I want to highlight a few points that your average joe might not be aware of. This is written for both tattoo fans with their finger on the pulse of the tattoo world and new be's alike, as well as inspiring young tattooers, hopefully this will help people avoid falling into the traps of these disease spreading, artistically retarded, con-artist's.
I will starts with my hatred towards people wanting to start tattooing and going about it the wrong way. It took me 3 years of travelling, though out England, Europe and America to find someone who was rad and willing to teach me how to tattoo the traditional way. I worked for 3 years learning the tattoo trade, with no pay, as well as 12 hour 6 day weeks, with an hour bus ride to and from work.
Tattooing isn't as easy as they make it look on LA Ink, without proper guidance and crappy second hand equipment, it is IMPOSSIBLE, to tattoo anything half good, and that's the best results you can hope for. Myself and many other tattooers will tell you all kinds of horror stories about people getting tattooed by one of these characters and the stories just get worse. Not only are these kat V. D wanna-be's scaring people of life, but infection is common place with this type of prison style tattooing. I have known people end up in hospital with life threatening conditions all because their mates friends, uncles dogs, brother, is a "tattoo artist" and will do that lettering on your ribs for half the price of professional tattoo shop downtown. I've seen a 16 year old girl have to have bad, cheap ink surgical remove from her chest leaving her with what looks like a gnarly knife fight wound, all because of a cheap butterfly tattoo.Like I said the stories go on and on.
20, 15 or even 10 years ago this was not tolerated by professional artist, these scratchers where stopped, commonly with broke hands and trashed equipment, this might be a little extreme for my hippieish way of thinking in my old age, but I'm starting to see were they are coming from.
So what makes these kids think they can skip all the hard work, buy a shitty tattoo machines and start "tattooing" in their kitchen. Is it money, street cred, it makes no sense to me.
For those of you that don't know and I know thats a lot if you, heres a few facts about becoming a real rock n roll tattooer celebrity:
1.Think long and hard if tattooing is something that you are willing to give up everything for, tattooing will consume you and your daily life, from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed, tattooing will be on your mind. When you are not tattooing, your drawing or talking to someone about tattoos, email clients about upcoming appointments, It's an extremely demanding career. And if you aren't lucky enough to have a wife as understanding as mine, tattooing will have a negative effect on your relationships.
2. Money should be the last thing on your mind for a tattoo novice, yes its true after you have been tattooing a while and you know how to make a crisp, clean, bold tattoo, you are more than likely going to make a good living, but it is the same as learning any trade. If you go to college to become a brain surgeon, you wont make brain surgeon money right off the bat, in fact you will be a poor student struggling to make ends meet, but at the end of your college education you have earn the privilege to operate on peoples brains and make a ton of money, and good for you. The same can be said for tattooing, even with proper help and good equipment learning to tattoo can be a slow process, and traditional should take at least a few years.
3. Its all very well saying ok to the above two points, but the real factor is, "do I have the artist skills to permanently mark someone for life?"
Just because you can draw a good pencil sketch of Scarface does not mean you can bust out a sweet portrait on someones skin, a pencil is very different from a tattoo machine and skin is a very different canvas from paper.
Having said that it is very important to keep drawing and learning to draw new and changeling things. You will need to built a portfolio of tattoo relate drawings or 'flash' this will help you greatly with part 4.
Study good tattooers work, figure out how they build their designs, how the line work is put together, how the colour is shaded, there's a lot of homework to be done before you declare to all your mates that you are slinging some sick ink.
4. Ok so you know tattooing will take over your life, your are prepared to work your ass off for little to no money at first, and you have the drawing skills are up to par, the next stage is looking for an apprenticeship.
This is not the easiest of things to do as good tattooers get asked all the time to apprentice people, everyone and their gangster brother whats to tattoo, so theres a TON of competition.
Here is a few pointers that will work in your favour when trying to persuade your chosen artist to take you under his wing.
-Built a portfolio of tattoo related designs, in a well presented collection.
-Don't dress like a scum bag, look clean and presentable.
-Be polite and humble, regardless to the tattoo artist's reply to your request.
-Show the willingness to learn and never be afraid of lot of hard work. Most of my time spent as an apprentice was doing chors that were not tattoo related, such as cleaning my Masters car.
-Treat the knowledge of tattooing as a screed secret.
