For the love of Tattoos
I thought a lot about what my very first blog post should be about. You see, I have never had a blog before. Hell, I haven’t even kept a diary since I was a kid. Who would care what I have to say, right? I am just a “normal” person, an average Joe if you will, a tattoo artist in a small town, in a small state…what could I have to share with the world that anyone would find interesting? Well, with some strong encouragement from a few people, I see that perhaps there maybe some people out there who are, in fact, interested. I don’t know who you people are, but to be honest, you kind of weird me out.
Well, I figured that since this blog is part of my studios web site, most of you have probably already read my bio…so I don’t need to waste your time readdressing that topic. I figured I could talk a little bit about tattooing and what it means to me to be a tattoo artist. That is such a small statement with such a large answer. At least for me it is.
Like every life story, every tattooers story is a bit different. Their introduction to tattoos, getting their foot in the “industry” door, their apprenticeship (or lack there of), the ups and downs of their careers etc. These stories are as diverse and complicated as the individuals themselves. The one thing I have found to be pretty common amongst people who choose to make tattooing their career is the reason WHY they choose to be tattoo artists. This common link amongst us is an exceptional passion for the art form. Now I am not talking about your common every day “tat bro,” kitchen magician or the “I tattoo on the side” guy. I am talking about real, professional tattooers. These are the people who devote themselves to this art form. It is not just a job, a status or a hobby. These are men and women who eat, sleep and breathe tattooing and everything that goes into being a GOOD tattoo artist. They work tirelessly to improve their skill level, their understanding of their equipment, health and safety practices, design and composition skills, understanding of color theory etc. They are not motivated by money or fame or status. They simply want to do work that they and their clients can be proud of. I would like to think that I am one of these tattooers. At least, I try my hardest, every day, to be one. The passion comes naturally. I love art…of all kinds. I always have. Creating art has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I draw, I paint, I see beauty every where I go, in every face I see. But my artistic spark did not fully become a part of me until I found tattooing. There was so something so visceral about it. I was instantly captivated. I knew what I wanted to do with my life…but I had no idea what I was getting myself into. When I first started, like most people who try to tattoo, I just thought it was cool. I learned VERY quickly that it was not nearly as easy as it looked. In fact, it was REALLY hard. I have been tattooing for over 12 years now and I STILL think it is hard…if that tells you anything at all. In fact it took me YEARS to even really get a handle on the whole thing. Being able to consistently lay a tattoo into the skin well, encompasses so much more than just putting needle to flesh. From a clients initial idea to the end product is a journey that requires a great deal of work on the artists part. Despite what reality tattoo shows would like you to believe an artist cannot draw a full sleeve in 15 minutes. At least this artist can’t! From research to multiple sketches to the work necessary to maintain a clean and safe work environment, I normally will put several hours of prep work into each tattoo I do. I take these tasks on happily, with some help from my handy assistant, because I know at the end of the prep, I get to tattoo something I and my client will love. Which, at the end of my day, leaves me with a sense of accomplishment and purpose. Tattooing, for me, is one of the most rewarding careers one could have… IF you are willing to put in the hours. Tattooing has taught me the what hard work is and what it can bring into your life.
My commitment to my career has also taught me a powerful sense of personal responsibility. What I do on a daily basis will stay with my clients every second of every day for the rest of their lives. Heavy, right? You have no idea. You see, we all have bad days. Days when we are not on our “A” game, when we don’t feel well, when we have something on our minds. I am sure you can all relate to that. Imagine if your bad day could end up a permanent mark on someone’s skin. That is an enormous amount of pressure wouldn’t you say? I have learned to cope with that pressure by adapting a lifestyle that allows me to be clear headed. I have created a studio where I feel comfortable working and I have surrounded myself with people (albeit very few) that are of the same mindset. If I do not feel I am able to give the person in my chair 100%, I tell them so. I would rather turn someone (and their money) away than tattoo them knowing that I am not giving them the best work I am capable of. I constantly challenge and push myself to get better, and I am honest with my self and my customers about my limitations. I have learned to say “No” to tattoos I don’t think I can do well and to ideas that simply won’t work as a tattoo. I have also learned to accept responsibility for the mistakes I make and to do my best to make it right . I also make an enormous effort to keep those mistakes few and far between. I take pride in what I do and I am enormously grateful for those who choose to sit in my chair and allow me to tattoo them. I recognize the moral responsibility that comes with my chosen career path and am grateful for it’s presence in my life. I feel it makes me a better person all the way around.
I have learned that being competitive is a selfish and useless motivator. I say it all the time, “I am not trying to be the best, I am simply trying to be the best that I can be.” My motivation comes from a desire to better myself, not to be better than others. The bottom line is, concerning myself with who is better than I am (or worse), only takes focus away from my journey to better myself. When I stopped worrying about what other tattooers were doing, how good they were in comparison to me, I saw an almost immediate improvement in my work, my attitude and my happiness. I realized that I cannot control what others do, the choices they make or the things they say. The only thing I have any control over is myself. This has been not only a vital part of my success as an artist, but my happiness as a human being.
You see, when it comes down to it, some of the most important life lessons I have learned as an adult, have come from my choice to be a tattoo artist. It has been an incredibly difficult and long journey, but through the challenges I have faced in my career, I have gained strength, knowledge and most importantly, the ability to persevere. Tattooing has given me so much more than I could ever put into words and so much more than I could ever give back. I am so very grateful to be able to play a part, however small, in such a timeless and beautiful art form.