I decided to write about this because I find it a huge problem, and simply put, the hypocrisy is absolutely absurd.
Now most of my family & friends know that I am a Professional Artist.
This means not only do I draw and create wonderful works of artwork & crafts, I’ve actually sold my work. I’ve received money for my services.
A lot of people don’t really know what professional means – When it comes to a job, it means:
2. (of a person) engaged in a specified activity as one’s main paid occupation rather than as a pastime.
So, technically anyone who does a service and gets paid for it – Is considered a Professional.
Now, where this is going is along the topic of Tattoo Artists. If we can really call a large majority of them artists that is. Trust me, I’m not hating on their abilities, but let’s be real for a moment here – For those who have never been in or to a Tattoo Shop and watched the process of a tattoo, I’ll break it down for you a little.
When you go to get a tattoo, obviously you’ve either made an appointment or they’ve accepted you as a ‘walk-in’. They’ll take whatever design you’ve chosen to have permanently etched onto your body to the back of the shop (or wherever they keep their drawing/copier stuff) and proceed to create a stencil.
Now, what a stencil is, is a copy of an image or a way to make a copy of an image. The way it works in the tattoo business is, they take as I call it tattoo transfer paper (for more information and a ‘How To‘, feel free to click here) and they take your desired image and place it on the top of the transfer paper, they then start to trace the image (sometimes they’ll edit the image on the computer, depending on how big/small you want it and which direction you want it facing).
Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you’ll find someone who does actually draw their work, but let’s face it, that’s not very common unless you want something personal from that artist. They do simplify most designs, so they are more easy to tattoo.
Now, I’m not going to go through the whole process of what goes on after, as the point I’m currently driving at stops at that – The stencil.
I just have a hard time wrapping my head around how, someone who traces mostly other peoples’ artwork is known as an Artist?
I refer to those who apply tattoos as Tattooists. Because that’s what they are. Just like those who draw cartoons, are known as Cartoonists. I don’t expect a whole lot of people to start doing this, but I feel it’s the more appropriate job title for them. Now, I know this isn’t going to gain me any popularity with a lot of Tattooists, but let’s face it, if you can’t draw something on a piece of paper, out of your own imagination, you are not an Artist.
An Artist is defined as:
An artist is a person engaged in one or more of any of a broad spectrum of activities related to creating art, practicing the arts, and/or demonstrating an art. The common usage in both everyday speech and academic discourse is a practitioner in the visual arts only.
If you were to Wikipedia the word, you’ll find this little list:
Wiktionary defines the noun ‘artist’ (Singular: artist; Plural: artists) as follows:
- A person who creates art.
- A person who makes and creates art as an occupation.
- A person who is skilled at some activity.
- A person whose trade or profession requires a knowledge of design, drawing, painting, etc.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines the older broad meanings of the term “artist”:
- A learned person or Master of Arts
- One who pursues a practical science, traditionally medicine, astrology, alchemy, chemistry
- A follower of a pursuit in which skill comes by study or practice
- A follower of a manual art, such as a mechanic
- One who makes their craft a fine art
- One who cultivates one of the fine arts – traditionally the arts presided over by the muses.
So … Where in this list does it say “A person who copies art“? It doesn’t.
Throughout history, those that would trace or copy another’s work, was known simply as a copycat or better yet, plagiarizer. However today, in the world of tattooists, it seems copying or plagiarizing is an acceptable thing – the only time this illegal act is ignored is when it comes to putting tattoos on people.
It’s sorta taboo how tattoos work.
Most Tattooists might argue with me on this, which fine – Knock yourselves out! However, here’s a bit of food for thought …
Client comes in for a tattoo of someone else’s art work. Tattooist applies this other persons work of art on the client. Tattooist gets paid for applying other persons art work on client. Client now goes off into the world … Client gets asked by friends, family & strangers “Who did that wonderful tattoo?” and Client gives name of Tattooist.
Most of the time the Tattooist will get the credit, a lot of the time, the person with the tattoo won’t mention that the piece of art that’s now on their body, is actually some other artists work – Not to mention, it’s the design itself that people are intrigued about.
