So you've managed to get yourself an apprenticeship, and you're on your way to becoming a tattoo artist. You already know you're in for some knuckling down and hard work but how will you know that you're actually succeeding? There are many aspects to being a tattoo artist and it can be a life changing experience going from an enthusiast to a professional. Becoming a tattoo artist means you are joining a unique collective of artists who span from those just paying their bills to others known around the world for their skills.
You know you're becoming a tattoo artist when you actually crave being at the studio. Most artists spend more time in the tattoo studio than they do at home with their families or out with their friends. If you've started to miss the whine of the machines, the smell of green soap, or you've been dreaming about the whirr of the thermofax machine then you might be well on your way. Very few people will complete their apprenticeship without hating it at some point, but those who make it fall in love with the tattoo studio and not just with drawing constantly or the easy atmosphere.
Once you have started your journey to becoming a tattoo artist you will undoubtedly reach several goals and milestones. The first is obviously the first time you get to use a machine. Some will reach this point faster than others and it's all to do with your mentor, ideally this comes after much drawing, theory and commitment. Another big milestone is your first paid tattoo, the difference being that you have graduated from tattoo kindergarten and are actually almost there to being a professional. As each mentor works differently they may choose to celebrate different milestones with you, for example your first black and gray, your first color tattoo, or your first piece of flawless line work.
Becoming a tattoo artist means changing your outlook on life as you will soon learn that in your job the customer is not always right, and that while you may disagree you are still there to serve their needs. There is a fine line between providing the best artwork you can and giving in to their demands. As you learn to tattoo some very artistic souls can find this crushing and difficult to work with, on the other hand many experienced artists operate on a take it or leave it method; while you are becoming a tattoo artist you don't have that luxury and you have to take what you are given. Most adults have trouble with this aspect of becoming a tattoo artist as few people are naturally humble.
Even as you are becoming a tattoo artist you will learn that the person teaching you doesn't know everything. Becoming a tattoo artist is a learning experience that will last a lifetime and though your skills might surpass your mentor finding other, better artists to emulate and learn from is essential to keep growing artistically. In this way you will never be done and your work will always be in flux getting better and better.
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