Guess who finally got a table confirmed for Montréal’s Otakuthon!! Daaang aaawwright man!!! So for those in the area and those attending the con on august 12-14, let’s meet there! I’m commission friendly and love a good chat!
I hope this hasn't been asked before but, what should you include in a portfolio in order to get a job as a tattoo artist? I assume it's different to what you would put in a regular art/illustration portfolio
This here could be a useful read if you missed it before!
To reiterate, I recommend you showing your best finished works as well as your best sketches in a nice portfolio book. Things like portraits, still-life, compositions, clean inkwork, nice lettering and general good handwriting usually catch an employer’s eye. You can take photos of your paintings and show as many pieces you want that really showcase your current art skills and what you can do. Similar to an art/illustratio portfolio, you really just want to sell yourself.
Do include some tattoo-style works since they do catch a lot of attention here. Dynamic yet self-contained pieces usually does it. And most importantly by all means avoid including photos of tattoos you have done from home! It gives a bad image right at the start and we will definitely be unimpressed. (That is unless you have had professional experience tattooing in a shop and are looking into changing workplace.)
By the way, if any of you would like some input on your personal portfolio you want to submit for a tattoo job I’d be most glad to help you and give you more pointers. Good luck!
If we’re talking about very first kiddy crush there was this rebel kiddo I really liked in third grade. Rowdy wild child who was also a little outcast and even reserved. A nosebleed would usually be his trophy and punching wasps to the school’s brick walls were his usual presents for me. He skipped the very last day of school that year and I never heard of him again.
What's the worst part of working in a tattoo shop?
Plus a secret BONUS QUESTION: Have you ever done a tattoo that you really disliked the concept of and/or thought it looked bad on the person, but tattooed it anyway?
Without sounding too high and mighty, I think the worst part of working in a tattoo shop is working with the others that don’t do the same thing as you.
How would I know if this chair is properly sterilized? Why doesn’t the thermofax copier work properly? Did… they use my machines?! I really do my best cleaning up after not only myself but the other pigs as well. It really sucks when I come back on my shift and see the tattoo section of the store turn into a clusterfuck of sketches, pencils, stencil paper, what have you. We don’t have a salary so most lazy tattooist will not bother cleaning up properly and go on about saying “Oh well I’m not paid to do THAT.”
As for doing tattoos I have disliked… Yes! I have done them, and a lot even! And this is usually after having tried to come up with a concept I find more aesthetically pleasing or something that suited the client better. Sometimes I’ll fight for it, some other times I’ll give in really easily. It really depends on the clients themselves, since no matter what they have the final word on what I mark their bodies with. Usually ends up with a win-win or win-lose(me) situation! As long as the client is satisfied I can finish my day in peace.
not sure if you got my last askbox thing, but I got a new Tumblr! I had to leave for a while to deal with some stuff, but I'm back. Also, how does it feel to get a tattoo?
Hello sorry I did miss your last question! I’ll answer all in a bundle here.
I work at a HighTimes in downtown Montréal, QC. If your friend wants to get some old works finished or even new ink done I’ll be glad to do that for him.
How does a tattoo feel? I’d say it feels like a really slow and deep cat-scratch. With some burning sensations similar to a sunburn. I think it’s more annoying, more something you have to endure than it is something POW painful. I bet the sound of the buzzing machine and the fear of needles is usually what makes the experience of getting a tattoo more scary than it is painful. For a lot of people, it’s understandably unpleasant. And a lot of them even find the feeling addictive. Which in turn makes them want even more and more tattoos…
You have a lot of patience to answer all of those questions in such awesome detail! Thanks for sharing all of your answers with us, you must really love your job.
Thank you, and thanks to all of you who asked me tattoo-related questions! You made that TUESDAY TATTOO TMI fun.
I know that a lot of people are shy to bother asking these things, either online and in real life. Even my own clients would hold back. I’m sure some of these can help you go through tolerable tattoo sessions, help you become the next tattoo artist, or even have a small insight of my own personal experiences. I indeed do love my job.