So the original artist gets zero, nada, nil credit for their work. More importantly, they are not asked permission for use of their work for a tattoo – Reason being … Artists would like to be PAID for their work, even if it’s simply going to be a tattoo. People don’t want to pay for an image, to them it’s like paying twice for something. Granted, they don’t take into account that once they do pay the artist for their art work, they now own that image – It’s theirs, forever, legitimately.
There are actual Tattoo Artists out there … Just very hard to find, probably 1 out of 10 are actual artists. But the majority simply take a picture and make a stencil copy and ta-da! Slap it on you and start inking that bad ass bitch right on ya!
So, enough about that, as I can spend all day arguing Tattooist vs. Tattoo Artist.
Lets talk about “Scratchers” vs. Tattooists.
I’ve recently become very interested in wanting to become a Tattoo Artist. Wanting to become this didn’t happen over night, I’ve been told for many, many years that I should look into becoming one. I’ve contemplated it for a majority of my life (I’m 31 years old).
I never really got into it because I didn’t know how. I mean, I did, but yet, I didn’t.
For my 20th Birthday I decided to get my first tattoo, giant faerie wings on my upper back. Since then, I’ve been 100% addicted to getting ink done. I love getting and having tattoos!
Now I know most aren’t reading this because they want a history of my tattoos and I promise this isn’t about that. It’s about the fact that when I decided to get into tattooing, I’ve experienced nothing but grief.
I do have friends that tattoo – I even grew up with one of them. My father was a Tattoo Artist – A very talented one in fact. Problem with this is, you will run into some people with that ‘
Holier than thou‘ mentality.
Today you need to have a Tattoo License in order to legally tattoo a person. Now, I live in the frigid state of Minnesota – In Minnesota in order to obtain a Tattoo License you must:
- be 18 years of age or older;
- complete the required amount of supervised experience as a temporary technician;
- supply a complete log of supervised hours;
- supply a signed letter of affirmation from supervisor stating they supervised you during your temporary license period;
- supply a copy of a current, legal ID showing proof of age;
- supply a copy of a current course certification (taken in the last year) in bloodborne pathogens, prevention of disease transmission, infection control, and aseptic technique;
- if you have ever had a license, certification, or registration in another jurisdiction, have that jurisdiction mail directly to the Minnesota Department of Health a completed Body Art Licensing Verification of Credential Form;
- complete the Body Art Technician License Application; and
- pay the fee of $100 payable to “Treasurer, State of Minnesota.”
So that 3rd line “supply a complete log of supervised hours” is where I am having the biggest issue.
These supervised hours they mention are 200 hours!!!
So, you might be saying to yourself “That’s not that bad, 200 hours would be quick!” … And it would be if I had someone to supervise me.
It’s practically impossible to find a Tattooist or even a Tattoo Artist in Minnesota willing to take on an Apprentice and if I do find one, most of the time, they want a lot of money – We’re talking thousands of dollars.
As an Apprentice, at least in the world of tattooing – It’s a shit job! You are basically their slave, which mind you, you don’t get paid! Your “pay” is knowledge.
They’ll have you clean the shop up, clean literally
everything, you’ll play ‘receptionist’ for them aka answer phone calls, book appointments, etc. You will also more than likely run errands for them as well – All the while, probably treat you like utter shit while you’re doing all this.
I should mention also, that all of that above mentioned stuff, does NOT count towards your 200 hours of supervised time.
The only thing that counts is: 150 of the 200 hours supervised, must be skin time.
This means, actual tattooing on a real human. (As opposed to a fake human lol)
Sure, 50 hours of it can be learning how to set up, keep a sterile environment, tattoo on rubber skin, etc.
Talking with my friend who used to tattoo that I grew up with, his Apprenticeship took 2 years! Two fucking YEARS!!!
I only need 200 hours … Not TWO YEARS!!! This gives me the impression that instead of the Tattooist Trainer sitting down and actually doing a lot of one on one time with me, they’ll drag this shit on and on and on … Get free work for 2 years.
How is this even legal?!?! It shouldn’t be! Somewhere, I am sure, under some Department of Labor Laws there is a law, that makes this illegal. Of course, screaming this at a Tattooist is a surefire way of
not getting an Apprenticeship.
