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

apprenticeship concerns

Hello all,

I'm new to the forum and I'm a tattoo apprentice based in the UK. I have been an apprentice now for 8 months on a part time basis(Lucky i know). There are 3 artists at my shop( 4 but owner retired whom I was originally his apprentice until his wife got ill). I like the guys at the shop but 1 of them doesn't really like me as much, their work is good(not great but not bad either), I can have fun and they treat me like an adult, not some cleaning slave like the other shops in the area, which I've heard some shaky reviews from. They are flexible with me and the atmosphere is great. However, I have enjoyed my time at the shop up until very recently. So here is my long winded essay of this past week.

So I have two machines: A swiss rotary which I use to line with and a Tim Hendricks one off mini-coil to shade with. Which I love to bits, I would have it by my pillow at night if I was allowed to take it home. i've taken it apart, built it back together and I can run this machine on 7-9 volts and feel it's mighty power!! I have been practising with these machines for a good 3 months, mainly on pigskin covering flat surfaces, various objects that look and feel like human skin, like this one time I used a postal tube, wrapped in 1cm foam that you get in packaging then wrapped in cling film for hygiene purposes then pig skin over the top. Done all sorts of other strange things. I enjoyed it a lot.

I tattooed myself(my very first tattoo on human skin) last week, which was a fun, yeah but what if I did this or that "just f'king do it" session for about an hour n half. Only a small tattoo of a flower and some leaves above the knee. It looks dreadful, don't want to look at it, awful tattoo, however it may be fixed by a super awesome tattoo artist elsewhere. I did this tattoo in the morning as my mentor had a half day session in the afternoon from about 12pm, so I only had a 3 hour window in which to prepare my station, tattoo machines, stencil and tattoo myself. Almost like as if I was experiencing what my mentor states as a "Walk-in" tattoo customer. I felt kind of let down by it as I wanted to take my time and he initially promised to do a whole day. Just one to one with my mentor.

With this tattoo I used a 5 liner and a 7 mag.

so my first line didn't look like it had registered very well, so I checked my needle depth which looked fine(2.5mm), then thought i'd turn my voltage up to 11 as it was originally 9.5. Then did a 2nd line, it felt okay but looked at the line and it was kinda similar. So I stopped to have a little think as to why it's not registered so well and then one of the other artists in the shop came over put my needle out further and turned up my voltage and then he did a line to show me and told me it must be at a higher angle than what I was using, I was going in at around 65 degrees(45 degrees for shading). Which also looked shit, I had a go at him as he didn't wear gloves. And he snapped at me saying lay off with the attitude(I've been warned before about my answering back, as I do have a cheeky/sarcastic attitude, it's just my sense of humour but he is the only one who takes it seriously) and just do as I'm told. My mentor just sat there and did nothing to defend me. He just sat there drawing whilst I was tattooing myself. I just couldn't believe it. So the other artist buggered off when I called him a wanker and told him to leave me alone and a little rant about how he is not my mentor and shouldn't be involved in my tattoo at all. We had a clear the air moment later in the day where he apologised for being hard on me. So anyway I did my lines, felt okay, did the shading, it was okay. a little more painful since the voltage was on 12.5. My mentor decided to keep it at the same as what the other artist said instead of reassuring me to take a break or stop and discuss why those first lines weren't registering, just told me to keep going and not worry about it.

My concerns are mainly about how my lines now look blown out. I'll show a picture of it when it was done and what it looks like now(after a week) but I don't know how to do this on here(if someone could tell me, that would be great). I understand that it is still healing but I mean I am seriously concerned with how it is healing. I'm covered in tattoos and I look after them very well but this one just doesn't look right at all. I have most likely blew my lines whilst tattooing but never really felt that much pain to feel it blow out, surely there must be like a moment where you can feel it go too deep? those 1st 2 lines since it has been healing has come up better and don'l look like they're blown. The guys at my shop say they don't know why I'm getting so worked up about it as it's my 1st tattoo on skin and it will always look shit. It might look shit but I don't want to blow my lines!

But anyway, after this experience it has made me extremely aware and concerned about my next tattoo and learning NOT to blow the lines and being able to apply the right amount of pressure to the skin. But also whether the shop is the right place for me to continue. I want to continue and just get over the idea that I blew the lines on my 1st tattoo and just focus on getting it right for my 2nd tattoo. But it's bugging me.

I personally feel I need to step back and re-evaluate what I can improve upon and why my 1st tattoo is so fucking unbelievably shit, and why the tattoo i've doesn't match the effort and time I have put into practicing. I am concerned about the direction in which my apprenticeship is going, feel as if I'm being rushed as they want me to tattoo myself again soon after my current tattoo has healed. And get me tattooing other people asap. I'm currently arguing that in order for me tattoo customers I must get my next 2 or 3 tattoos on myself good first. I don't want to tattoo someone and then it turns out to be shit.

Any pointers because my mentor just doesn't seem to be arsed about it anymore. If my 2nd tattoo doesn't come out as well I as I want it to or if I got it critiqued on here and the verdict was nil points then I'd stop tattooing and go back to drawing and painting.


