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