Tattoo Blog

Art that adorns the flesh…

Summa Cum Lousy

December 20th, 2008 by

Just about any artist out there will tell you that to become a tattoo artist the first thing you need to know is how to draw. Many of today’s tattoo artists have come from backgrounds in other art forms, graphic arts (I went to school and was a graphic artist for several years in the 80’s myself.), advertising, classical art, etc.

I took art in school, and was lucky enough to have been apprenticed as a tattoo artist before I got into graphic arts. Even Corey Miller, who readily admits to a scratcher background, learned the real deal from artists like Bob Roberts at Spotlight Tattoo, and eventually his all important meeting with Jack Rudy.

Even for well trained artists there is the time it takes to learn to tattoo well, so if you add it all up they have quite a few years learning art on top of the traditional one year apprenticeship needed to learn to tattoo. So what?

The problem is the popularity of tattoos has created quite a number of wanna be’s who are desperate to break into what they perceive as an easy way to make money, (Yeah, I can hear the snickering from anyone who has actually worked the job now.), and they are willing to do anything to become a tattoo artist. Anything but what they need to do that is.

Enter the “Tattoo School”. These rip off artists say that they can teach you to tattoo in about three months. One web site, (And NO! I am not about to provide a link to this jerk.), even says that you do not need any artistic talent in order to go to their school, or become a tattoo artist. WTF??!! You don’t need artistic talent to be a artist? I don’t know where this guy is buying his stash, but I’m pretty sure it’s laced with PCP!

The site, as most of them do, hypes it to the hilt and make claims so outrageous that it was enough to make me want to kick someone’s ass. For one thing, unless you happen to be the second coming of Sailor Jerry, there is no way in hell you are going to learn how to tattoo properly in three months. For another, I can’t think of a single good tattoo studio that won’t laugh your ass right out the door the second you show them your good for toilet paper “diploma” and refer to a machine as a “gun”.

Even dumber than a bag of hammers are the prices on some of these “schools”. A traditional apprenticeship is going to run the would be tattoo artist around $3,000. Assuming they show enough talent to be accepted in the first place. Enrollment in one of these tattoo schools averages out at around $6,000!! Twice the price for just enough knowledge to get your ass in deep shit.

And we thought the learn to tattoo books were bad.

Check out some of the dialog about this crap on Tattoo Now, or Tattoo Info for a bit of the buzz about this rip off.

What could make this more dangerous than scratcher with a list of coke whore clients longer than a gangster’s rap sheet is the diploma. I’ve noticed that as a culture we tend to be a bit too impressed by “credentials”. Never mind if the jerk can do the job, or not. He has a diploma. This is where it could get out of hand quickly. Especially in states where the tattoo laws are less than what they should be.

As wildo has said repeatedly; if you want to be a Tattoo Artist, put in the time. Learn to draw and draw well. If you can do that much and show a bit of love and respect for the art you want to be a part of, then it’s not really that hard to find someone willing to apprentice you. Do you love the art, or is it just a quick “easy” buck to you? If you’ve been turned down for an apprenticeship, ask yourself why.

A lot of people out there think they can draw. Just like a lot of assholes trying to get on American Idol think they can sing. Just like a lot of assholes think they can write, despite the fact that they couldn’t even turn in a single B graded paper in English class. Having a tool chest full of the latest equipment does not mean your much more than Tim Allen. Talent is what you need far more than anything else.

Don’t spend twice the amount you would for a solid apprenticeship, and be honest with yourself. Show your art to strangers instead of just your ass kissing friends. Examine the reasons why you really want to be a tattoo artist and make damn certain that “for the money” isn’t in the top ten of that list.

Above all avoid the Tattoo Schools like a case of the clap. Even if you pass you’ll still be nothing more than a scratcher with a pretty piece of paper that actually says you were a ignorant, lazy jerk. Your “clients” aren’t going to be real happy with you either, and word of mouth can break you just as easily as it can make you.

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