(877) 879-5350 Continuing Education for The Professional Tattoo Artist

Ask Guy Aitchison

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Q) I would like to talk to someone about becoming a tattoo artist. How would I go about doing it? How did you get started?

A) That's a big question. Where to begin? First, what is your artistic experience? and I mean real experience, spending long hours making your art. Without some kind of artistic experience, there's not much you can do. The next suggestion I'd have is to gather together your best art examples into a portfolio, then spend a few days or weeks drawing sheets of tattoo designs. The purpose of this exercise is to show yourself and any potential employers how you would handle the kind of basic tattoo requests that come in a shop on a day-to-day-basis (hearts, birds, crosses, flowers...) but in your own artistic style. This is also a demonstration to any potential employers about your willingness to do the homework. Next, you need to shop around. Try local shops first, since relocation is a big deal. It's a competitive market, so be prepared for resistance. This step can be frustrating and takes some persistence. What you really want is a shop owner that recognizes your potential and teaches you for the purpose of having you as an employee. An employment situation like this is the most likely to get you taught the quickest, since they would have nothing to gain by holding anything back. Many apprenticeships are frauds, where you are charged $5000+ for the honor of scrubbing toilets for six months, and your signature on a contract promising that you won't tattoo in a 500 mile radius for the next 20 years or some crap like that. Avoid these situations like the plague. If you have trouble finding any good prospects, try attending a few tattoo conventions, go to some seminars, watch artists work, and introduce yourself to as many people as possible. Join some tattoo forums online, make an attractive web portfolio for yourself and network in any way you can. Show your portfolio relentlessly, ask for feedback and express a willingness to relocate. In the meantime, continue drawing on a daily basis any subjects that you find interesting and tattooable. Let your style evolve; get feedback whenever you can. This gives you a big head start when you finally do get the chance to sit down with an actual client and work on their skin. Last but not least, don't get discouraged and avoid trying to start out with a beginner's tattoo kit and no guidance. You will learn more in a long search for the right teachers than you will hacking away at people in your kitchen. It is easy to learn the wrong things early on and to carry these bits of misinformation as burdens for your entire career. If you have any real potential and you are sincere, you will find an opportunity to learn the right way.