SO. You want to be a tattoo artist. Congratulations, welcome to hell. Just kidding, kind of. In this day and age of wanting to stand out and have a fun and artistic job, the notion of becoming a tattoo artist can seem appealing, but just remember, nothing worth it comes easy. Lets dive into what you may experience by becoming a tattoo apprentice.
The good part of wanting an apprenticeship is if you’re talented enough, you’ll be able to land one pretty easily. The bad news is for a vast span of time, you’ll be at the mercy of your teacher. Tattoo artists don’t take on students so willy-nilly though. For this to happen, a very experienced artist or shop owner must think that you have the POTENTIAL to be a great tattoo artist. This means that you understand and have a well earned talent for drawing, and art in general. But believe you me, as soon as you land it, you’ll be learning from the bottom up. You’ll spend a large part of your time observing your teacher while they work. The other larger part of the time you’ll spend cleaning, making food runs, and generally getting shit talked to from the other artists in the shop. Did I mention that you don’t make any money? Like literally zero. So this means you’ll have to have a part time job to keep a roof over your head and food in your belly, or you were blessed enough to have understanding parents that let you live with them. But don’t worry, humane artists will usually buy you food when you make a run for theirs, and the less humane ones will usually at the least give you their leftovers. Let me be clear by stating this right now: You do not have to become a tattoo artist. You WANT to become a tattoo artist. This is why literally nobody will make it easy peasy on you. Its earned, not given.
You may now be wondering, how bad is the hazing? Do tattoo artists really still haze apprentices? The answer is again, complicated. In “the old days” tattoo apprentices usually were treated pretty rough. This can include a wide range of meanings, but generally speaking verbal and physical abuse were not out of the cards. In the modern age of apprenticeships, most artists don’t want to act as a gatekeeper to those they see real potential in. So while you may experience you fair share of “suck it up, buttercup” moments, nobody who runs a well established shop would let any person, much less their students, fall to the hands of actual abuse. But bear in mind, your teachers will not be easy on you, mainly because your future clients will not take it easy on you. At all. And though its never fun to be at the bottom rung of a totem pole, you’ll appreciate your tough skin when you have to deal with those who would give you a hard time while you’re trying to work on or with them. The last thing you want is to get chewed out by a Karen or a Chad only to run to the back and cry about it. There is a certain toughness you must possess to be in this industry, point blank.
So now that you’re pissing yourself in fear and are googling the nearest retail establishment hiring, let me tell you WHY it really is worth it to become a tattoo artist. Very few people in this world can say without a shadow of a doubt that they love their job. That they can’t imagine doing anything else. But tattoo artists, for the most part, can. Sure, you’ll have bad clients. Sure, you’ll get cancelled on and you spent all night obsessing over a design. That’s life. But you will get to call your own shots, working up to offering only the style of tattooing you’re the best at. Also, the money. We can’t front and act like the money in this industry isn’t stellar if you work on your craft and cultivate a good enough clientele. Who else can go to work and in a single day make sometimes double what an average person would make in a week? Tattoo artists in some cases make six figures like a doctor or lawyer would, and with all the fun of creating your art on someone. You make people feel good about the way they look. You help people heal from traumas by getting a piece of art that reminds them that they survived! So is a tattoo apprenticeship worth it? Hell yeah it is.