Feel free to keep asking if you have anymore questions regarding the trade, tattoo post-care, or even if you are considering a tattoo! I will answer privately to make things easier!
sorry if this comes of as a rude question, but how did you support yourself while you were learning to tattoo / before you established yourself? was it hard?
Financially it was a rocky ride.
I had to go through different part-time jobs, take commissions, do freelance work, all the while doing this tattoo apprenticeship. I was lucky enough to be staying with my parents, and able to save up with my shop’s clerk/floor job as well. With those savings I started building my kit, get my first machine, buy my disposables and other medical supplies as advised by my tattoo master at the time. The first year tattooing is definitely not lucrative, you spend so much money buying what you need and your first few clients are never paying ones either. Just thinking about that first year makes me glad I went through that all!
On my other post, I said that tattooing pays well. But you have to be ready to spend a lot physically and financially before being able to sit comfortably. Besides! It’s a non-stop effort because even today I can’t just kick back and expect my clientele to do all the work!
i know it's technically not tuesday anymore (2 in the morning) but what made you decide to become a tattoo artist? Or was it something you always dreamed of?
I always like a good art challenge!
Drawing on paper or painting on canvas is definitely not inking a live skin. That is what I imagined before tattooing and I wanted to be able to take my artistry to a whole new level. Lo and behold, tattooing really is a workmanship that is different, difficult, frustrating, fun, rewarding, and most of all is a trade that has permitted to grow in a lot of different way.
I suppose that aside of wanting a more honourable career, yes I did always want to tattoo. I admit that at the time, it was always more of a lighthearted prompt from my peers to go into tattooing because of my inking. People always encouraged me to do something I’d love with my art, even my parents had told me that tattooing was one of those things.
By the time I was 18, I would look around like a naive bumpkin on how to get a job as a tatttooist. I’d draw wannabe tattoo flashes and tribal design but never any finished piece, no illustrations and etc, I was lazy. I was even lazier in pursuing tattooing, because I stopped quickly after being denied in a few shops.
By the time I was 22, I had much more art and my head was more where it was at. I was more intent on really hunting Montréal city in search of a shop that’d take me. Got refused to quite a lot of shops, but this one place tipped me greatly. Said I had a strong portfolio, liked the varied subjects and mediums, how I seemed to have great visual memory, clean linework, the like. Told me to go around and bring a resume and apply for floor job the next time I went there.
Fast forward to now. I’m still very happy that I was able to go through all the hardships to become what I am today! It was a long trip, and it’ll be a longer path now that I want to become something even near to a tattoo legend.
Hopefully you're still answering these!
How often would you say you refuse tattoos, and what are the grounds for refusing to do them? I haven't heard of many artists doing this, so the insight would be neat!
Thanks, also, for sharing your answers to this subject, it's really valuable because one day I kind of want to be a tattoo artist
I honnestly do not refuse tattoos that much. And when I do, I often come up with an alternative!
BOYFRIEND/GIRLFRIEND/BELOVED I will usually avoid tattooing these names as they can easily bite you back. Doing these often entails the possibility of having to cover it up in a near future if these clients come back to see you. I’ve had a mother cover up her own SON’S name. Harsh. Sometimes I DO lower my standards and will do some of the exceptions.
GANG LOGOS/OFFENSIVE SIGNS I avoid these types of tattoos because I don’t want myself nor the shop to be associated with these. When you happen to do one, you quickly become these special-people’s go-to-tattooist and you find yourself unwillingly binded to them.
UNDERAGE I WILL refuse persons under the age of 18. Even with present parental consent, I don’t always do what the kid wants. A chestpiece on a 16 year-old girly? Think again. Shoulder-piece on a prepubescent 16 y-o boy? No offense, but you still don’t know how you’ll grow. Both physically and mentally. If you’re 16 and reasonable, I can work a big piece for you, I’m not that mean I swear!
DANGERZONES I’ll often hesitate back and forth with danger-zones tattoos. Those are hand/fingers, necks, face. (elbows suck too) With poor care, these tattoos fade or the lines blow up. I tend to refuse hands and necks if you don’t have any other visible tattoos on your body. It’s a little judgemental, but it’s for your own sake. In short it’s a big societal sacrifice. I also don’t tattoo lips.
