Tattoos: Skin art or simply body tat?
TOM DALEY'S got one, Helen Mirren's got one, Samantha Cameron's got one.
But is it skin art or body graffiti?
One thing is for sure – the pros and cons of 'getting inked' are guaranteed to polarise opinion.
Historically the preserve of dubious back-street abodes, trendy tattoo parlours have long been embraced as part of our mainstream high-street scene.
With many of the old prejudices having fallen away, tattoos have trashed the class divide to find favour across the board.
Film stars, sports celebrities and aristocracy have signalled it socially fashionable, hijacking it from its onetime preserve of rebellious youth.
Through tattoos, Plymouth artist Sophie Adamson, of Art and Soul Tattoo, has found the perfect expression for her creativity.
A compulsive drawer as a child, she sought artistic freedom, and this seemed a natural progression.
"I have always wanted to be an artist but I didn't know what I wanted to do with it," says Sophie.
Already busy creating designs and thinking they could become tattoos, she took a portfolio of work to show Matt Drury, the boss of the city centre studio. "It was torn to pieces", the 27-year-old recalls. "I was told the good and bad bits, and where I could improve – and advised to carry on practising."
Appreciative of such direct yet encouraging criticism from her mentor Matt, Sophie was eventually taken on for a trial period.
She was then given an apprenticeship, learning the skills for just under a year before being allowed to tattoo.
"I sell prints of my art work," she says. "I enjoy that and tattooing – for me both are just art. But I want my canvas to be a person.
"As a tattoo artist what I hope to achieve in years to come is people seeing a tattoo and knowing it's mine."
Sophie describes herself as "a complete obsessive perfectionist" who takes time to ensure her work is as accurate as possible.
"I like the idea of people wearing my art," she says. "For someone to enjoy wearing your art rather then hanging it on the wall is a massive compliment."
Popular styles range from Oriental to photo realism, dot work to Polynesian sleeves, and dark gothic images and religious iconography to the cheery floral designs favoured by Sophie. She recommends appraising an artist's work and seeing what style suits you before embarking on what will be a permanent adornment to your body.
A rash decision means there is always the possibility you may reconsider the merit of a specific item when it is too late. "I have a tattoo that is nicely done but had I the choice now I'd have it disappear," Sophie admits.
"But I don't hate it enough to have it lazered away. I try not to think of other people in years to come wishing they didn't have a specific tattoo. People do change their minds, and fashions do change," she adds, recalling the '90s tribal craze which is less desired now.
Sophie aims to get the tattoo as close to her drawing as possible.
"Tattooing a thigh is different to the inside of a biceps because the skin is very different", she explains.
"Some areas are very stretchy. There are so many variations."
If a client suggests an idea Sophie doesn't think will work she advises against it.
As she says, "I have to take the responsibility because I am putting it on someone's body."
The studio has a strict policy of not tattooing people's hands or neck if they don't already have a lot of visible body coverage.
"They can go elsewhere and have it done, but here we take that option away from them," Sophie continues.
"We say we cannot be responsible for certain tattoos in case it may preclude them from a job opportunity they might want in the future.
"Our studio is custom-based so the only work we do is original. We don't use any images from a catalogue.
"What we do is art specific to one person. If we draw something we don't use it again."
A tattoo can range from a neat piece, discretely placed, to a grand design.
"The back is an amazing slab of canvas," says Sophie, coveting the creative potential of the body's biggest area of blank space with artistic enthusiasm.
"It is best to plan a complete piece. That way we know how something like an 'arm sleeve' will fit together, rather than do a piece and come back to do a bit more. If you design it from the beginning you can see that it sits well and flows with the body."
There is a large following for religious art, paradoxically by clients not particularly religious. Sophie sees no contradiction here.
"I have a vampire tattoo and a robin tattoo – but I'm not a vampire, and I'm not a bird watcher."
She believes the negative attitude that tattoos can ignite "all comes down to education". "People talk about things when they don't fully understand them," she says. "I don't have an opinion on something if I don't know about it. But I deal with it brilliantly in that I don't care. If people don't understand what we do that's OK. This is what I do and it's what I love. You cannot let people's negativity affect what is positive in your life.
"The person wearing that skin art isn't thinking about people looking at them. It's not a big deal – it's just the way they wear themselves.
"If there is an issue, it is for the person looking at them. Each to his own."
What do YOU think about tattoos? Art or body graffiti? Write to Your Say (details on Page 10) and let us know.