The tattoo artist I apprenticed under was called Mr.Beard, the first time I asked him for an apprenticeship he told me to get lost, the 2nd and 3rd time i asked him, showing him a ton of new drawings, he told me to no way and drew a penis head on my koi fish flash with a big black marker and laughed at me. After a year of getting tattooed by him and showing him my tattoo designs, he finally gave in and I started my apprenticeship.
There are two important factors in my story above, firstly I was getting tattooed by the tattooer I was hoping to apprentice under, so I was able to watch and soak up as much knowledge as I could, and secondly even thou he'd told me he I wasn't good enough, I still kept trying and working on bigger and better designs.
So be prepare to be disappointed. No tattooer thats worth a crap is going to waste their time and knowledge on a cocky young hipster, who just wants to half heartily become a tattoo for the next few months.
You have been around all the shops you can and still no one wants to give you the time of day, and your tattoo future looks bleak. Well, this should be a sign from the gods telling you maybe you don't have what it takes. If all the tattooers you have spoken to have told you they aren't interested, with their years of experience in the tattoo industry, I would take that as a good piece of advice and move on to the next career idea. The tattooing market is so over populated with shitty artist, do your self and others around you a favour and give up while your ahead.
There must be hundreds of 'tattoo artist's' working in the Orlando area and I can honestly say that I would only get tattoo by a dozen of them, the rest I wouldn't send my worst enemy to, and Im sure its the same in every other larger cities, all over the world.
Not everyone is dreaming of becoming the next best tattooer, but most of you like, have or want tattoos, hopefully you would never be stupid enough to get tattooed by an amateur in his kitchen, garage, or bath room (yes bathroom, I saw a photo on criagslist of someone getting tattooed in a bathroom and the "artist" was sitting on the toilet, the lid was down, but still REALLY!!!?)
Saving a couple of bucks on a tattoo is really not worth it, im not saying you should all come to me, far from it, but go to someone who is good, someone who's work has a good reputation, someone who works in a nice clean shop. Tattoos are for life and as you will be looking at it daily for ever and ever you might want to spend a litter thought before making a discussion. If you only had one chance to wallpaper your house, and that wallpaper had to stay up your whole life, it makes sense to shop around and find some wallpaper your not going to go off or get bored with and that wont look like terrible a year down the line.
Heres a few points to help you figure out if your chosen artist is up to the job, I imagine if you are not an artistic person and have no idea whats good or not it must be hard, hopefully this will help:
-Firstly look at their portfolio, weather it be online or in real life.
-Just because some dude at work said Big Bob's Tattz does gnarly awesome work, doesn't necessarily make it gospel. Everyone likes to think their tattooer is the best, chances are thats just not true.
-Is the line work clean, and crisp? Commonly crappy line work will be wobbly,thick then thin, and non constant line weigh, lines that don't meet up where they are supposed to, crossing over where the shouldn't, this all indicates lack of machine control and the last thing you want is some dude drilling you with no control over his weapon of choice.
-Is the colour nice and bright? Are the colours blended well together, for example a blue to white colour fade should be smooth and the colour transition should be darker to light i.e. dark blue/meduim blue/light blue/white, not blue/swollen/blood/white. Are solid colour areas solid, or patchy looking like a marble effect, are the colours faded or look old? any smart tattooer wont put crappy tattoos in their portfolio, so if theres a bunch of weird looking pieces, and one or two that look ok,my advice would be look else where otherwise you might be the victim of a weird looking tattoo.
-Sounds like a toddlers mistake but I see this all the time, have they coloured outside the lines, a simple mistake seen a lot in jackass tattooers, simply means they have no control over the machine or the concretion is that of a gold fish, so best avoided.
-Are the photos in the portfolio bloody, weeping and sore looking? If yes I'd give it a miss, chances are your tattoo will become bloody, weeping and sore looking too. Don't get me wrong blood and sorriness is pretty much guaranteed with any tattoo especially when working on a pieces for a few hours, but theres a difference between sore and butchered.
I hope this has been informative to people, and hasn't come across like an angry tattooer rant.
I will leave you all with this image, the creator will remain nameless, but this is the perfect example of what happens when you don't listen to any of the above.
Please feel free to comment, or email me if you have any questions or hate mail. firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for reading
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