Becoming a Tattooist: The Hidden Journey
Posted: Nov 07 2017
We talk all the time about what makes a good tattoo, or where to go for a good tattoo, and no doubt you are probably hiding a couple of tattoos from your boss. That’s the best thing about buying a sick tattoo hoodie, it covers your tattoos and you can take it off whenever you like. It’s also a bit easier to get alternative clothing ordered online and much less painful.
This week we thought we would investigate what it takes to become a tattoo artist. Note; it’s tattoo artist, not tattooist. Sure, it can be both, but tattoos are art, so if you are creating tattoos that makes you an artist. It sounds pretentious, but when you see some of the amazing art that is created by these talented people, they deserve the accolades.
So where do you start? Having a passion for art is a good start, having a passion for tattoos would be better. Using skin as a canvas is somewhat different to using, well, canvas. If you have a talent for art and the interest in tattoos then you have two choices – find a training school or find an apprenticeship.
Tattoo schools do exist, but there are only a few here in New Zealand and because of that there are limited places. If you have a bit of ink on your own body, you will probably be aware of some studios you might be able to approach for an apprenticeship.
To be a successful tattoo artist you need to know how to draw, and draw everything. Roses, animals, skulls, tribal stuff, barbed wire, people will ask for all kinds of things so being able to draw a cool skull is not enough reason to be a tattoo artist.
In order to show your commitment to a tattoo studio it is expected that you will be able to show a large portfolio of your own designs. Anything from 50 to 200 sketches to showcase your talent is going to be sufficient for a studio to see your value.
Speaking of value – don’t expect to get paid. Your payment will be the experience you will gain from being on site and assisting fully qualified and experienced artists. Don’t expect to get behind the needle on your first day. There’s no way anyone is going to want to sit for someone who has never touched a needle before. Well, there’s always someone, but it definitely would not be in a professional studio.
During an apprenticeship learn the tools of the trade and eventually you will get to use a needle on a real person, but it will probably just be filling in some simple areas at first. The apprenticeship will expose you to how varied different peoples bodies can be and how to work around that. You will be shown how stencils work, but also how they don’t work too, hence the need to be able to draw.
Understanding the health precautions of a tattoo studio is important and knowing how all of the above fits together is another key element to absorb, which is why studios will also teach you the way a tattoo business works. Beyond just drawing cool tattoos, the place has to run efficiently too. This can be super helpful if you have a career goal of running your own studio someday.
If you have a passion for tattoo art and you consider yourself a handy artist, perhaps this is a role for you. Don’t expect to make a million bucks in your first year, it’s not an entirely lucrative role initially. But if you stick at it and you have the skills, then what you can achieve is up to you.