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Beginning tattooing

Hi guys!

I'm going to start learning how to tattoo. I've bought "Basic Fundamentals of Modern Tattoo" and "The Craft of Tattooing", and I bought a Pirate Face Tattoo Carver starter kit.

I'm going to practice on synthetic or pig skin until I can get at least 10 decent-looking tattoos as a portfolio before asking my and my girlfriend's tattoo artist if he'd be willing to take me on as an apprentice. And take the bloodborne pathogens test of course.

Now, here's the issue I'm worrying about: I doubt my tattoo artist has the need or ability to take on an apprentice, and he's the only artist for at least fifty miles. 

I know many top tattoo artists like Jeff Gogue and Jo Harrison are self-taught, and I do understand sterile procedure and infection control (used to work in microbiology laboratory).

Don't get me wrong, I would love the ability to get an apprenticeship, but that may not be feasible. To get a license in my state just requires passing a bloodborne pathogens test and registering with the health department, which I'll do asap.

So, what's your advice on how to proceed? Practice on synthetic/pig skin and take whatever in-person education workshops until I get confident enough to tattoo my own leg (or my girlfriend, who has told me in writing she'd let me as long as we go over the design together and I use a stencil and follow sterile procedure of course), and then rent booths at tattoo conventions until I can find something more permanent. Obviously, if I can't find an apprenticeship, I'm going to need to at least find a mentor.

Thanks for all your advice!

Lexi


Replies:

RE:Beginning tattooing

i guess that i will give a little info on this one. you sound like you have some direction in what you want and im not the guy that will just backlash people. but i do want to point out that tattooers are very strong minded and normally don't take any crap from anyone, so if you are really interested in becoming a professional tattooist then i would suggest that you should first slow yourself down and start the right way. set down and draw,do research on every style of tattooing, draw,go visit shops,draw,get tattoos from good artist.draw.if you cant afford tattoos go to shops and just look at their work. and don't ask questions. just take in the atmosphere. and do not start carving on yourself or anyone else . you need to have yourself trained the right way or you will learn bad habits, and by trained i mean mentally and physically. you can learn on your own but you have to learn the (right way on your own) .i would go to the bottom of this form and start reading. read every single message on here just for starters. the guys on here are starting to get board answering the same old questions and i think that they feel that if you look, you will find your answers here on your own.almost always. hope that didn't sound Shitty, i am self taught and i can tell you that it is a long hard road that never ends. hell i will give you some info about me, just because of where you live. i too came form WV born and raised , i never knew what a tattoo was until my cousin taught me how to hand poke a tattoo jailhouse style. which i did on myself at 13 years old.mom freaked. then i met a guy that tattooed out of a little shack at a flea market in KY and so i watched him every weekend. i then move to Indiana. in the early 90's i met a tattooer named Roy boy from Gary IN.me and my buddies would go there and hang at his shop and i would just watch, crazy shit at that shop .so then years went by working 9 to 5 jobs,then i had a bad injury and had to find something to do for work. so someone said why don't you tattoo? that started it all, i dug in and never stopped .i went after it all. learning everything that i could ,drawing every day and working my ass off, i have lost friends,family, time and money learning this trade,but its worth it. i now tattoo in my own studio and love every minute of it . anyway i guess my point is if you really want to do it you have to be willing to do anything to get it.no one is going to hand it to you. you will have a long road ahead of you and its not going to be easy, try to get someone to teach you if you can and also sometimes you have to go to the ends of the earth to find that teacher. if that means move then that's what you have to do. just make sure that you do everything in your power to learn the right way. and did i say draw,draw, draw and draw.. ..hope this helps its a late night rant by the way most tattooist dont get any sleep. thank god for caffeine...
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RE:Beginning tattooing

All the stuff you've been saying I've been doing. I've got several tattoos, and I read about tattooing constantly.

My live-in girlfriend used to be a tattoo artist overseas before her dominant hand was injured so she had to quit, so I can learn from her. Didn't many prominent tattoo artists practice on their own legs? http://www.vice.com/read/new-yorks-top-tattooers-to-drop-their-trousers-and-show-us-their-early-self-done-tattoos-235

My tattoo artist is pretty nice, and he always answers my questions.

