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.



RE:Bad mentor?

I am currently an apprentice as well and my boss is a woman. We are an all female shop. She has never made me draw for her, hit me, or made me work on lettering. I am not put through any "tests". She knows why I am there and respects that.
This guy sounds like he gets off being abusive. Your situation sounds terrible and I empathize. Have you ever spoken up for yourself? Do you think he is testing you to see if you'll fight back? The minute he laid a finger on you he crossed a line.
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RE:Bad mentor?

hey, seems like you are stuck between a rock and a ASSHOLE. back in the day shops where tough and gritty so yes a lot of times your mentor would do whatever he wanted and abuse was one of them. so here are some things to think about and you really need to think about these things . 1 is it a old school shop? 2 has he been tattooing for years meaning is he old?. 3 is he really testing you to see if you have what it takes? a good way to answer that one is does he come off as a nice guy or is he normally a dick? 4 are you really learning? 5 did he give you any rules or conditions when you first started mentoring you? 6 are you really happy with this teacher ?im gonna probably catch some grief on this one but here it goes. the days of mentors being A-holes are over, these type guys that think they can act like it is 1930 are just getting left in the dust. shops now days are clean, inviting and professional. yes the old school shops look cool and i love them but they are being weeded out. if a shop cant preform to the highest standards then it will not last. now days you have to walk the walk and not talk the bullshit. i have hung out in some of the most scariest shops out there and have seen some crazy shit. but that was in the 80s and 90s now things are different.95%of my clients are women between 18 to 24 and if i didn't look the part i would never get that clientele. i have never had anyone feel like they didn't belong or was scared to come in. its just my guess but i would say he is just jerking you around. free labor. and if i where in that shop the day he hit you i would of gave that guy a ass whopping he would have never forgot. that is why i say that he is a joke because if he is a owner and has never heard of a friendly work place then he is already out of business. there are laws to protect you and shops but at the end of the day business is business and it sounds like he doesn't know what the hell he is doing. i do have one more question before i end the book . do you respect and look up to your mentor do you like his work and would you work side by side with him for years? i think you already know that answer. a mentor is someone who not only shows you how to tattoo but takes you in as family.and only wants you to become better than he is. after all he is training you form his heart not the wallet. hope this helps and no matter what you do keep trying there are great teachers out there. keep us posted interested on where this goes.
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RE:Bad mentor?


Hey bro,

It is very common today to see artist take advantage of free labor, I too was a victim of being taught by a sociopathic con artist. I think you should ask your self these questions. What has your mentor done for you on a positive side during your time with him, was there ever any moments where you guys just took a break and chilled and told some jokes over a burger or something. I ask this because, despite the abuse and typical hazing, there is always a level of respect given to both parties. if there is none, then you are not in a legit environment. Do you feel proud to call this person your mentor and enjoy telling other who is teaching you. If not, then you do not have the mutual respect needed to maintain a good relationship for this apprenticeship. How well do you know him, is there anything in his personal life that may be affecting his behavior towards you. and finally, what does your gut tell you? if you truly feel like you are not happy, then you have the power to change it, you can start by having a voice and discussing your concerns with him privately, if he is not interested is listening, then you have you answer.

hope that helps. Take care

Stephen Stacey
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