Are you an apprentice?
Seven pointers for young tattooers to keep in mind.
KNOW YOUR WHY
Ask yourself honestly why you wanted to be a tattooer in the first place. Is it because of the lifestyle, the validation?
If that’s the case your WHY comes from a place of taking, rather than giving.
Shift the focus outward and ask yourself: “WHAT CAN I GIVE?”, rather than “What’s in it for me?”
CONTRIBUTION here is the key word.
I’m not talking about bruised egos here, by “respect” in this context I mean:
1: “When you carry your own water you learn the VALUE of every drop”.
Understand the hardships that experienced artists went through to gain a certain knowledge and don’t pretend to have it all laid on a silver plate just because.
That is arrogant and naive self entitlement.
Pay your share of sweat, tears and blood with QUIET DIGNITY and PATIENCE and earn a mentor’s trust by becoming the example of rightful behavior.
If you’re going to make a difference for the better, be prepared for the long journey.
Going through those challenges, obstacles and setbacks is necessary to build your IMMUNE SYSTEM.
By putting yourself through the worst scenarios possible you will gain not only the technical tools but most importantly the emotional ones to thrive under any circumstances.
This obstacle is what separates those who want it enough from those who don’t.
Growth lays OUTSIDE OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE. Those who never faced difficulties drown with the first drops of rain.
2: Value the FOUNDATIONS of this trade by paying tribute to its HISTORY.
By knowing where we come from, we know where we’re going.
People of the past worked hard to lay down the basis for the things we have today. Knowledge, techniques, designs, tools.
The least we can do is to spend some time learning about their contributions, beyond today’s IG hotshots.
This is not to keep old systems of power in place but, like art history, so that you know what you’re talking about.
GO TO THE ROOTS, NOT TO THE FRUITS.
3: INVEST back into tattooing.
You can support your favorite artists by getting tattooed;
invest in good books;
buy equipment from experienced tattooers and not those just exploiting the industry.
4: MINDFUL WORDS AND ACTIONS.
Think twice before speaking (or commenting) and focus on what that is gonna bring for everybody, not just you.
Too often we seem to forget that there is a real person on the other end of that screen, who will be affected by our words.
Andreas Coenen in his interview for Tattoo Tales makes wise remarks on the subject.
Sometimes egotistic behaviors may affect the collective for the worst (see pictures of Rolex and expensive lifestyles).
Give ALL YOU’VE GOT and then give a bit more.
All successful businesses are built upon the foundation of hard work.
That means work hard by day, draw/paint/study by night, weekends included. The will to go the extra mile is what separates who makes it from who doesn’t.
The difference? One just didn’t want it enough.
A true tattooer worthy of this name should be able to satisfy every request that comes through the door.
One trick ponies are just good for the internet.
First of all it’s about mastering (or aiming at that) the art of tattooing in its entirety, learning a set of skills which covers different styles.
Such skills are mutually complementary when incorporated in the style you specifically choose to pursue.
Then let’s remember that this is a service industry not a platform for individualism.
It’s all about the people, not the picture.
KNOW YOUR TOOLS
Quoting Charlie Wagner: “If you don’t know how to assemble a tattoo machine, you shouldn’t have one”.
These days you don’t have to solder your own needles anymore but nevertheless you need to know your tools.
Invest time to learn everything you can regarding machines, how to assemble them, how to change a spring, tune them etc.
INVEST IN YOURSELF
You are your n.1 asset so is your mental health.
Cultivate HEALTHY ROUTINES for body and mind, so that you can perform well for a long time.
Train MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL RESILIENCE (meditation, philosophy, Stoicism are a good place to start) to keep things in perspective and be grounded in stormy times.
Try to see the good in a situation and stir your perception of external events in a positive and constructive light.
You can’t control them but you can control your reaction to them.
As Abraham Lincoln said: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax”.
Never reach the point where you think you’re too good for that tattoo (or anything else for that matter).
I worked alongside people with 40 years of tattooing and those who stayed on top are those who never stopped asking questions, listening, learning.
“The fool talks, the smart stays quiet, the wise listens”.
And remember, true leaders LEAD BY EXAMPLE.
I hope these few pointers might help form a new generation of mindful, talented, hard working and contributive tattooers.