I will also be wary of certain other things such as very poor hygiene, excessively bad skin conditions, fresh wounds/scars, influence of drugs/alcohol, difficult cover up jobs, and plain foul attitude.
That said, I REALLY am reasonable in my refusals. I’m really easy and often end up tattooing more than half of what I mentionned earlier. It’s definitely all a matter of common sense!
By the way, I appreciate you appreciating this. It means very much to me since I’ve been doing this trade for years now. Hopefully these answers can be a small guideline for your own path into inkslinging!
The short and sweet of it would be yes, yes it pays very well!
After a lot of work, months and years of dedication, and most of all discipline of course it pays well, and not only financially. All the above skills are required throughout the whole experience. If you let yourself go, it’s really easy to give up.
The first 2 years are always the toughest. You expend a lot of time, energy, and an enormous amount of money on supplies and aren’t even near to breaking even. Especially with the seasonal downs during autumn and winter.
The way payroll goes is similar to hairdressers. I get paid by tattoo, by client. A cut of that amount goes to my boss, which pays the rent of my spot/chair. If I don’t have any clients a certain day, I don’t get paid. And if that goes on for weeks at a time (winter), I’m pretty much screwed as I have no income. Sometimes I’d even become lazy and unmotivated and will not want to do the small insignificant tattoos. It’s a really vicious cycle.
It does take a better turn during the estival season though! The more clients I get, the more income I make. I would remember being in the red a whole month and suddenly being able to pay rent after a busy day of work. As well as pay a round of drinks to my buds!
In the end, this kind of job can be very rewarding if you put yourself into it! Learn to save up, have good work attitude, and don’t let a work opportunity pass. Especially the latter.
What is the most intricate tattoo you have ever done?
Back in my very first year of tattooing when I was still green and clumsy, I’d get cocky and over-confident on few occasions. So, little tribal designs with simple lining and black filling? Easy. This dude comes in and wants a custom maori lizard on his shoulder with its tail circling around his arm. Easy! It’s only… lines. With black filling. Only 10 times bigger. Can do! What a MISTAKE. I learned my lesson. In the end it was very beautiful, though it took me something like 6 hours to do what would be a 2 hour job today.
Maori designs tend to be very intricate, but I love lining them because it’s usually a pleasant tattoo session. You just need to concentrate on not mixing up in your lines and loops.
Which leads to celtic knots. I don’t like them. It’s a real pain to focus on the interlocking lines! Imagine the faces of horror when the stencil dissapears after over-wiping. Truly a tattooist’s nightmare!
Have any stories about exceptionally creepy clients?
This all happened around the same time. Not very creepy per se but…
There was this mid-aged man that spoke with a really effeminate tone AND a lisp. He asked for a “Ladeh-bug on my pubith”. A ladybug, on his pubith. The actual creepy part is that he’d come every week, always asking if it was possible to do that tattoo on his pubis. Takes a card, politely thanks and vows to come back— the very next week to ask that question again. In his effeminate lisp.
Not long after, another dude comes in and requests for— wait for it. A ring of stars around his anus. He really insisted for a ring. Of stars. Around his anus. Nevermind that, just imagine how unsanitary it’d be for both the tattoo process and the post-care! Or just the pain itself!! Oh this job.
What's the process of becoming a tattoo artist?
Also what's your favorite tattoo you've got to do?
I admit that starting a tattoo career is one of the most tricky and traitorous thing to do. If you don’t have contacts, then I suggest you have a lot of guts and willpower because you’ll have to prepare yourself to be turned down and discouraged a lot!
My personal recommendations: • Carry a strong and varied art portfolio; Wow them with what you can do. Stand out! Show finished pieces with sensible composition, detailled pencillings, clean inkings, animals, portraits, anything. The key is to show how self-contained yet how dynamic your art can be. Tattooists like that kind of stuff! Try to avoid showing photos of tattoos you have done from your basement. Bad image. • Bring your resume; Please don’t leave that one out. Like the portfolio, the resume is key in showing your interest in working as an apprentice. You will be taken much more seriously that way. • Try to apply for floor/clerk job; It’s a small opening, and it may even suck a little. But it’s an opportunity that worked for me.