RE:apprenticeship concerns

Hey there, i hope not to offend you in any way but it sounds to me like its time for you to get off the crapper . i mean first off you got a apprenticeship. secondly they worked around your schedule. third they were nice and respectful to you. and it sounds like now they are ready to see what you are made of and you are questioning them . i understand that you are freaking out and you are afraid of messing tattoos up . but i think that your mentor is doing this to see how you can handle and adapt to things. as you know tattoos are hard and no fake skin, pig skin or anything else can compare to the real deal. right now the way you are talking you are already thinking of giving up. what are you going to do when someone comes in and wants you to tattoo something that is crazy hard and then sits and rips it apart with every line you make. or someone tells you that all your work is shit. or wants to kick your ass because they are unhappy with the tattoo. i think you need to stay where you are listen to the guys and things will be ok. you cant stay a apprentice forever if they think you are ready then you probably are. now that being said i will give you some advise the best thing for you to do in all your career is BREATH.( it helps), tattoos are a way for us as artist to create works of art. they are just that ART. when we do tattoos they are a part of us what we see. all of us as artist normally question a tattoo and we pick it apart and most times we hate it. that's because we care about our work and we strive to make it better on the daily. thing is you have to care. and you have to be confident in yourself . i think you have the care thing covered. now you have to be confident. maybe that is what they are teaching you now. so don't give up everyone has a bad day or week you just have to keep moving forward. just one more thing to remember the day that making money means more then your tattoos then that is the day you should stop tattooing. i know you said something about them getting you ready to start making money, but i will tell you that money is just another tool for doing your art don't let it drive you, let your art drive you. there are so many great artist out there that would rather not do a tattoo because the client doesn't have enough money. so they just sit there and do nothing. instead they should take the client knock out this bad ass piece and have more of their work out there for everyone to see . that's why i say don't let money drive you let your art drive you . i wish you luck and hope this helps...
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RE:apprenticeship concerns

Hi, thanks for the advice. Maybe you're right, that's it's just frustration, that I need to build my confidence and that I can be a living contradiction, sometimes I just can't help it. I'll send a link to the tattoo I did, from my instagram page.Then I'll send a healed picture in 2 weeks, when it's fully healed.


I will stay at the shop. Perhaps I should just badger them with questions if they keep saying stuff like "it just happens" or "it's hard to explain"? When I hear answers like that it just sets off alarms in my head and then i get little sigh of disappointment and then go off to see what I can find on things like tattoo now or here. There are times when I feel I don't have enough information and crave more so I go looking to what other artists do and conventions, etc. Does that make me sound bad? :-\

Although I still don't think I'm ready to do tattoos on customers or my friends or family like the guys at the shop think I am. Maybe a good 3,4 or 5 on myself first. I'm a little hesitant to ask questions about the next tattoo, I feel I should go to the absolute basics and just a simple minimalistic line tattoo, rather than doing a full colour tattoo? I like the idea of doing a polygonal/origami dinosaur.
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RE:apprenticeship concerns

hey man, so i checked out your flower and as far as the over all piece its not really that bad. i mean yes there are things you can improve on but over all i have seen a lot worse. i also looked at your pigskin work and i will say that the work you did on those were a lot better you did great on those, your art work looks to be going in a great direction and i honestly can say that if you keep working on some things you will do great. now this is just my two cents worth. i noticed that when working on the pigskin you were tattooing in a manner of a old school tattooist your line work was more direct and solid you seem to be way more relaxed and confident. shading was also more saturated. on your leg you were shaking so your lines show that. but as a first tattoo that is expected so don't feel bad about that. with time you will get use to the machine and you will gain strength in your hands plus muscle memory. i think that the biggest issue with your tattoo is the same thing most first timers do including me is your light handed. now don't get me wrong being light handed can be a great thing ,you can do things that heavy handed people cant like work the skin longer shade very soft shades and be able to build tattoos with more depth. but it can be a pain in the ass too. it can make line work fall out and make shading color look not saturated if you don't spend the extra time with it. i would like to see the healed result just to see if the spots i seen lay flat. so my advise is next tattoo you do try to think of it being that pigskin,be confident, and try to push through the skin with a little more pressure that will keep the needles in the skin more so your lines are more solid, not a lot just a little you don't want any blowouts. the shading make sure you pack the color in there try to get your needles in there and work the color in and then get out. work in small tight sections .and last of all focus on just that tattoo forget everything around you, everything that you are thinking about in your life and just have fun with it, be happy to be tattooing, after-all that's what you want in your life is to tattoo,so be proud of yourself because you are getting there. hope this helps....
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RE:apprenticeship concerns

Thanks for looking at my tattoo(and other work). Much appreciated. And some great advice too, will definitely take it into my next tattoo.I will think of it as going from A to B, whenever I feel shaky or my hand or wrist position gets awkward, just pull out, stop, relax, ask questions if I'm unsure, then go back in.

You're right about being light handed. I'm light handed with my graphite drawings.
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RE:apprenticeship concerns

So, I've done another 3 tattoos since my flower. Haven't got a healed picture up of that yet but these are my other tattoos, in chronological order.




third one is the rose, not the hummingbird. That was done by Cally Jo.
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