Are You Forreal?

It is with great sadness that I regale you with the depressing story of – yesterday.

I was having a fantastic time reading some darn quality tattoo magazines, feeling that familiar warm fuzzy feeeling and getting inspired to put watercolour pencil to (bloody expensive) watercolour paper, when …BAM (but the dirt wasn’t gone?)  The happiness was rapidly drained out of me (much like my respect for Axl Rose when he pulled that Chinese Democracy stunt) as I read an article from one of my favourite Inked Australia contributors, Kian Forreal. So just to be clear, this is NOT an attack on Kian, as he is a solid columnist. Its more of a diatribe on some of current vibes of the industry…. and Ill probably go off topic a bit, too.

Nice cornrows, bro.


The article felt like a huge FUCK YOU to those with dreams of becoming a tattoo artist. Let me tell you firstly where I stand on this.

I want nothing more than to be a tattoo artist. I will NOT “buy my own gear” and just start tattooing, as many a helpful friend has suggested (probably to shut me up from whining about how hard it is to get an apprenticeship). I will hold out forever, or until Raptor Jesus saves me, to get an apprenticeship in a good tattoo studio, learning from somebody who knows their shit. I am aware of, and prepared for, the apprenticeship itself involving a lot of hard work in the tattoo shop (but not for too many years because that is “free labour” and there are tattoo studios out there that will use and abuse), basically being the “shop bitch”, doing whatever is asked of you, and damn well doing it happily – because I care about the industry enough to read about it, speak to people in it, and embrace every part of it. I didnt just see Miami Ink and think it would “be cool to tattoo” and expect people to just give me a job in their shop.  I hate that backyard scratchers give the tattoo industry a bad name, they take away from genuine artists work, and most importantly for me, they make established tattoo artists really intolerable of anyone wanting to tattoo. I hate that people who are hardworking, excellent artists who want nothing more than to tattoo are unable to even get their foot in the door. Now that you know my thoughts on the apprenticeship issue, I can progress with my gloomy tale.

Phrases in Forreal’s article such as “tattooing itself needs to be protected from outsiders” and “who has time to teach?” ? make me scared that I will never get an apprenticeship, no matter how good my portfolio may be. Many studios will not even look at someones portfolio (and that’s okay, for they are not obliged to, by any means) but it certainly makes it hard for the hopefuls who are honest enough not to delve into the purgatory of scratching. Back in the day it was a lot easier to show your work to a master, and receive feedback or a begrudging compliment.

I put 15 hours a week into art classes to improve my technique and get tips and feedback on my portfolio, and I have a class with a girl who was coming to class because she was doing a tattoo apprenticeship and was told she would need to draw.

"The PTAA gave me this trophy for my linework"

As it happened, she was under the apprenticeship from her boyfriend – who is from the US…..
She told me that back home, he’d had to pay for his apprenticeship, and I got to thinking.
I would actually like to see that practice over here. The idea that you would pay for your apprenticeship in dollars and sense (geddit?) could really benefit the industry as a whole. Paying for your apprenticeship would help separate the idiots from the serious contenders. If people are going to scratch from home, they will do it anyway. At least money for tuition will help the masters feel a bit more comfortable about giving up their time to pass on their skills, to someone that really respects and appreciates it. Of course traditional apprenticeships would still happen, but it leaves a little bit of room for someone like me to get there. Standards would still apply, you would still have to show that you have what it takes artistically and attitude-wise, it would just mean that established artists could see a bit of somethin’somethin’ for their risk. After all, if nobody takes apprentices, nobody learns properly, backyard tattooers win and the industry fails. And somewhere, the government will probably win too (boooo).
On the plus side of yesterday, the issue #75 of Tattoos Down Under was a solid read – featuring many WA goodies including our colourful Lucky Diamond Rich (whom I heard saying he was in the works of a biography whilst being tattooed at Primitive – definitely keeping an eye out for that) and a most excellent write up on Holdfast Tattoos.
“When the student is ready, the master appears.”  ~Buddhist Proverb

I sure hope it's not Mr. Belding....

My next post will be a bit more lighthearted, I promise.

Love Chelle

4 thoughts on “Are You Forreal?

  1. Very well written hun…
    hang in there… being passionate and believing in something will always lead to the pot of gold… 🙂

  2. If you read my writing you’ll also find that I say the best way to get your foot in the door is to find a tattoo artists work that you like and ACTUALLY get heavily tattooed by him/her… build a rapport, keeping drawing, and commit. why should someone commit to teaching you unless you are commit to wearing their work and paying for it. This is the best way to get in… and the most honourable.

    good luck

    • Thanks very much for the feedback Kian,
      I do regularly read your column and thoroughly enjoy it – I think on that day I was feeling particularly disheartened and it definitely came out in my wiriting.
      Your advice is gold and I definitely do follow it, I now have a lot of work from 2 artists that I greatly look up to.
      Looking forward to reading your next column,

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