From then on, if not successful (it will happen) you’ll have to roam from parlour to parlour, as a ronin of the streets. Best of luck for those who want to wander this path!
What's the most offensive tattoo you've been asked to do? (tandem swastikas aside)
I have definitely been asked to do swastikas. Although…
It was a couple that was into Nazi kink roleplay. They had asked it very lightheardtedly too, giving off a naive vibe. We refused and laughed it off later on!
And I guess this just silly but this dude wanted a dollar bill with a submissive o-face lady, with “M.O.B” written all over it. As well as “Money Over Bitches” in classy lettering. He was going to send off his whole M.O.B crew to get the same tattoo done. Yeaaah.
I have been thinking about getting a tattoo for a long time, but I'm very intolerant to pain, especially around my shoulders where I would eventually want a tattoo. what do you suggest to help deal with that?
Help yourself as much as possible by a good night of sleep and a good meal before your tattoo! Prepare yourself mentally for the treatment you’ll be having but don’t fret it. Being excited-nervous is better than being scared-nervous!
On top of that I may suggest using a topical lidocaine cream such as Emla. No need for prescriptions though you need to ask for your pharmacist since it isn’t on the shelves. You apply a thick layer and cover it with plastic wrap 45 mins before said appointment. This anesthetic cream has numbing effects for around an hour and may help the more sensitive ones to withstand the pain easier and longer.
Even though it is not failproof and I always encourage doing it au naturel, Emla is definitely a solution to try out. Good luck!
What's one of your worst experiences with a client to date?
The worst experience was definitely the geisha I tattooed on the dude mentionned there.
Prior to this tattoo, he was getting ink done by a coworker. Who soon enough switched to me, because my coworker was already tired of him. Dude paid really poorly, insisted on impossible discounts, was late and would even miss some appointments without warning. At one point he had this really sweet girlfriend and she requested a design for herself. He would never let her speak though! I gave her an appointment but she called days in advance not to reschedule but to cancel the whole thing even though she left a deposit. At a later date she had to call in FOR HIM because apparently he couldn’t make it to his rendez-vous.
And then comes this geisha tattoo. Dude never EVER left deposits because he was too lazy to do so. As in, he didn’t want to pay for a drawing. He just wanted to take one of my random works and get it immediately tattooed on him. Seeing as he was a jerk already, I didn’t want to part with my works on THAT guy. But since the geisha was a flash anyway I accepted with a lot of hesitation. After a lining session and reluctance to pay up, he leaves and comes back months later to HAVE IT FINISHED ELSEWHERE. “It’s almost finished, but it’s done. And I’d like to have some more of your works!” Euh. No bub. Never.
In the very very end though, I told him off! Told him that you just don’t do things like that. That I had been bullied enough. Pretty much told him a french equivalent of “NO YOU DIN’T”. I may have been small and slouched on my tattooist chair next to the tall antagonizing dude, but I sure felt good after he got his serving of humble pie.
Generally speaking, the clients that are know-it-alls and think of themselves larger than life are the worst. They are so close-minded and belittle the tattooists so much that it makes the experience miserable. Like this one woman who would tell me “I’m suffering so much you’ve no idea!! YOU CAN’T KNOW. IT’S PAIN. STOP HURTING ME.” Like I was doing it on purpose. She moved so much I could not get good lines done, changing spots every second. After around an hour and a half, she threw the towel and left. As in left without having the lines fully completed.
That hour and a half ordeal sapped me so badly I ended up with a headache for the rest of the day. Luckily though, she paid the tattoo in full before the appointment and knew what she was doing when she left!
I have a tattoo of Zero's "Z" on my left shoulder. It's rather plain, but gets the point across. One day, however, I hope to have an entire montage to not only Zero, but the entire X series on both arms. How can I turn this awesome tattoo into the beginning of this dream?
