A career in tattooing
Career as a tattoo artist needs the right skills with an artistic background. Getting trained under a senior tattoo artist can be equally good.
The art of tattooing has been in existence for years now. It’s one of the very ancient practices that have been improvised over and over again to reach where it stands today. Now, the growing popularity of this art form has not encouraged many people to get their skin inked, but has also opened up a new avenue for a career in tattooing. Today, many youngsters feel that career as a tattoo artist can be lucrative too. And they are not completely wrong also! Of course, there is a thin line that separates an enthusiast art lover from the ones who do it for money. Experts say that a tattoo artist can earn anywhere from 50K to a few lakhs of rupees.
Sameer Patange, popularly known as the Bollywood tattoo artist, from Mumbai has been in business for 13 years now. Having inked the who’s who of Bollywood, Sameer started his career as an intern under Dr. Kohiyar. He worked with him for five years before starting Kraayonz tattoo studios. Today, he has got a chain of parlors in three other cities: Mumbai, Pune and Goa. Ask him on what makes a good tattoo artist, he is quick to reply: “Dedication, love for art and hard work.” He explains, “If you want to be a tattoo artist, the fist think you need to have is love for art, which is why it’s easier for an art student to do well in this industry.” It is also belief that the best way to ensure a promising career as a tattooist is to pursue a traditional apprenticeship.
There are many senior tattoo artists in the country who take interns. Sameer himself has had a lot of interns under him. “My interns are very much handpicked. I prefer art students for the simple reason that I don’t have to take them through the basics. Since, training your own students is like an investment, I make sure that they are taught about all the aspects of tattooing, which can be the technical, mechanical, and even the counseling part. Holding a machine comes much later, which may, for some, even be as late as a year. There are a lot of things one has to learn prior to that.” “I have a special course which has been broken only to give the best to my students,” said Sameer.
Bangalore-based tattoo artist, Pradeep Menon, who was once a student under Sameer Patange, runs Dark Arts The Tattoo Studio, a tattoo parlor specialized in various genres. He opines that working under a mentor is extremely important. He has been taking interns too, but says, “I take only those who come from an art background.” He added, “The first six months is more of drawing and seeing some live work. Tattooing has many aspects to it. A good tattoo artist has to know a lot of things, which may be as simple as keeping the equipments protected, after care, counseling et al. So, the first few months are spent teaching him these things”. “Once the initial things are taught, I then give them some minor work – like filling and outlines. Shading comes much later.”
The traditional apprenticeship dates back as far as the electric tattoo machine and probably further. Now, all apprenticeships are different, all with their own details and dynamics. Sometimes the mentor is more of a friend, which is mostly the case, but, this, by no means, imply anything else. As most of these students work under the trainer, some even get placed in the same studio, after the training, a lot of time is spent on these interns to get the best out of them. The hardest thing, whatsoever, is the get the right mentor.
Dominic Savo, a tattoo artist shares his experience. “I had to start tattooing on my own because I couldn’t get a mentor who could teach me. I looked for one, but was disheartened to find any. Many people are reluctant to teach you. I did a lot of online research, read many books – some, I even got imported from the US”. “Since, I have been sketching for a long time, even prior to me working as a tattoo artist, it helped me later to work on the skin too.” “Now, I have been getting regular inputs from my master in Singapore. I also attend a lot of tattoo conventions and converse a lot of tattoo artists who are specialized in their own genres.”
How it all starts:
- Get the right mentor
- A genuine love for art
- Never work on skin the first few months. Draw a lot of sketches of various
- Online research. See a lot of videos, many tutorials can be found in the internet.
- Start of easier designs. Do more of filling work initially.
- Learn all aspects of tattooing: medical, technical, mechanical, counseling… all adds up to this.