Thanks to the popularity of reality tattoo tv there are loads of aspiring tattoo artists. It seems like every artistic friend designs tattoos or draws tattoos or wants to be a tattoo artist. There are 20 aspiring “artists” to every one artist willing to give an apprenticeship. Most artists don’t want more competition, and most aspiring apprentices don’t have what it takes to be a tattoo artist. So what do you need?
As said, most artists don’t want apprentices. It’s not that they don’t want to pass on the knowledge, it’s just that most of the people they get asking are not the sort of people they want to follow them around for 70 hours a week or they just don’t have the artistic skills to be interesting enough to make it. I knew one girl who got an apprenticeship simply because she wouldn’t go away. She showed up every day, eventually she started answering the phones, cleaning around the shop, and doing the daily “chores” of an apprentice so it just became a natural progression to let her start one. Stubbornness will get you a long way so keep pushing if you’re serious and eventually a space will open up.
Tattooing is drawing 20 – 60 hours a week, more if you count the early mornings and days off spent sketching for the time you don’t have in the shop because you’re tattooing. Drawing, drawing and more drawing is what tattooing is about. If you don’t like to draw, or you’re not good at drawing, why would you want to be a tattoo artist? If you’re not already drawing you should be. Remember that it’s all about quality over quantity. Showing up with 100 poor drawings versus 5 mediocre ones and one amazing one shows that you have the ability to be amazing. I have hired an apprentice based on a single drawing out of a sketchpad of junk. His drawing was awful, but he kept trying and that one drawing showed he had skills I thought were teachable.
It’s amazing how flighty people can be. The apprentice who promises to be there, then claims car trouble and posts instagram posts getting drunk with friends. Tattooing is a job, an apprenticeship is a job. If you can’t be trusted to show up as an apprentice then you can’t be trusted to show up as an artist and you’ll get fired.
Avoid Tattoo Schools
Traditional apprenticeships are free. In exchange for your blood, sweat, and tears in the shop, plus a reasonable amount of time working as a paid artist you’ll learn skills. There are plenty of “tattoo schools” who say for an exorbitant fee they can teach you to tattoo “in a week” or some other arbitrary time. Tattooing takes practice, muscles in your hand have to be built up and trained to do the job. You can’t benchpress 200lb in a week, so why do you think you could draw with a vibrating 1lb barbell on the end of a needle? Most places that charge for an apprenticeship are only in it for the money and not the craft. Don’t go to them.