Have a rough or semi-complete idea of what you would like to have on your body and arm yourself with collages, references, and numerous inspirational pictures. Then you go hunting for an artist, preferably someone with experience in gaming tattoo just so they know what they are up against. Sleeves are big business so you want to do your homework before tackling that! Stay on your guard and be patient, don’t be shy to say “No thanks”, but stay open-minded enough to the tattooist’s ideas.
If it was me, I would tailor the design to both your tastes and your arms measurements. After the drawing of the sleeves are done, I will schedule you to tattoo large sections at a time. From then on, it’s almost cruise-control.
But I digress! It’s the pre-tattooing here that takes the most work.
Would getting a tattoo on a buttcheek not hurt very much? I'm assuming it wouldn't because they're usually pretty chunky and fatty rather than boney.
Just wondering since if I ever get a tattoo that's where I would prefer to have it.
Chunky funky fatty butt-tattoos seem to be a breeze to endure through!
Depending on the tattoo size and the amount of time I’d spend on a butt, the most comments I’ve had would be a light-hearted “Okay my ass is getting SORE, bro!” And if anything, the most painful part of this experience is definitely the healing process. Itchy butt galore! Unless you can stay bottom-naked and never sit all the time, then you’re good!
If I could chose one it’d be the latest big session last Saturday.
Mike had come in earlier during the week for a custom piece all around the big of his forearm. He had seen what I inked and drew and wanted my personal touch on his design! Full colour Scylla summoning her sea creatures to wreak havoc on a ship. (will upload soon enough!)
I had the drawing ready, he came in at 1PM and by the time we set the stencil it was 2. From then on we ink all the way with a break every 2-3 hours. We finished at 11PM! Not only was I in a good shape that day, but Mike was a true warrior. He never EVER moved and was really pleasant to be around.
Everytime I end up shaking hands with my client is a memorable experience.
So just how many lower-body genitals have you put tattoos on? Do people really tough those out or are they crying like bitches the whole time?
PS: sup Pyro~
Hey sup RSJ OLD FRIEND!
I have honnestly not done as many as I think I did!
Although these clients tend to squirm and sink themselves into the chair. Pubis and lower are really sensitive body parts. Genital piercings is one thing, but needle-grinding for an extended amount of time is another.
On another note, I find butt tattoos really fun and funny to do! Much more unassuming than tribal-penis or pubic-names. I HAVE had been asked about doing anus tattoos— although that is another story…
That is correct my friend… It had been mascaraded as a pubis-tattoo- that-goes-lower request. He was kind of bashful, would always whisper and ask if it was alright with me during countless consultations. When the day of the appointment came though, it was the complete opposite! He just let go of his pants and threw himself on the tattoo chair. Keep in mind he also had not worn any underwear that day. When I was inking he would talk about his Prince Albert while telling me to go lower onto his shaft.
Is it more painful to get a tattoo on the shoulder blades or the feet/ankles? I have a tattoo on my shoulder blades and they hurt when they vibrated, but I want to get more...
From experience I’d tell you it’s more painful on and around the feet area.
Judging from the number of clients I’ve had for both these areas, large surfaces like upper backs and arms tend to be in the more tolerable pain range. Whereas when you move closer to body joints like elbows, wrists, shoulders, and ankles it gets much more sensitive. Most probably because of the thinner skin and the amount of nerves.
Then again, it really depends on each and every person. The best way is to experiment yourself, keeping that in mind and not letting the others scare you. I always say that when you really want a certain tattoo, the adrenaline + hankering will make you tolerate ANYTHING!
PS. A good tip is to sleep plenty, eat well an hour before, and avoid alcohol intake prior to getting your next tattoo. Your body will thank you for that.
How’s about we do this with a twist and add the subject of TATTOO et cetera here? I get a bunch of those daily, and I usually feel that the lot of them ppl hold back on asking. And sometimes I love my job so much that I love answering these questions. It could be ANYTHING regarding tattoos, my job, techinical, horror stories and so on.