9545 Reseda Blvd. unit 2, Northridge, CA (818) 700-2818

Bad mentor?

Hello. It's my first time posting on here. I'm a bit hesitant to share my experience but here goes anyways. F$#k it.

I've been apprenticing for a bit over a year now, full time. I moved 2 hours away from where I lived with no car, no job, no money, and nowhere to live to be able to do so. My mentor didn't charge a fee but put me through a series of what I could only perceive as ways of trying to see if I'd quit before he actually called me his apprentice officially. Of course there was the usual grunt work: keeping the shop spotless at all times, scrubbing tubes, autoclaving, setting up stations, prep of clients, and tear down of stations, running errands (and cleaning my mentors house occasionally), greeting customers, ect ect. I doubt I need to list everything that encompasses shop rat duties and this list is nowhere near complete, by a long shot.

But, I'm not sure if all that I am doing now is of the norm. That's why I'm here. To see if I'm just a pussy or if I'm actually being taken advantage of and going through unnecessary abuse.

In the beginning my mentor would yell at me in front of clients and try everything he could to humiliate me. Calling me names, telling me I'm stupid, and once he even hit me in the back of the head for asking a question of something he had not taught me yet. (Hard enough to give me a good headache afterwards.) He had me start by practicing and teaching me lettering, which stayed that way for about 4 months. Nothing but lettering. Then I went on to tracing images and shading and coloring them, while still practicing lettering. I started drawing shall images right on clients with pen, free hand. Then he had me drawing his tattoos. At first it was the most simple ones, and now it's to the point that I'm drawing every one of his drawings except maybe like 5 drawings he'd decided to do. I don't get any guidance on them and since he's going to be the one tattooing them I consult him on things that just can't be guessed. ... like "which arm is this grim reaper that's facing a certain way going on" and/or "does the client want a traditional rose or a more realistic style" and he just tells me to shut up and draw while he sits. ..day after day, when he's not tattooing, looking at fucking cat videos on Facebook. Then without any guidance other than maybe a printout from Google images to use as a reference I bring him a completed drawing and he yells at me for basically not being able to read his mind. Some of the other artists have even pointed that out to him.

It's not about my drawing abilities either. For example, once he gave me a crude butterfly drawing from a sketchbook and told me to trace/clean it up but don't change how it is. The butterfly was turned to the side. I fixed it up nice and clean. I was called an idiot for not redrawing the butterfly and making the butterfly front facing. I was not told to do that though. I followed his instructions. It's the image the client picked out. Am I still being mentored or just used as a work horse and scape goat? Is this general practice? I'm not whining, but something tells me that shit isn't supposed to be like this. There's a good bit more going on but I don't want to type a novel. I'm sure questions will come up. Any input is helpful. Thanks for reading.

Kristen


Replies:

RE:Bad mentor?

This subject can be debated for hours. I've been my apprenticeship for a year and'see it terrific. All the things you go through in the shop are for reasons. Lettering is anot important skill in a street shop. The tracing gets you focused on the accuracy needed to pull lines on skin. Drawing and redrawing images is to help with customization and composition. Cleaning the shop, tubes, sterilization is necessary. You have to know how the shop is run. Setting up and breaking down for your mentor makes it second nature nature whenever you begin tattooing. Some things are disrespectful though. My mentor treats me with the respect I give him. I'm in my mid 20s so I don't tolerate that behavior. It serves no purpose in my opinion. Develop your people skills, draw draw draw, learn from anywhere you can. Study some books (Reinventing the tattoo by Guy Atchison is a top read). Experience new mediums ie paint with water colors, acrylics, oils. Ifyou can get a grant and financial aide go to school for fine art. You obviously have the will. He has you on the right path. A very old school path that will make you fundamentally sound. Plus you don't pay for your experience as a student. You're lucky. Keep pushing
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