So your mom sticks all your drawings on the fridge and last week she even framed one for the living room. You are introduced to others as “that guy who can draw pretty good” and your homework book is filled with a stop frame of Spiderman jumping to his death, and now you want to tattoo. The how-to, to becoming the anxious apprentice...
Where do you go? What do you do? How do you become part of this closely guarded, taboo world of tattoo artists and what is expected of you?
At the realisation that the” would be” tattoo apprentices' expectations are severely warped, I thought it would be a good idea to put together a sort of, guide, if you will. Hopefully, this will help separate the willing and able from the die-hard and determined.
It is important to know that the tattoo artist has spent, dedicated and suffered for years, or even decades, for his or her craft. Chances are that they were trained by a badass, old-school tattoo artist that wanted the souls of ten virgins before a single shred of wisdom was to be imparted. In today’s busy day and age, it seems that instant gratification is the norm and nothing but, is expected. Consider the bubble popped. Here is what to expect as well as what is expected.
As the apprentice, you will be on cleaning duty for the first couple of months. When I say the first couple of months, I really mean, until your apprenticeship is completed and you are replaced by another bright-eyed youth. You are looking at about two years. Over and above all the absurd punishment you will receive for not cleaning well enough, there is a method and reason for this. Nothing can ever be clean enough in a tattoo studio. We deal with bloodborne pathogens which are infectious microorganisms in human blood and can cause disease in humans. These pathogens include but are not limited to, hepatitis B (HBV), hepatitis C (HCV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). This being said, a tattoo studio needs to take hygiene very seriously and treat it as a high priority. So if you do get shouted at for pulling up your gangster, beltless pants and then touching a clean surface, it’s for the client’s and your own good. Also, the effort, dedication and attention to detail of all these seemingly insignificant and mundane tasks required of you will reflect those same attributes you will need to be a great artist. Wax on, wax off people.
Just as you thought that after a hard day of cleaning, you will be able to go home, catch a Netflix and chill, wrong!! Just because you can draw, doesn’t mean you can draw tattoos. Drawing tattoos are pretty important in this industry you know. In our shop, the apprentice is expected to complete a drawing a day, based on style and placement. These drawings are discussed with artists at the end of each day and advice is given on how and where to improve.
As time goes on, the artists will become more friendly and inviting. The apprentice will, through hard work and dedication, start to learn the ins and outs of the tattoo industry and how to tattoo, in the best possible way, practically. For those out there who can manage to grow thick skin, buckle down and work harder than you ever have in life, the tattoo industry will treat you well. It can open up doors to the world for you as an artist.
But for now, clean…