Hot! For People Seeking to Become a Tattoo Artist

by Madame Lazonga

Tattoo BAckpieceRecently, I have been deluged with people seeking work or apprenticeships. It seems it is even more prevalent now than it was at the height of tattooing’s resurgence in the early ’90s. Tattooing is a bona fide profession, but many people don’t treat it as such.

Here is a recent letter that was sent to me:

“How’s it going? I’m sending you some of my work in the hopes of getting hired. I live in Montana, right now, and am planning on moving to Seattle in a month or two. I’m from Seattle, originally. I’ve owned a shop out here for four years and tattooed for about five years total. I lost most of my portfolio when our old computer finally died, do I don’t have that many pictures—a couple hundred I think. Here’s a backup disk I keep of my tats and some other shop shit. If you want give me a call on my cell phone, my number is xxx-xxx-xxxx or the shop xxx-xxx-xxxx. Thanx for your time.”

This is very typical of what I see almost every day and I hope I don’t have to mention all the things that are wrong with this letter as an introduction into a professional business. I also recently came across a couple of tattoo schools via the Internet. The sad thing about this is that, even though the schools might offer a lot of useful information, they do not prepare a person to become a professional tattoo artist. I don’t think spending a weekend or a couple of weeks at a tattoo school is the answer. It might help as far as information goes, but a school can’t give the person any real hands-on experience. The only way to really learn tattooing is to find a shop that will take an apprentice. That can be a difficult undertaking. I know, I went through my own apprenticeship and appreciate how hard it was. But it was well worth the effort and a necessary part of becoming a quality artist.

As you know, all shops are not the same and I’ve heard horror stories of owners taking advantage of their apprentices and not really showing them anything. That’s where research comes into play. How much time and energy are you willing to put in to researching tattoo shops and tattoo artists? Then, when you think you have found the right place, how are you going to approach them? They have something you want, so how are you going to prove to them that you have something that they should want from you? That’s the BIG question!

I see tattooing, nowadays, in the same way it once was in the music industry. In the 1960s and early ’70s, everyone was a “wanna be” rock star. I think any creative field is the same, in that you have to have some talent and work very hard and be very dedicated for a long time before there are any rewards. These fledgling young ones sometimes don’t really see the behind-the-scenes work that goes into being successful. I guess that’s a universal truth about anything successful. I know one very successful tattooist that hardly sleeps because he is so dedicated to his art and his business.

With tattooing, it doesn’t matter in the end how well you can paint or do other art media. Those disciplines can help you learn and are necessary as you develop as an artist, but putting on a good, clean tattoo is a whole different thing. Picking up a tattoo machine without proper instruction and going at it does not serve anyone well except maybe the person’s ego. In fact, you can physically damage people if you go about it that way. It’s only after years of tattooing that a person gets to see how many nuances go into creating a really good piece. I know a lot of really great tattooers that are extremely critical of their own work, seeing how they can always make it better. That is something that never goes away and, thank God, they don’t settle for mediocrity.

A young woman came into my shop and was applying for a full-time tattoo position. I looked at her application and saw that she had just been to tattoo school. I felt sorry for her because she just spent all this money and it is very unlikely that she will ever get a job tattooing, at least in the Seattle area. Two weeks of school does not measure up to an apprenticeship and good old hard work. This is also a good reason that most places of employment ask people to fill out a job application and hand in a copy of their resume. It’s a prospective employee’s first opportunity to make an impression on the owner of an establishment and an opportunity for the owner to look at their education, their experience and even their writing and personal presentation before spending valuable time on an interview. It gives prospective employees the opportunity to set themselves apart from the other hundred people who have applied for the same position. I can’t tell you how many people come into my shop thinking they are above doing any of that. So, I just politely shine them on and, unfortunately, begin thinking that we’re on a downhill path of de-evolution. In this column, I hope I can provide a little common sense and structure to those that want to pursue tattooing, no matter what.

These are a few of the ingredients that go into being a tattooist: dedication, humility, actual talent, being a self starter, doing artwork constantly, keeping the lines of communication open, networking, being able to market your work, having good people skills and having a good work ethic.

Here’s a list of dos and don’ts for those interested in an apprenticeship:

1. Get tattooed before you approach anyone. There is something to be said about having ink on your own skin and living it as a heartfelt lifestyle.

