To become a good tattoo artist, you need practice and experience, and the only way to get it is by tattooing real flesh. Many people start by tattooing grapefruit or other similar fruits, but this doesn’t come close to working on an actual nervous, sweaty and anxious human being. Therefore, bear in mind that you’ll have to start off as an apprentice, which is basically like unpaid training. Unless you have a significant amount of money saved up or you’re part of a very wealthy family, you’ll probably have to work two jobs at the beginning of your career to pay all the bills.
Human skin stretches, wrinkles, sunburns, cuts and eventually heals. When you paint on a paper canvas, you can keep that masterpiece for hundreds of years, but tattoos can change drastically over time. Many of your clients won’t follow their aftercare instructions and this will lead to the tattoo not healing the way it is supposed to, this is just another part of the job.
When you start tattooing you’ll feel that all your lines are crooked, and that all your tattoos lack consistency, this is just part of the process. But even after you’ve gained a lot of experience, you’ll never be immune to mistakes. Whenever you mess up, there’s no turning back since you’re dealing with something permanent, the only thing left to do is apologize and offer to cover it up for free.
It’s simply not the same thing, it’s like trying to compare drawing something on paper and carving it on a pumpkin. Having a natural aptitude for drawing is handy, but it takes a long time to understand the difference between the things you can draw and the things you can tattoo.
Here’s a bummer: if you want to get into tattooing for the money, don’t do it. The average tattoo salary for a tattoo artist is nothing spectacular and, apart from that, you’ll have to face a lot of expenses: tattoo machines, ink, disposable supplies like gloves, paper, needles, etc.
Getting a tattoo can be something very significant to some people, a process to try to turn painful moments into pieces of art. Therefore, many clients will open up to you and share their painful experiences with you. Try to leave your own emotional baggage at the door, and try to listen and walk through the process together with your client.
Many clients will come to you with tattoo ideas that are simply bad ideas. Maybe the drawing will look terribly as a tattoo, or they simply come in with a horrendous design that you don’t want to perform. You should always be open to offer your professional guidance and feedback, but if you’re dealing with a stubborn client that’s not willing to listen, you’re allowed to politely refuse to do their tattoo.
There’ll be times when you’ve been working for hours and you’re still far from being done, don’t panic. You should learn to concentrate, relax and be fully present in the moment and the tattoo you’re working on to successfully complete it.
Historically, men have been the ones to set the bar for what a “good” tattoo is. That’s why, if you’re a woman who wants to get into the industry, you should be prepared to fight for recognition and respect towards your work.
Like any other profession, being a tattoo artist is very demanding at a creative, physical and personal level. Even as the years go by and you start gaining experience and perfecting your techniques, you’ll always find reasons to criticize your own work. However, there’s no better reward, than when a client looks in the mirror to see their tattoo for the first time and they are completely satisfied and grateful for the new acquisition.
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