So, I was a little drunk in the entryway to this club in downtown Ann Arbor and my mind kind of wandered. I had a Sharpie Marker (red) so I drew a huge heart on my arm with a banner reading,”Current Girlfriend” on it. I thought it was hilarious but most everyone else found it confusing, which made me feel kinda good about being “eccentric”.
After other people commented on it, thinking it was a real tat, I found myself explaining it and later drawing on random people with Sharpie markers (“Hula Dancer” and “Barney with a Shotgun” were the most popular images requested). This behavior has been pretty standard for me lately, as I had done the same thing for a bunch of people last weekend and again the weekend before that at the Give Kids the World event in Florida. I was having a lot of fun with it, and I thought that maybe it would be something I should get into for real.
A lot of people look down on tattoos, but I have a lot of respect for them as an art form and a form of expression. Tattoos and Comics have a similar fate in terms of the public looking upon them as a lesser art medium, which is ridiculous. I’ve always been a fan of the whole “expanded definition of art” thing that I heard from all my art history teachers in school, so I think tattoos are going to become more acceptable to our culture as time goes on. It’s artistic and personal expression, just on a human instead of a canvas; and I think its damn beautiful when done right.
I was interested in tattooing, but had no idea about how one would become a tattoo artist. For the last couple weeks I started digging around looking for what I needed to do online and by calling tattoo parlors. I learned from a maintenance guy at Trader Joe’s that you can teach yourself and buy a “Do it Yourself” kit online somewhere. Once I found it on Amazon it looked extremely sketchy and expensive. The internet told me I should go into it the legit way and get an apprenticeship with a well-known experienced tattoo artist, and that it might cost money. I asked around the local parlors but they weren’t offering apprenticeships. One guy kind of laughed at me with a,”Good luck at getting that”. Apparently it is insanely difficult to get another artist to take on an apprentice.
Then I remembered that a friend of mine from high school has a dad that does a ton of tattoos. A few phone calls later and she arranged for him to call me and see if he could give me some advice.
Nothing happened for about a week and a half. Then on a random Thursday I get a call out of the blue from Mr. E offering me a chance to apprentice! That was easy!! I got together a portfolio and went in for the interview.
On the outset I really was attracted to becoming a tattoo artist, and talking with Mr. E about it all only empowered this attraction. You get to meet cool people everyday, show off your artwork, and do what you love as an artist. I have a great deal of experience working with clients and pride myself on being able to draw cartoony badass things. Y’know, flaming demon skulls, dancing naked chicks, and killer robots. This job seemed right up my alley. Unlike the other parlors I had been in looking for an apprenticeship, this one had a calm welcoming atmosphere. In one shop I went into earlier in the week I felt so intimidated I had to leave without talking to anyone (a huge biker chick stared me down until I started to sweat and had to leave).
After I took a couple of days to think things over I went back to ask my would be tutor more questions. Mr. E explained how much more was involved when becoming a tattoo artist. Unlike my previous expectations on what an apprenticeship entailed (not that intense), it was going to take at the least 9 months and it was going to cost a few thousand dollars (much more intense). There is no guarantee that after the 9 months you will find steady work until you are well established and screw up your first tries at tattooing on human skin (who wants to be my first tattoo? I won’t mess up that much, i promise) so it will probably pay less than a part-time job even though you are working your hands to the bone at it. In a nutshell: you’re starting a whole other career from scratch.
I was looking into tattooing thinking of it more as a hobby, not a career, and that’s why I had to say no. I didn’t understand how much a tattoo artist has to build up their reputation and client base before becoming successful. I have a great deal of confidence that I could be good at being a tattoo artist judging by my own determination, skill, and how much I enjoy a challenge, but it’s not my path. I am trying like mad to finish my own comic book, which is my real work of passion right now, and have a bunch of other side projects I have yet to get to. It would be a blast to learn how to tattoo, but if I took it on now I couldn’t put everything I had into it to the best of my ability.
I’d rather not start something then do it half-assed, especially if it is getting permanently etched onto another human being. Your kids will thank me for not tattooing them half-assedly in the future.
Also I realized I have no tattoos and actually am kind of a wuss when it comes to needles. Who wants a tattoo from a guy with absolutely no ink himself? You can’t trust that guy with your tramp stamp.