Updated: Dec 8, 2022
One of the coolest things I have found as a Tattoo Apprentice at Speakeasy Tattoo in Los Angeles is, how I am constantly learning in very different ways. You may read this and think, well yes…obviously. But there is a very interesting way that learning to Tattoo not only takes on the process of training in a new practice, but also learning a whole new idea. Now, aside from the daily expedition one goes on when trying to hone a new craft, there is also a really amazing psychological aspect to understanding this skill. To fully comprehend this, there are a couple different categories that must be addressed.
First off is the actual tangible skill of learning this artistry. The “know how” of the practice, or the ability to skillfully use a tattoo machine to articulate the image as if to be as easily manipulated as a pencil or paint brush. Of course, every true artist would laugh at the concept that articulating any tool, be it a pen, pencil, or even a surgeon’s scalpel is any easier than the next. So, what I am talking about here is the adeptness of muscle memory that takes place while practicing day after day. This evolution is crazy to be a part of, as I watch myself grow in a way liken to a baby learning to walk. As though it were a train forging forward, your body will inevitably adapt and become stronger.
Next is the very simple but astounding way an artist in this trade is constantly learning about things that never entered their world of interests before. Often, when you pick a profession and settle into life as a “whateverist”, you don’t quite get the opportunity to understand somethings outside of your realm of being on such a consistent basis. And, don’t get me wrong, there will always be projects that you will automatically be more excited about, but I have really enjoyed learning, and becoming passionate, about something new and foreign to me. Creating a tattoo is mostly about research. How the image looks, where the image comes from, and what makes it meaningful and prominent. I like this part because it always keeps you humble, learning about something that is inherent within your client but can be like a new language to the artist. You can never investigate too much.
And finally, the last aspect is learning to communicate. This part is where you, the artist, have to gain an acute understanding of the clients imagined/unimagined story and transform that idea into an agreed upon image. This communication is a process where the artist sometimes needs to sense when to build from, or pull out an essence lying just beneath the surface. This communication becomes a dance between the two. And let’s be real, some people are just better dancers than others. So, that’s why this can be one of the most important lessons for a tattoo artist to learn. Acquiring the ability to communicate with the clients on varying different levels to create the perfect tattoo for them as an individual will keep you in business for a very long time.
All and all, becoming a successful tattoo artist means you have to be ok with being a perpetual student. Always learning is part of the trade.
“Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.” – Anthony J. D’Angelo-