As an artist I am often asked, "How do I become a tattoo artist?" A quick search on the internet reveals plenty of information about the subject. I know I personally have written about it on my website, blogged about it and answered this question many, many times. But what I'd like to address is what you should do after you get your apprenticeship. I've seen many people get an apprenticeship only to end up quitting or letting the apprenticeship go to waste.
So lets assume you drew your ass off enough to impress an artist or studio to take you on as an apprentice. You've made it, you have your dream job. It will only be a short period of time before you are slinging ink for money right? WRONG! Now comes the hard work. Sure you are gonna have to sweep and mop the floors. You'll be required to scrub tubes most likely as well as the bathroom. Running to get things like coffee and food or supplies is going to be common place. Everyone knows this right? But is that all you need to know?
Being an apprentice means you showed something whether it was talent or tenacity. But please don't let your perseverance end there. Most tattoo studios have a laid back atmosphere. They are usually a light hearted fun filled work place. Ball busting and joke playing are common place. However this doesn't mean you should take your position lightly. You are not a tattoo artist yet and can be let go just as easily as you were hired. Did you think you are the only one who wanted to work at this shop? Remember there are some people who would just love to have your job.
So here are a few things I think are important. Be on time! It is disrespectful to be late. Even if the artists come in late you should be early or on time. I was taught that an apprentice should be the first one in and the last one to leave the shop. This shows how devoted you are and that you are serious about learning. What about requesting days off? I personally think this is not something you should do. Of course their are times of emergencies but if you just want off to celebrate your 23rd birthday that's just lame. I think hanging out and getting drunk with your friends could wait until after you get done working. Which do you think is more important?
So you've swept the floors, emptied the trash cans and stocked the artists stations. You did a good job right? Many times I've witnessed an apprentice sweep the floor only to have to do it again because they did such a poor job. Take your time and do it right the first time. Now its time to sit and relax, maybe catch up with your friends on Facebook or maybe sit and watch the hockey game right? NO! Now its time to do things like draw, or watch the artists, ask them questions. Or maybe read and research things about tattooing, your machine, history etc. Don't sit around doing nothing! Make the most of your time at the shop. Your efforts won't go unnoticed. Be proactive, pay attention to things like paper towels. Get the artists a new roll before they have to ask you for one. No one should have to tell the apprentice that the bathroom is out of toilet paper. Trust me an attention to detail is gonna help when you start tattooing.
So you are now working in a studio and perhaps you have some tattoos. Most likely you are going to want more. And since you are working with some great artists you'll probably want to get some tattoos from them. Most artists will tattoo an apprentice without hesitation especially if they are working hard. I've been tattooed by my mentor and have tattooed many an apprentice. But what about getting tattooed by people who don't work at your shop? This can be tricky. I've always maintained that as long as the person gets quality work then that is all that really matters. The work you get should be as good if not better then you could get at your own studio. If you come to work boasting new ink that looks like crap it is basically a slap in the face of the artists teaching you. We try to educate our own clients on what makes a good tattoo and you should be listening as well. The studio's clients are going to see your work and if it looks inferior to your shops work what kind of an example are you setting?
Speaking of clients, I've witnessed apprentices completely making asses of themselves by not thinking before speaking. Never ask something like, "So why are you getting that?" Especially if its asked in a condescending manor. Who are you to judge them? Think before you speak. There is an old saying that goes, "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt."
So maybe your mentor is a real hard ass, making you do stupid shit like walk his dog, or clean his house. On the other hand he could be real easy going and doesn't ride your ass at all. But just as an artist can sit back and become complacent and no longer push themselves to be better an apprentice who doesn't strive to be the best will only have lack luster tattoos to show for their poor efforts. To those of you who got their foot in the door, good luck! You're gonna need it.