I love to draw.
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RE:Beginning tattooing

Hey, you are so very right about the old school guys tattooing themselves. most tattoo artist have tried that a time or two and most will continue to. but the reason that i said not to is because you came off as having no guidance nor any direction . if you feel that you have people in your life that can train you all the in's and outs the right way then go for it .it seemed to me that you where asking for help and/or guidance from people on here.but maybe i didn't understand what you where asking for.i have a question for you if you have two people to learn how to tattoo from, then what are you looking for on here? im not trying to sound like a dick but i am a little confused. you have a live in ex- tattooer and also a tattooist that is willing to answer all your questions. shit you've got a golden pass then. if they are true professionals then they should be able to show and answer everything that you need to know and you shouldn't have a need for us. i dont want you to get mad at this post but you have to see my point a teacher can teach. tattooist with the right background should be able to train you in everything about tattooing. all too many times people call themselves professional and act like they know it all but they can't teach the fundamentals of tattooing. i hope that isn't the case for you.you sound like a have a good head on your shoulders and i hope that you can understand what i am saying about having the right mentor to train you .this trade cant be done half ass. if you are in it for the right reasons then you will step back and really look around at things and take things slow, all to many times people get in this trade too fast and miss out on what its really about. its a prideful, respected and a highly traditional trade that cant be faked. your colors will show if you aren't on point, if you question things about your mentors level of training then you need to look else where for the right mentor. not all can teach. as for tattooing yourself think about it.you dont have a skill level yet so there for you are going to have some jacked up tattoos. and that is some valuable space to be messing up.you need that space for honing your skills and practicing new things later in your career.also any mentor who is up to par will not let you get near a machine until you are ready. if i were mentoring you i would get pissed if you asked me that, you would have about a year of basic fundamentals to learn first before i handed you a machine also the gear that you have spoke of will need a lot of tweaking before you can do a proper tattoo. you need to have either those machines rebuilt or buy some quality equipment that your mentor can show you how they work. the parts on those machines are poorly made and will not last or keep in tune. usually your mentor will give you your machines that was either handed down to him/her or they will build or buy you a set of high quality machines for you to have for your career .then you can do the same if you ever mentor someone. i hope that you get there.i pray that you dont fall into that same old category of bad habit tattooers, (SCRATCHERS) and i wish you luck on your goals in becoming a professional tattooist. hope this helps anyone who reads this. laziness gets you nowhere but dreams can get you everything...
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RE:Beginning tattooing

Thanks. She's taught me how to take apart and reassemble the machine for the past few months, and I can pretty much do it blindfolded.

Thanks for the advice. The reason I was on this forum was to get some opinions on my plans.
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RE:Beginning tattooing

Anybody can take apart a machine and reassemble it, you need to know why there are a different amount of wire wraps on a coil, which way the capacitor goes, how the clip cords affect the power flow and what part the contact screw plays in the whole thing. Thats just a start.
Spend a lot of time with the tattoo artist you want to learn from but dont just jump in and tell or ask him for an apprenticeship. he will probably say no. Go as often as you can, show interest in everything, help clean the shop (yes for free), answer the phone (dont book appointments unless he says so). In other words show that you are willing to do every part of working in a shop, right down to cleaning the toilet at the end of the day. It took me 6 months of hanging out and getting tattooed before I was even allowed to use his paper and pencils to draw. Another 6 months before he would even look at what I drew and critique it. Except for some tear down, I didnt touch a machine for almost a year after that but I had to know every part and what part it played. I drew a lot of stencils and coloured a lot of flash in that time.
A blood borne pathogen course is good but wont tell you everything you need to know about cleanliness and safety, you cant get that from just talking, you need to be in the shop to see things and learn from them.
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RE:Beginning tattooing

hey, ta2edfreak sounds like you had to go through an old school apprenticeship, good for you. i love hearing that some people still care about the history of our trade and that they take pride in it. im just wandering if you see the same type of tattooers where you are at. its the ones that have turned the history of tattooing into a fashion , im sure you know the types.the ones that look the part but have no clue of machine building, nor making needles.they walk around with Sailor Jerry shirts (god bless him) and skinny jeans and talk like they are from mars . i don't mean to point fingers but the new breed of artist are killing our trade. yes some are great artist but they are not tattooist.because they know nothing about the true history of tattooing ,like machine building ,needle making, pigment properties and shit just the people that worked and fought their whole life just to get us a trade to hand down to the worthy ones. i don't get it. they work so hard at their art but they never cared to learn the fundamentals. im just wandering if you feel the same way? its so sad to see this happening to our trade.
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RE:Beginning tattooing

Yeah, I did mine way back in the late 80s, early 90s and didnt get paid a dime but I got lots of knowledge out of it.

