To many young men and women today, especially with the employment picture as discouraging as it is, are looking for something fun and profitable to do with their lives. Who would blame them? No one wants to be broke with no reason to get up in the morning. But what is there to do? If you have an artistic bent, most of the industries that used to employ artists who drew things by hand, like album covers, T-shirt designs, animation for movies, etc., have turned to computerized technologies. So, whether you are a graduate of art school or an everyday doodler, there’s not a lot open to you, unless you put your artistic skills on the back burner and look for a regular, perhaps less satisfying, day job.
If this is the case with you (whether you are young and looking for a start in life or have a decade or two under your belt), there is a solution, at least if you watch television and see the plethora of tattoo-related shows on the air. In fact, all you have to do is walk out into the sunlight and see all the skin covered in body art to realize not only is tattooing a major fad nowadays but a possible career for an aspiring artist looking for something to do.
It used to be, say ten or fifteen years ago and more, that tattooing was a closed clubhouse. No one was allowed to enter without the permission of the established artists and shop owners. Information was kept secret and I even remember one wannabe artist dumpster-diving behind the tattoo shops, in order to procure a discarded catalog of tattooing equipment. Today, however, the landscape has changed and information is everywhere. Practically anyone with a credit card can purchase a tattoo machine (never call it a “gun”), pre-made inks, needles and a power supply. Notice that I didn’t say “quality tattoo machine.” A quality machine, from Micky Sharpz, for example, can cost three or four hundred dollars. A cheap-o one made in China can cost fifty bucks on the Internet. So, a wannabe can get everything he or she needs—no matter that it won’t work properly and is a piece of junk—for practically nothing. The main problem, of course, is that, as bad and useless as cheap equipment is, the main thing missing from this package (called a “starter kit”) is a precision piece of equipment for sterilizing the machines, needles and tubes, so you don’t transmit a serious disease or cause major infection. The problem for the beginner, of course, is that a proper autoclave can cost a couple thousand dollars. Which is why most “scratchers” (people who tattoo without proper training) forgo this piece of equipment and are content putting their friends and neighbors in serious jeopardy when they tattoo them in the bedroom, garage or basement. The truth is, without understanding what Zeke Owen calls the “Sterile Chain of Events,” and tattooing without using a proper, certified autoclave, you can kill someone.
All that said, what does the aspiring artist who yearns for a chance to live the tattoo lifestyle do? Hey, how do I get my chance to go to work at noon, sit around and joke with your tattoo buddies and make art on pretty girls’ backsides all day? The answer is one word: apprenticeship. There is no replacement for learning the proper way to do things and an apprenticeship is the answer. Even the famous tattoo artists who didn’t have one say that their biggest regret is that they never had one. Just the other day I heard a well-known artist say, “I made so many mistakes and it took three times as long to learn what I was doing because I never had a proper apprenticeship.” So, how do you get an apprenticeship? I’ll spell it out in the next episode but, for now, begin your apprenticeship by boning up on tattoo history and the world of tattooing by clicking onto my www.tattooroadtrip.com website and checking out my Daily Blog.