2. Draw all the time! Take life drawing classes and other art classes as much as you can. You really need strong art skills to excel in this business. This is your foundation.

3. Don’t ask for an apprenticeship. Everybody wants an apprenticeship, but not everyone is willing to go out there and work his or her butt off for it. Make yourself useful to the artist: run errands, hang out, learn, ask questions, sweep the floors, offer to answer the phone and don’t expect any wages. This is a very inexpensive price to pay, considering that most universities charge anywhere from $25,000 to $60,000 for a college education. If you are really helpful, this can develop enough trust and you may be offered an apprenticeship, or the artists you work for may introduce you to the right person. You will find that this is a profession where one has to prove his or her character over the test of time.

4. Expect to work hard for zero wages. In other words, find another job to pay the bills for a while. You will eventually need to work off all the time your teacher puts into your education. And there should be a written and signed contract between the teacher and the student, so there aren’t a lot of misunderstandings about the mechanisms of how things work.

5. Have a humble attitude. You are essentially asking a professional person to spend their valuable time teaching you a very detailed and challenging skill. Believe in yourself and your art. Keep at it and get opinions from people whose opinions you respect. Take their criticism in stride and incorporate it into your daily practice.

6. Don’t walk into a shop and not know anything about the shop you are walking into. Take some time researching who they are, what they stand for, their history, their art and their style. In the world of professional business, the prospective employee is expected to know something about the industry and the company they are asking to give them a job.

7. Don’t think that you can just buy your equipment from a magazine, scratch a few friends and then get a job in a shop saying that you have been tattooing for several years. We turn people like that away every week. Bad habits and no real training spell danger to clients and the shop’s reputation.

8. Have respect for yourself and the craft you want to learn, and take on the challenge of a real apprenticeship. Expect to spend several years learning before you lose the title “apprentice.” The word apprentice for some reason in this country has a negative connotation. Why? Well, I don’t know why, but what I do know is that an aspiring tattooist should feel proud to be someone’s apprentice.

9. Finally, here are some things not to say when trying to get a job or apprenticeship(And before I get too many letters, yes, I’ve had or heard all of these conversations in my own shop!):

Owner: Can I see your portfolio?
Prospective Artist: My girlfriend burned it and I don’t have copies.

Owner: What are your goals in tattooing?
Prospective Artist: I just want to tattoo; it seems like a fun job. Do I need goals?

Owner: Can you fill out this application for me?
Porspective Artist: Ummmm, let me take it home and I’ll get back to you later.

Owner: Why do you want to be a tattooist?
Porspective Artist: I hear you can make a lot of money in tattooing.

Owner: How long have you been tattooing?
Prospective Artist: I apprenticed for six months and have been tattooing for a year now.

Owner Artist: I see you like Jack Rudy? Your work seems inspired by him.
Prospective Artist: Who’s Jack Rudy?

Owner (on the phone): Madame Lazonga’s Tattoo.
Prospective Artist: Hi, honey. Can I speak to the guy in charge about the job opening?

Maybe if enough of us keep saying the same things in our own words then, finally, we will begin to make a dent in educating the public. Good luck to all of you who are on this quest to a life of permanent embellishment.

—Your sister in tattooing,
Vyvyn (Madame Lazonga)


  1. Madame Lazonga, I love this column. You put everything into perceptive. I get asked almost everyday, & just about everyone that sits in my chair wants to become a tattoo artist. They all have this idea in their head that our world is just like what they see on TV. They have no clue what goes on in the entire business aspect of things. Its very hard in this industry, & if someone opens a shop (were this is happening all over the bay area here) they think all they have to do is tattoo??!! I stopped doing my apprenticeship about 5 yrs ago, due to people not being able to put the time in, or they begin to develop that big ego after doing half a dozen tattoos. I have been tattooing since 1985, & when I 1st began my apprenticeship with Bert Rodriquez, you were actually tattooing at that shop in San Francisco on Mission St. I worked very hard for many years to get were I am at now, & I am still learning new techniques every day. This is a business, and needs to be treated as such. Yours very respectfully, Tattoo Tim-Skin Sin

  2. Hi Tim, I am suprised we have never met. I also apprenticed under Bert Rodriguez from 91 to 93. Small world.

    I will be starting my first shop so I am kind of nervous about people seeking apprenticeships, as I used to just be able to pass the buck to the shop owner. Seems my requirements which are really pretty simple will weed out a good majority. Never been keen to the idea of having to do a lot of gopher type work only in the beginning as I would like to just have the person jump right in and learn what is neccesary in the trade. My only requirements are…have a strong dedication and work ethic to creating art…and listen to what I say! Most will not even follow these simple protocals.

