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The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Tattoo lovers talk first tattoos, advice, cost

Brandon Clark
A tattoo on Proton Tattoo’s tattoo artist Grant Katula’s arm shows a raccoon guarding a trash can with a shotgun. Students shared their first tattoo stories and advise others to consider the price and art that’ll be imprinted on their bodies. (Brandon Clark | Northern Star)

DeKALB – Getting a tattoo can be a common rite of passage for 18-year-olds looking to assert their newly gained status as adults. However, getting a tattoo can be a costly regret without proper consideration. 

First-year finance major Nick Neagle got his first leg tattoo, a scene depicting Jesus on the cross, when he turned 18, but admitted the design was not his first choice.

“I’ve wanted a tattoo since I was 16, but my parents wouldn’t let me get one,” Neagle said. “I’m glad they didn’t because I would have regretted that choice now.”

Chris May, owner of Proton Tattoo at 125 S. Fourth St., deals with many college students looking to get their first tattoo and said simple designs are common among those looking to test the waters. 

“Roman numerals are really in right now for whatever reason, especially on the collarbone,” May said. “College students usually want something simpler like trinket tattoos, fine line stuff and symbols. I think money is the issue.” 

Money was a significant factor in junior kinesiology major Shannon Izzo’s decision to wait on getting a tattoo.

“My sister got a gothic version of Ariel from ‘The Little Mermaid’ on her thigh for $800,” Izzo said. “It looks awesome, but I just don’t have money to spend like that.”

Professional tattoos from a reputable and talented artist can be costly, but according to Jashawna Robinson, an NIU bus driver, you get what you pay for. Robinson has eight tattoos with plans to get seven more.

“So far, I’ve done a lot of work with street artists, but I want a piece by a professional, and I know that’s gonna cost a buck,” Robinson said. “I like detail and color, and even if it costs more than $1,000, a professional piece would be worth it.”

Junior computer science major Calvin Darley spent $600 on his tattoo commemorating his shared love of music with his father.

“My dad and I are big metalheads, and the first band he told me about was Megadeth,” Darley said. “That was the first concert we went to, and this is their tour logo from that concert.” 

Darley is still satisfied with his tattoo years later and advises other students to research and carefully consider their choices to avoid regrets. 

“For your first tattoo, you should think about it for a whole year and spend at least $300,” Darley said. “Look at the artist’s prior work to see how it will translate into what you want.”

The art adorning the walls of tattoo shops is a great way to view an artist’s work; but according to May, many customers have a common misconception about flash art. 

“There’s all this cool stuff hanging up, and everybody ignores it because someone else might have it, but yet they bring you this thing they found on Instagram,” May said. “There’s a higher chance more people from the millions on Instagram will have your design versus a couple of random dudes from this small town with one of our designs.”

May specializes in wild and colorful custom tattoo designs.

“I like illustrative stuff that looks like it should be in a storybook with interacting elements,” May said. “I do everything; but if I had it my way, I’d draw wacky stuff all day.”

One of May’s quirky designs is on his co-worker Grant Katula’s arm. 

“It’s a raccoon wearing a raccoon skin cap, and he’s got a shotgun protecting his trash,” May said. “It’s like a story.”

May offers one final piece of advice for anyone considering their first tattoo.

“Think of the coolest thing you can, and shoot for the moon,” May said. “Just don’t start with your neck, face or hands.”

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