Welcome to the wild world of tattoo apprenticeships. Brace yourself for a comically bizarre and sometimes frustrating journey filled with eccentric artists, mop buckets, carpel tunnel, and enough stories to last a lifetime.
So, you've decided to embark on the daring quest of becoming a tattoo artist? You envision yourself transforming bodies into canvases and creating breathtaking art that lasts a lifetime. But before you embark on this journey as a young tatter tot, you need to know how to secure the elusive tattoo apprenticeship. Fear not, for we are here to guide you through this expedition with a little bit of humor and a whole lot of honesty.
Step 1: Artistic Skills or Circus Act? Before you dive headfirst into printing resumes and heading out to tattoo shops, ensure you've got some artistic skills up your sleeve. The very first thing any good mentor should ask you is "show me your portfolio". And by that, we mean beyond the ability to draw stick figures on napkins. Show off your talent, as if your artistry could rival that of Michelangelo's. If you don't really like drawing then lace up your hiking boots and go for a longggg walk to think about other career paths that might be a better fit. When you become a tattoo artist all you will do everyday for the rest of your life is drawing on people, and sometimes taking your client's stick figure drawing on a napkin and try to turn it into a Michelangelo. Draw a rose 100 times. The SAME rose, until you can draw that rose without any references and with your eyes closed. Start to develop your own style of art so that you standout from the sea of look alike artists.
"It takes time to develop your voice as an artist, and I can see when someone is truly starting to develop that. That's what I look for in a portfolio"-Tim Lease, Owner and Mentor of Golden Tarot Ink Club
Step 2: The Portfolio - Your Ticket to the Tattoo Circus Ah, the portfolio - the sacred tome that holds the key to your apprenticeship dreams. Make sure it's brimming with artwork that makes heads turn, jaws drop, and tattoo machines tremble with excitement. Remember, the more bizarre and eclectic, the better! Start an Instagram account with drawings, procreate drawings, other art you may make, and a few personal photos about yourself that show off your personality and hobbies/interests. When your tattoo shop is researching you, they are looking not only at your art but also if they can stand to be around you for 100 hours a week.
Step 3: Research Tattoo Studios, Not Alien Abductions Now, it's time to research tattoo studios in your area with as much interest as a 40 year old researching conspiracy theories and alien abductions. Seek out shops that align with your quirky personality and tattoo style preferences. Go to that shop's events, read all of their blogs and posts, and visit the shop in person.
Remember, compatibility with the other tattoo artists at the shop is essential, but compatibility with your mentor is the most essential part of this entire process.
Step 4: Learn the Secret Tattoo Handshake
The secret tattoo handshake is to well, get a tattoo. One of the questions on our apprentice application is "Have you ever gotten tattooed here by the owner or any of the artists?" , and if your answer is "no" then you better have a strong portfolio to blow our minds. Don't have enough cash to get tattooed by your mentor? Well then get a side hustle job to earn that money and tell your artist when you go in for your appointment about how you got a job just so you could save up for this tattoo, and how much it means to you to get art from them. A little bit of flattery really does go a long way. Tattoo shops want the hungry student that cannot get enough of being at the shop with the artists, and living in our little tattoo circus tent. Would you ever apply for a job at a restaurant that you've never eaten at? Well maybe if you just needed a job for money, but you should want the job because you love the food, the people, and the location. Speaking of food, bribing your tattoo artist with food doesn't hurt too. Every tattooer on the planet loves any kind of cookie people will give us, and we don't give a shitt what the flavor is-
Cast these magic words, and thy doors will open: "Bro, do you want anything from 7-11?"
Step 5: The Art of Networking - Friends Meeting On The Playground Networking is like meeting kids on the playground for the first time - you awkwardly introduce yourself with sticky hands, exchange a few words, and then wonder if you'll ever be invited to their cool clubhouse! The secret to networking is - talk to people because you are generally interested in who they are as person and not because of what they can do for you. Read that sentences again, and think about how you can actually apply that in your first meeting with your favorite tattoo artist who you someday hope to get an apprenticeship from. Find things in common with the mentor like music, art, games, cars, cats, food, or anything that that can spark a bond. Comment on their Instagram stories about something you have in common. This mentor is hiring you with the knowledge that you will be breathing on the back of their neck for 100 hours a week, and following them to 7/11 so it sure doesn't hurt that they really like you! Finding tattoo artists in the wild is difficult because they tattoo all day and crawl home to crash, so look for them in their natural environments such as the tattoo studios, attend tattoo conventions, art events, and gatherings to meet established artists and learn from their wisdom. Visit the tattoo shop you want to apprentice at as much as you can, and get tattooed by as many artists as you can there. Talk to everyone at the shop. Show them pictures of your cat. Ask them what's good. Leave a 5 star google review with a photo of you and your tattoo on your way out the door, and sing your mentor's praises from the rooftops. Take photos and videos of the shop and post them on your Instagram story about how awesome it is there.
Step 6: Show Them Your Fearless Spirit Tattoo artists are known for their audacious and fearless spirit. Prove you've got the guts by just showing up at the shop and offering to clean until they hire you. This is something you only want to do if steps 1-5 are in order and if working at that tattoo shop is your one burning desire in life. A lot of shops don't post applications or announce they are hiring, and it just organically happens. We can almost guarantee that if you can draw with your own artistic style, have a strong portfolio to back it up, have gotten tattoos from the mentor and become first name basis acquaintances with them in person, then you will be welcomed to "trial" at the shop by cleaning for a few days and helping out where you are asked to. Clean the bathrooms, sweep once every hour, mop the floors, take out the trash, clean the fridge, offer to wash the mentor's car outside and you've got your interview and chance to prove yourself.
Where To Go, Or Where To NOT Go From Here Securing a tattoo apprenticeship is an unforgettable journey that calls for humor, passion, and an absurd amount of confidence. You've got to want this, and only this. Come early, and stay late. Embrace the unexpected twists that come your way. Remember, you're not just looking for an apprenticeship; you're seeking a circus troupe of tattoo artists who will welcome you into their weird family. So, arm yourself with humor and resilience, and embark on this crazy adventure into the realm of tattoos artists!