I would say its about half and half here. Sure there are lots of them like that but there are still a bunch that understand. They may not make their own needles anymore since its cheaper to buy boxed stuff but they know how and understand how a machine works and how to tune it properly.
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RE:Beginning tattooing

Hey guys. I was really intrigued by this thread and thought I might post. I've been reading in this forum for a bit, but this will be my first actual post.
I got my first tattoo back in 1989. I was 20 years old. It was just a simple tiny little heart with flames on it. Got it done by Dr. Tatu in Jonesboro Georgia and I remember it hurt so bad I nearly passed out. Lol. Anyway, I was so fascinated by the whole process. The guy worked in a small but clean shop all alone and was very professional.
Fast forward to 1992, I had decided I wanted to learn to tattoo. Not just a passing phase I was going through either. I was Freakin hooked HARD. I didn't talk or think about anything else. Just tattooing so after reading up a bit in some tattoo mags, (there was no internet at the time) lol. , I set out to do it right and find a professional to show me the right way. I found out the hard way that tattooists as a general rule are VERY private about what they do and not overly friendly when u ask for advice. Over a period of months I was thrown out and asked to leave every single tattoo shop in the area......but I was undeterred. If no one would show me how to tattoo then by God I would just teach myself. I saw an ad for Spaulding and Rogers on the back of a tattoo magazine. I tore it off, saved some money, and ordered a tattoo kit. I know that's taboo these days, but I had no idea and no other way. Anyway, my kit came with a book called "Tattooing A to Z", and I read that thing cover to cover at least 6 times before I ever even picked my machine, (a Revolution rotary) up. Now I know a lot of people look down on that book and I get it, but to tell u the truth, I learned ALOT of basic, easy to follow basics from it and I'll never deny that. Lol.
Anyway, fast forward a bit. I started tattooing my legs. I tattooed and tattooed and tattooed and tattooed. Eventually, it started looking like something and some people started noticing a little bit. As u may have guessed they would ask, "where did u get that tattoo?".......and so it went. I began to tattoo other people. At first for free and eventually stated to make a little money. All under the radar.
Eventually I tattooed a guy that knew a dude named Melvin that owned a trashy looking little tattoo shop on the edge of town. So he took me there to talk to the guy. Melvin let me tattoo in his shop as a "flash artist" meaning simply that I would tattoo small stuff from the wall. I was thrilled to do it and so I did for about a year or so until I had to move back to Tennessee where the laws are WAY more stringent than they were in Georgia. Even now Tennessee has some of the strictest laws governing tattooing in the U.S.
Anyway, when I decided I wanted to tattoo here, I tried to get in touch with Mel.......only to find out Mel had died and his shop closed. Wow. So right back to under the radar. It was during this period that I learned ALOT of stuff the HARD way. Fundamentals of coil machines, all the parts, what those parts did, why a thick or thin or long or short front spring or back spring, what the coils did, why the number of wraps mattered, stroke length, contact screw gap spacing, so on and so forth. Autoclaving, spore tests, what made good ink, bad ink, good suppliers, bad suppliers, so on and so forth. LOTS of money, LOTS of mistakes, but I learned SO much and wouldn't trade any of that experience for anything.
I really didn't mean to ramble on and there's a lot more to my story I swear, but I guess my point is, that so many people, (mostly tattooists that work in an established shops) are so DOWN on people that try and learn to tattoo on their own, branded "Scratchers", which is actually a derivative of a French term that came about in the old New York Bowery days.
Anyway, I guess my point is, try not to be so down on folks starting out. We've all been there and everyone's circumstances are different. Folks here seem to be a good bunch of people and that's really what we need more of in this business.
Thanks for listening......
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