Then let’s talk about it!
Firstly, I left it out of my introduction post, but I’m in my 5th year of professional tattooing, and I completed 2.5 years of apprenticeship before that.
I’ve been asked quite a few times throughout my career so far, what it takes to become a tattooer, or what college courses I had to do to get here. Let me interject for a minute… I’m gonna give insight from MY perspective and MY experience… This is not the ONLY way or the RIGHT way to achieve being a tattooer, but it’s one right way, it’s how I did it, and how I recommend going about it if you’re interested in becoming a tattoo artist.
It all begins with finding a tattoo apprenticeship!
I’m gonna cover the basics here of what to consider and expect when seeking an apprenticeship. I may unintentionally leave things out, but if I do, I’ll add it to another post or you can always feel free to ask questions.
Let me start by saying, I had no clue tattooing was in my future. I always had an interest in art, and I would sketch in notebooks growing up, but I was terrible at it. I had no understanding of art, or technical ability. If this sounds like you, or if you’ve said “I can’t even draw a stick figure!”… It’s STILL possible.
My path to tattooing began when I found an artist with a portfolio I liked and started getting some larger scale work done on me. I was spending a lot of time in a tattoo studio. This brings me to my first point…
First point. By starting out as a client, you have the opportunity to accomplish the following: (Here come my bullet points again)
- You can learn if you like being in the tattoo environment, or watching the tattoo process. If you have no interest at all, then it might not be the right choice.
- Support and build some respect with the artist(s) who, like in my case, may be the one(s) to teach you how to tattoo.
- You can form/ask questions when you’re there.
At the time, I was in the Navy looking to start school and use my GI Bill… I asked the artist what college classes/degree he got to be a tattooer. He told me I needed NO COLLEGE to do it. I hate school more than I can explain so this was an even bigger selling point to me. After months of getting work done, I asked the artist (shoutout to Big Jon) if he would take me on as an apprentice, and he said yes!
If you don’t want to start out as a client, then here’s a few things to think about. Let’s start with the DO NOT‘s:
- DO NOT just call shops and ask for an apprenticeship. The odds of you being taken seriously are very slim.
- DO NOT go to a shop unprepared/without an example of your current artistic abilities.
- DO NOT buy a tattoo machine kit online and then tattoo without a license/at home. Additionally, DO NOT then go to a shop and say you’ve already been tattooing with a kit you bought online without a license/at home (this is one of the worst things).
- DO NOT go to a shop and be disrespectful, cocky, close-minded, dishonest, etc…
- DO NOT go to a shop and ask for an apprenticeship while drunk or high.
- DO NOT show up dirty.
- DO NOT expect to get the apprenticeship right away.
That’s a good coverage of the basics. Now for the DO‘s.
- Go in person and have a portfolio of drawings with you. (no matter the level of ability) Make the portfolio organized and easy to look through. This demonstrates interest/initiative and gives the first impression of potential.
- Be respectful and open-minded, no matter what the artist tells you. If they see promise and you’re given an opportunity, that’s awesome. If they turn you away or tell you not right now, then you could…
- Ask questions. ie. “How could I improve on my current ability?”, “What steps could I take to help me get there?” “What do you look for in an apprentice?”
- Be yourself. Show the artist your true personality, and answer any questions they may have for you honestly.
- Be clean.
- Be prepared to continue working to improve/expand your drawing portfolio to come back at a later time.
- Be prepared to face rejection; but also… Be prepared to face acceptance too!!
This is where a second point should go, but aren’t you tired of reading this yet? Well… I just talked about being honest and to be honest I’m tired of typing this out and also I realized that I covered all the basics I could think of right now for seeking the apprenticeship. Next, I’ll talk about things to consider/expect when you GET the apprenticeship! Follow my blog to get a notification when I make that post! (It should notify you but I’m actually not sure of that…) If you know anyone who might be interested in this, thanks for sharing too!
Next post coming soon…