Finding a good tattoo artist is a tough endeavor, looking at portfolios can only give you so much insight but word of mouth can also give you details that are invaluable in choosing the right artist.
I've dealt with a lot of different artists and when I find one of the greater ones I'll do my best to give you a heads up.
One of those that I've had the pleasure of working on me would be Dave Nielsen.
Currently working out of Steve's Tattoo on Willy St., he has been a blast to have working on a piece for you. He's a pleasure with genial demeanor and his artistry is top notch, his skill with color blending and creating crisp lines without a heavy hand makes the time in the chair fly. Dave is one of the few artists that I trust to say, "have some fun with the design". I have yet to be dissatisfied with any work he has done for me.
It can be deflating when you find an artist who is judgmental when you come to them with a design but Dave has always listened to ideas and happily did whatever he could to incorporate ideas I had without talking down to me and enhanced the original idea to be the most aesthetically pleasing.
I found this excerpt from an article on the Isthmus' Daily Page website written in 2009...
After 11 years in the business, artist Dave Nielsen of Steve's Tattoo on Williamson Street knows exactly what to look for: "Smooth, clean, crisp lines. I look at how the color is put in. Is the color splotchy, or are there smooth gradations?"
Aside from technique, Nielsen recommends choosing an artist whose portfolio reflects the style of tattoo you'd like. For instance, if you want a portrait of your mother tattooed on your arm, make sure the artist has portrait work in his or her portfolio. Also, ask for photos of both fresh tattoos and healed tattoos, which can appear quite different from each other.
Nielsen has heard stories like my own many times before. The proliferation of tattoo shops makes it tempting to go hunting for the cheapest tattoo, rather than the highest-quality tattoo: "It shouldn't be about that; it should be about what the tattoo should look like at the end," he says. "The market is definitely over-saturated.... I assume people's eyes will eventually open, and the people who aren't as good won't last too long in the industry."
If you get a chance stop into Steve's Tattoo and check out his portfolio and chat him up some. Trust me you won't be disappointed.
According to Steve's Tattoo's website Dave's hours are
Mon-Sat: 11a-10p | Sun: 11a-6p