    A friend of mine who is always asking me to teach was lamenting that everyone wants to charge 5 grand and he was broke. So I offered him what I thought was a golden opportunity…create 10 solid sheets of flash and I would do it. I thought wrong…he actually told me and I quote “But thats not how tattoo shops go…If I could make ten sheets of flash I could just open my own shop”. Every thing I have tried to tell him is followed with “but so and so does it this way, not like that”. Another person had some drawing talent and I mentioned that I would like to re-draw one of her designs…she promptly threatened to sue. Needless to say I won’t be offering assistance to these people in the future.

    I really, really would like to teach at least one person the proper way…but seems so many just ruin it with their own know it all attitude. Its just as well. This business is pretty saturated already.

    • Where are you located at. I’ve been tattooing for 11 years, did an apprentiship for a year and feel as though my mentor just is unwilling to teach me anything else. I have a genuine love for art and tattoos and would love to be able to stretch my wings. If nothing else any advice on how to get more education without going backwards.

    • I am more than ready to learn if you are still into offering to share all you know with someone. I am very good at drawing painting models, I get my ideas,inspiration from feeling people I’m around one of my two sides(I do not mean that in a psychotic way). I do believe I have a gift and people who get tats they mean a lot to them, To be apart of something on someone for ever give them an amazing story behind it with of course this amazing tattoo they can connect with. my email is

  3. Great tips for the self-motivated! People should realize that this profession isn’t as easy to get into and others such respect the skilled artists that have sculpted the tattooing world. –

  4. My friend is a tattoo artist, I guess. But he always goes to work a few hours after the shop opens, comes home before it closes, has a bad temper and rarely practices art at home. He took an aprenticeship and got his license a couple of years ago. But he almost acts like the work will come without working for it. How many years did it take for you to become successful? And what are his chances?

  5. I am 11 and dream of becoming a true, colorful tattoo artist.

  6. I like to draw portraits, women… everything just about=_=

  7. I love this article! I’m looking into becoming a tattoo artist and I’ve been absolutlely in love with tattoos for the past 6 or so years. High school was when I realized that I wanted to actually do this for a living, so I started taking art classes in college. I have been told that it’s hard for females in the tattoo industry to make their mark, but it’s refreshing to see that so many have been successful. I’m hoping I can maybe join those ranks one day soon. Thanks for the great information!

  8. I recently got an apprenticeship, and I was wondering if tattooing in high heels is worse, better, or the same as wearing say, sneakers.

  9. About the high heels: that question merits an additional six months apprenticing.

  10. God. To have someone want to wear my art for the rest of of their life….that would be the ultimate. Finding a tattoo shop that can treat the apprentice like they might have a chance and not like a mule with zero worth is something I’m having an issue with…I think my humility is only making that worse oddly. How do you get someone to not take that as a doormat status

  11. I love this article, im looking to be a tatto artist after high school. This article will help me become a better artist and hopfully increase my chances of becoming an apprentice

  12. Hi. I’m seeking to become a tattoo artist. Need some advice, I’m been in prison a couple times and I’ve done a lot of tattoos with the homemade machines and homemade ink. Now I am currently living in the halfway house program in San Francisco. I got all my tattoo supplies but need help and advice. What do I need to do to become a real tattoo artist? Any tattoo school in san Francisco? Please help.Thank you. Joe.S

  13. Hello. I am looking for an apprenticeship, but I have to admit I am kind of nervous about it. I originally wanted to become an Illustrator, but all the colleges I looked at offering the Bachelor Degree for that were so expensive. I love art, I have been drawing, painting, etc. since elementary school and I know some of some local tattoo artists and some in the nearby cities, so I want to do that, so I can build up some money as well as do something I am really interested in.

    The problem is that the local tattoo artist don’t have a good reputation (like stretching the skin when tattooing), and I visited with some of the tattoo artists in the nearby cities and said it’s a shady business and they are not really offering apprenticeships. So, if I am looking to become a tattoo artist, how can I get an apprenticeship if they are not reputable or they don’t want an apprenticeship?

