonna end right here. Thank you so much for tuning in. I appreciate you listening, I appreciate you being here, I appreciate you being one of my people, my community, and I'm out until next time.