Not to mention, I work.
I work a full-time job and have a family, a big family.
My current job is not an easy one by no means, I am a Polish Operator at Cambria. Not only am I a Polish Operator, but I also do a lot of other side jobs that’s not listed under what a Polish Operator does. Due to confidentiality reasons, I can’t disclose much of my job or the details, but simply put, I do a lot of manual labor.
My schedule is most people’s nightmare! I work a 2-2-3 schedule and each shift is 12 hours long, which means:
So as you can clearly see, my work schedule doesn’t leave much room to run off to a Tattoo Shop all day.
I also have family, who need to spend time with me as well, I’m married and my husband David and I have a wonderful, beautiful little girl together named Rogue, who we’ve nicknamed “Bibbles“. Also, a year ago my 2 older teen daughters Laura & Sage came to live with me due to it not working out at their fathers (I do have a son, but he remained with his father). So it’s pretty much a full house here and everyone is constantly fighting for my time.
I’ve already made up my mind to try and dedicate at least 1 day off out of the bits of days off I get, to being able to go into a Tattoo Shop to learn. So basically 2 times a week I’d be able to learn tattooing.
This doesn’t leave much room for messing around – I don’t want to waste my days off cleaning up some assholes shop because they’re lazy fucks. I know how to clean, I know how to maintain cleanliness – So I’d much rather spend the time at the shop learning sterilization process, setting up/prep, tuning my machine, inks & tricks, and of course how to tattoo properly!
However it’d most likely not work out that simple.
Which is unfortunate as I know I’d most likely have to pay for my Apprenticeship – Which I’m totally prepared to do, however I will not pay them so I can clean their bullshit.
They can do that crap on their own and on their own time.
This might make me sound uptight or whatever, but that’s just how it is. I’m sure there are some Tattooists reading this some where out there laughing their ass’s off – Laugh, knock yourself out with it – I don’t give a fuck.
You want my money, I want to learn – I will not be your Shop Bitch in the meantime.
So, now that we got the gritty details of how to slowly not get an Apprenticeship (lol) … Let’s talk about Learning on your own!
Which is what I am currently doing.
First off, I don’t care how wrong it is – So don’t message me or try and contact me to bitch, it’ll fall on deaf ears. Unless YOU are offering me an Apprenticeship, shut the fuck up.
Now you have two sorta Tattooists, at least that’s how I’ve grouped them (there are others, but not important). You have the Tattooists who really don’t care what other people are doing, as long as it’s not hurting anyone or putting anyone at risk.
Then you have the other group …
This group is the type of Tattooists that are quick to scream “SCRATCHER!!!“, a scratcher is someone who does at-home tattoos with either a self-made tattoo machine, a kit or even ‘professional’ grade machine – The point is, if you aren’t tattooing in a shop, you are known as a Scratcher.
It’s a shitty title for someone and I think it needs to go the fuck away, along with most Tattooists attitudes.
First off, a Tattoo license does not make you better than for instance me. It just means, you got really fucking lucky and found yourself someone to supervise your dumbass for 200 hours. Congratu-fucking-lations!
I think it’s horrible that Tattooists will stand there and criticize someone eager to learn the trade, but in the same breath, deny offering them an apprenticeship!
You can’t do both! But they always do!
They don’t even so much as offer a way in, no guidance, nothing. Just criticism – They don’t offer to drop your name with other Tattooists, in case someone else might be interested in picking up an Apprentice. They don’t even point you in the right direction.
I’ve been practicing on myself, reason being is the fake skin you can order is a bloody joke! It’s rubber … and it does alright if you’re just immediately starting up, but after you start to get the hang of it, they lose what little they offer.
For starters, they don’t compare at all to
real skin, when you go to wipe away any extra ink on them, it stains the living hell out of the rubber! Very, very annoying!
Trying to learn shading or color fill on these rubber mats (because that’s what they really are) is impossible, not just hard … It’s really impossible.
I’m not going to go buy a ton of fruit to practice on, because I am on a budget, not about to waste food by contaminating my food with ink so that it’s uneatable.