    I am a hard worker when it comes to art. I absolutely love it and I am completely self taught; no art teacher has been able to teach me anything. They could only encourage me to try different styles, themes, etc. I have won ribbons at fairs, sold my works on eBay, to friends and even my art teacher in high school. Could you give me some advice? I included a link to my page, but it is not really updated at all, but if you emailed me I could send you more of my work. I really want help to get an apprenticeship! Thanks!

  14. It’s difficult getting into a crowded field, especially when it’s focused on art and thousands of other established artists are trying to get a share of the pie. True, the tattoo industry is a lot more supportive than it used to be and some artists do actually share techniques with others, but, for the most part, it is a closed society. Ten, fifteen years ago, you couldn’t get anyone to share the “secrets” of proper techniques or the Sterile Chain of Events. The important thing is to learn how to do things right and not scar someone (or worse) while you are learning. A proper apprenticeship will not only give you the important basics but test whether or not you want to tough it out and prove yourself. A solid apprenticeship might last a couple or three years, but most newbies want to skip that and get right down to marking up people’s bodies with their so-called “fabulous” artwork. With a band of friends urging them on, they think they are ready to go to work tomorrow. Wrong. Friends wouldn’t know a good tattoo if they fell over it. That takes years to understand and master. All this boils down to is, get a hold of all the books about tattoo history that you can, study the artwork, trace and draw several thousand tattoo designs and put together a professional-looking portfolio of your tattoo designs for presentation to a tattoo artist with at least ten years experience, and hope for the best. Listen carefully to their comments and forget about how “fantastic” your boyfriends or girlfriends say you are. You better know what you’re doing when someone you are tattooing passes out in the chair, or the tattoo starts spreading like an oil spill, or the bleeding won’t stop, or there’s a thick scar over your “perfect” artwork. Perhaps the best advice I can give someone who wants to become a tattoo artist at this stage of the game is “Don’t.”


  15. This article was so very helpful! It’s definitely given me a much better perspective so I don’t feel like I’m running around in the dark trying to find an opportunity to become an artist. It’s crazy the lack of professionalism, dedication, and respect some people approach this profession with and it sadly is not much of a surprise to me since I have seen the disrespect people have towards professors in college, and even managers at my job. I love that I have found this website, I actually have made it my homepage.

    I do have a question though, my uncle who has tattooed for 21 years has been teaching me and letting me tattoo him. It is not an official apprenticeship because he is no longer licensed. I thought at least learning basics from him and building a portfolio of tattoos to add to my art portfolio would help a little, because they would at least be able to see what potential to grow I have based on the level I started at, and reached. But now I’m afraid that all the hard work I’ve been doing would actually give me a disadvantage. I am not afraid to work my butt off and bend over backwards to get an apprenticeship, and I know I will be learning and growing every day, this is something I am very passionate about pursuing, but I am very worried.

  16. Hi, my name is Breanna and I just wanted to let you know how much this helped me. I haven’t really started yet, other than making myself draw more, but I have always wanted to try be a tattoo artist. I’ve always been into tattoos ever since I was nine or ten. Recently I actually started to persue my dream without much knowledge on how to get started. My friend Tom showed me this page and I am very grateful to him and you both. Your information helped me alot, now I have a little push to go forward. Thank you so much for your advice.

  17. This is a fantastic article. I am just starting out, as a student in college and It’s been a dream of mine to one day open my own shop. I have heard from many of my peers that, “school is not important, you don’t need anything like that to become a tattoo artist, you just do it.” It really put me down because I know education is important with what I want to accomplish, and it really helps me to see that, that is the case. I was definitely losing some hope but after reading your article, I have that inspiration back that I have been missing for so long. Thank you for writing this, I can’t wait to see what I can do to get my foot in the door and how I will use the things I’ve learned and the art I create to make someone happy.

  18. Hey…My name is Milo, I’m a ‘tattoo artist’ at a very small secluded shop in South Africa. Small town, not a lot going on. The standards in our country isn’t up to par with bigger overseas countries (you for example.) Or at least that’s how I feel. I did my apprenticeship for 7 months. (And I was treated like dirt.) Now I am only moving into my second year of tattooing and I still feel I was thrown into deep water much much too fast, I’m a constant bundle of anxiety because my love of the art form is a part of my very soul. (Cheesy I know.) And I am horrified that one day I will make a huge screw-up and I will lose faith in what is probably one of the biggest opportunities that I could dream of having. I just feel that there is so much lacking in my education as an artist, and my mentor is also limited in so many ways because he believes he knows everything there is to know and refuses to grow himself. I cannot help feeling that this line of work has actually become mainstream and it breaks my heart when I think of all the hard work, pain, sweat, tears and blood (yes blood) goes into this. Just wanted to share this with someone as talented as yourself. I think you may have an understanding of what I am going through as an artist and a seriously over worked over anxious person. Thank you for your article; it made me regain some faith in humanity. :)

  19. I’m in high school at the moment, and I would really love to be a tattoo artist. I am looking forward to my future, when I give it a try. I am just a bit scared that I might not be good enough to be one. I think I draw really good and the people that I show my drawings to say I have a gift. But I just don’t want to go all for it then fail at attempting to be a tattoo artist. And I just have trouble deciding.

  20. I’m 15 right now, and when I get out of high school I would really like to become a tattoo artist. I already draw often, and I’m working on improving my skills all the time. I plan on taking art classes next year when they’re offered. I’d be eager to get an apprenticeship after graduating (and willing to do whatever that entails) but I was wondering if any of the experienced artists on here can give me some advice in the meantime? What can I do to improve my chances, what can I do to prepare (since I have a few years), and is anything specific to tattooing I can practice to improve my art? Do you think I would be able to do any apprentice work while still in high school? I’m serious about this, it’s something I know I want to do. Thank you, all responses help!

    • I’m exactly the same; I’m also 15 and know that tattooing is something I’m really keen on doing as a career, however, all the articles I’ve read imply that it’s very difficult to get into. I’m still looking for help to improve my skills as it might improve the chances, so any replies to this would be great.

  21. Thanks for this article. It’s very useful. I have always wanted to be a tattoo artist, never really knew how except you have to be good with art! I just recently changed my career path from music therapy to this so I need to do my research and this article helped a lot. One question I do have though, do apprentices ALWAYS go unpaid? If so, how in the world do apprentices have time to work at another job when they’re apprenticing? Can you tell me any past experiences about that? Please and thank you!

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  23. Hello, my name is Nana. I’m still fresh in my apprenticeship (almost a year) and have two years as a scratcher, working on close friends and family. I have to say the article, first of all, was very comforting and has surely put my mind at peace, again. The frustrations of my apprenticeship are more on the fact that I suppose I am the type of person who has found I work best in trying and either failing or succeeding. As I mentioned before, I was a scratcher for two years, teaching myself. No, I’m not proud. In fact, especially after completing my BBP certification, I find myself almost anal retentive about cleanliness in the work space. Nevertheless, I wasn’t perfect, but I was growing and getting better the more I tried, whether it was live skin or fake. When I started my apprenticeship, my mentor saw this potential and had the utmost faith in me. As a way to prove my loyalty, I kept all my equipment in the shop, never touched another soul again and did what ever I could around the shop. Recently, he had decided to let me tattoo live… I have never seen (excuse my French) shittier work in my life. It was pretty much like working on that stupid synthetic skin with the cheesy-ass Japanese tiger pre-drawn on it, using shitty China ink from my expensive little kit… I am my worst critic, so I took it hard. I suppose what it boils down to, for my question, is that I agree a traditional apprenticeship is the most respectful and fulfilling way to become a great artist. However, in a matter of months all I was able to accomplish for being a damn scratcher went away and I got worse… is this typical? I am not discouraged to continue at my dream by any means, but I am questioning if an apprenticeship is something I should really be investing so much time in, when I do not seem to be benefiting… my general knowledge has grown greatly but my skill is doubling back. I would greatly appreciate your advice.


  24. Thank you for the great advice .

  25. I want to be a pro football player in the NFL, HAHA. The facts, kids, is this industry is hard and was very difficult to get into, and I see it returning that way with the flood of interest from these corporate money grubbing sell outs on TV. I’ve watched this industry fall hard and will soon disappear into nothing. Anyone remember Pay phones? Pagers? All gone. We no longer offer apprenticeships, and many other reputable shops in San Diego will not offer them anymore. It’s a new trend we’re very happy about.