So in the grand scheme of things, I resorted to tattooing myself.
I have no problems sporting shit tattoo’s I did to myself. Eventually I’ll get better – and when I do, I can fix my own fucking work.
Recently I was told to stop tattooing myself – Because I am learning bad habits that’ll later be a pain for a mentor to have me stop doing.
This is just silly. I actually started laughing at this.
Think about it … I’m ‘learning’ bad habits … I’m not learning anything! I’m still with the same knowledge that I had going into it.
How it’ll more than likely play out is, each Tattooists do things a bit differently than one another – What one Tattooist finds wrong, another swears by it!
Honestly, I do a lot of reading and research. I’m not a fucking idiot. I will do what works best for me, I believe in at least giving things a shot, if it don’t work – Then on to what will.
always require a Tattoo License to tattoo. This has only been a recent thing. I honestly think what happened is a bunch of tattooists got together and wanted to eliminate the competition so bitched to the right people.
I know that’s not how it really went down – Maybe close though lol.
My guess is, health was a major factor, possibly even mortality.
Tattooing is a dying art – Congratulations Tattooists and Tattoo Artists, you’re to blame!
You’re successfully killing your own profession.
Too worried about competition and others stealing trade secrets – When you should be embracing those who want to learn, instead of pushing them away.
You aren’t special because you tattoo, you are not certainly ‘famous‘ because you do it – Sure, there are people who get the “wow” factor when they mention what they do for a living, but in all truth, when I talk about my full-time job, people are fucking amazed!
People have to start somewhere – and I’d like to go into this knowing some stuff rather than nothing. If I’m learning the wrong stuff, that’s on me. I’m not trying to integrate everything I do into my brain, only try to understand it. If you set something up enough times, it becomes 2nd nature to them – I practice each chance I can taking apart my machine and reassembling it.
I actually thought about becoming a grade school Art Teacher for a bit – The idea of teaching tiny humans art really appealed to me, I still love the idea of it. I however, would never think to tell a child to stop reaching for the stars, stop drawing, stop doing anything art related, because they might be learning it the wrong way.
Even then, I am the type of person who would show them how and/or point them in the direction they need to go to aspire to be more.
That does not happen in the world of tattooing.
There are many, many, many self-taught Tattooist and Tattoo Artists.
It’s not something a lot of Tattooists want known … Holy shit! Most if not all of your idols taught themselves!
When you get into tattooing, you need to understand that you are making a commitment, not just to yourself, but to those eager to want to learn as well. Always turning them away, or ripping them off through money is not the way. I know this much, if I ever end up doing tattoos professionally (as I don’t plan on making this a career) I will be more than willing to teach – Fuck, I’ll look into trying to open a damn school for tattooing!
I only want to learn it, so that I can say “I know how to do that!” and maybe, just maybe have it as a backup career choice in case something happens with my current.
For now, I have one of the two friends who tattoo to rely on, thankfully they are more than willing to show me some stuff – He’s even a full time student right now, has a lot on his plate and is willing to meet with me.
The other … well I’ll probably not know them shortly.
Which is rather sad, because I do have a tattoo by him – It’s actually one of my favorite tattoos, but I want to pursue this, and I will not stop tattooing myself in pursuit of learning. It’s my body, my skin, my choice.
If I was offering to do it to others, then by all means – Yell, scream, report me all you want – However this just simply is not the case. I am only doing it to myself, ah yes, and my wonderful husband who hates pain! I recently did a small little cross on his ankle/leg, he doesn’t have any other tattoos and although he says he wants more, I don’t think it’s in his stars.
Maybe someday they will start schools for Tattooing – So it isn’t that hard to learn – I think that’s an amazing idea. It’d eliminate most of the Scratchers out there. It’d boost the job prospects for tattooing, as so many want to tattoo, but simply can’t find a single mentor.
Just wish that day was now instead of the far distant future.
In the meantime, I still have lots of room on my legs and more importantly, my entire body! I will continue to use it as my canvas for learning. My daughter Sage is highly talented in art too – It’ll be nice to maybe some day teach her how to tattoo, or maybe that day isn’t too far off.