  26. I would live to spend my time in a tattoo shop doing “bitch work” for no pay. It’s not a get-rich-quick plan or easy life style. I know why I want to become a tattoo artist. Being creative and giving people something that lasts, while getting paid. I have a portfolio. I can draw my own style tribal to even dragons. I have been looking for six years to become a apprentice, but no one wants to teach anyone the proper way to perfom the art. If anyone can point me to someone in the Kentucky area that wants a dedicated, hard-working, loyal apprentice willing to do anything to learn the art, please email me at

  27. We’re a gaggle of volunteers and starting a new scheme in our community. Your site offered us with valuable information to work on. You’ve done a formidable job and our whole neighborhood shall be grateful to you.

  28. I have never touched a tattoo needle to skin.

    Hi all, just wanted to stop by and give a great big hello for a future wanna-be aspiring tattoo artist.

    Madame Lazonga,

    Great article. I’ve been doing a lot of research and I have a quick question for you (or anyone). I use to be a pretty proficient artist when I younger. A friend of mine moved and left me his tat equipment. So I figured, “why not give it a try?”

    I know that I am taking at least the next year to brush up on my art skills (it’s been ten years). I’ve been watching tons of videos about cleaning and maintaining my equipment and I’ve started working on pig skin, just to get the feel of the gun and work on my hand muscles.

    How is this for a start?
    I’m searching for an apprenticeship but as I have found from reading and looking around, it’s not easy.

    I figured I’d be practicing my art skills and my tattoo skills (on pig skin) in the meanwhile, and just soak up as much as I can.

    Any other tips would be great! I am 36 yeas old and not some child looking for something that seems “cool.” Whether with drawing, writing or martial arts, I am an artist and to know that someone will one day trust me enough to leave my permanent mark on their body is simply mind blowing to me.

  29. Hallo Guten Tag,

    My name is Hannah, I’m 25 and since 6 months I’m living in France I was looking for some information when I saw this article. I really liked it and the many answers you all gave to. That really helped me to “see” what should I do. as an apprentice.But let’s say my situation is the opposite: I just really started in this tattoo world now but I had my first contact with a tattoo machine a few years ago. I’ve tried as an apprentice to get in a few studios, and for sure I never went with empty hands. I also showed them my work. I’ve been polite and always tried to be honest but professional with my answers and my work.
    The problem is, a part from living in a foreign country with totally different language, the fact that some of the owners or tattoo artist that I went to ask, where really rude to me. After seeing my work, they just yelled to me saying how I expected to come in a shop and ask like this for an apprenticeship. Never happened to me when I went to a job interview, in fact, they really went good. And now I’m really blocked of what I have to SAY or DO when I’m in front of them.For me getting in a tattoo shop is more a question of professionalism, respect for your clients and to this business. It’s like you want to get in school but they don’t let you in (no way but anyways) I continue this way because I really believe in myself and it’s what I really want to do. But seriously, how they expect that I don’t continue (with many precautions as I can) trying this at home?

    Thank you for your time and thanks for this article.

  30. I’m currently struggling trying to find a good mentor. I had a crappy one for 6 months and he just about taught me how to mop the floor! There’s an amazing artist local to me who I’ve been getting tattooed by for 3 years now (little bit illegal, but he’s a good dude). He said he’d give me an apprenticeship but is currently mentoring this punk kid who couldn’t give a flying shit about the history of tattooing or even the shop he’s apprenticing at?! Oh well, I’m sure I’ll find somewhere soon, just got to keep building up my portfolio in the meantime and more research!
    Really funny blog, the people that treat tattooing like it’s just a laugh to work in a shop rind my gears. It’s bloody hard work!

  31. This is my first stop on the road. I have been thinking about becoming a tattoo artist for about nine years now. However, having a family put that on hold. I have been an artist my whole life and am always striving to improve. For the last five years I have been doing henna and more and more people are telling me I should do real tattoos, or asking me if I’ve ever thought of doing it. My issue? I live in Oregon where you are REQUIRED to go to a school to be licensed. It is very frustrating as I would much prefer to go the apprenticeship route.

    Thanks for this insight. I know about running a business, so I feel confident in that part at the very least. I am hopeful and continuing my research.

  32. Very Inspirational … being a artist already is only half the battle. Human canvas is not like the conventional … Believe in your dreams … every tattoo artist had a beginning … first steps … keep on doing your art . one tattoo at a time … learn . grow . understand . you will keep getting better.

  33. Great article! Thanks a lot, it made me feel less lost on pursuing the profession. I would love and appreciate your thoughts on my chances. Here’s my case: I have always loved art especially tattoo form and feel so at home in shops. The buzzing of the machines are like “meditational” to me (if that’s a word). I know I have a LONG way to go and am in no way afraid of hard work. In fact, my previous profession was auto repair, before I got pregnant then became a stay-at-home mother, which is one of my obstacles. So I have any chance of getting an apprenticeship anywhere, having a child with me? Or being available only on her father’s days off? I just really want to make it happen. I lost mojo for a while and don’t draw as much as I used to, because I ran out of ideas, but I’m back on the horse and drawing whatever pictures I find to sharpen up my skills. (In scripting also) I never want to not draw again, it’s my outlet and being a tattoo artist clients provides ideas, generally, I believe, that will keep me fresh and prevent future “drawers” block… I am more of a black-and-white type but am practicing color. I mostly enjoy sketching the beauty that is the female body ,but am motivated in learning everything. So, what are your thoughts please? If its not too much.

  34. Absolutely love this article. Some of the comments made me laugh, they proved some needed to reread the writing and that some are just wanting into the industry for the money. That makes it harder for those of us that are passionate about the knowledge and art aspect of it. Again, thank you for taking the time to write and share this wisdom.

  35. I am more than ready to learn if you are still into offering to share all you know with someone. I am very good at drawing painting models, I get my ideas,inspiration from feeling people I’m around one of my two sides(I do not mean that in a psychotic way). I do believe I have a gift and people who get tats they mean a lot to them, To be apart of something on someone for ever give them an amazing story behind it with of course this amazing tattoo they can connect with.

  36. There are good things in this article, but the whole “scratcher” remark is nonsense, as well as several other things. To ‘scratch a few friends’ as said above, is something usually mentioned by a old fashioned mainstream artist or (girl who answers the phone, and thinks she knows a lot about tattooing and art, so she writes an article). I have read many bios and know several well known artist who taught themselves. Some of which have mentioned in online interviews if you follow any tattoo tv, as well as simply in their bio on their online websites. They used the internet (a place where all information is available if you just dig for it). Online you can learn everything, get fake skin to practice on, as well as proper sanitation knowledge, and everything. Most people will disagree with my opinion because they have been conditioned over a long period of time into thinking an apprenticeship is the only way. Sometime people are stubborn and closed minded especial older dogs ;) But, I myself made it by teaching myself, practicing on fake skin hands and then my legs before someone else. I did two good photorealistic pieces on my legs to start my portfolio and had a second job to support myself until I had my own studio and clientele to support me. I wanted to do an apprenticeship very much at the beginning, but many artist discouraged me, and either said their shop didn’t take apprenticeships, or that I should consider another career. In my mind it was a joke because my work was hyper realistic, and original stuff no one had been doing. I had my own style, as well as graphite, charcoal, with acrylic and oil studies. My work was better than any tattoo shops portfolios within a 50 mile radius. There were a few artist who were as good as me, but those good artists (who I was getting tattooed by) were already apprenticing someone or too busy, (at least that’s what they said). There are more people tattooing in the world that shouldn’t be than there are that should. No one wants to be a copy machine but at least being able to do a photo realistic portrait should be standard for anyone calling themselves a tattooist to do. Those artists that can’t and have been tattooing several years are the majority of the tattoo community. Most are to small minded to realize that there’s enough of the pie for everyone. They are afraid of you if your work is good, unless it’s a shop owner who will make money off of you. Lastly, I want to say, don’t let someone who wrote an article (her or me) make your decisions for you. It’s easy to read something and believe it, or think it’s the only way, or proper way to go about things. Yadda yadda blah. This is your life. Do what you gotta do to follow your dreams. Try not to care how others will judge you if you have to “scratch” to tattoo before you’re 30. If you stick with your passion, eventually they will be looking up to you wishing they had the determination to be as good as you are.

  37. Also- One last thing I didn’t mention. Realistically an apprenticeship should last anywhere from 3 to 6 months. If you are not able to get it by then, maybe a little longer, but “paying your dues” and anything exceeding that time period, you are being taken advantage of. If you do sign an agreement that doesn not have a graduation date, don’t sign it. They are not the right person.

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