When you first start out as a tattoo artist it’s easy to see your progress: your flash art improves, you actually start working on skin, and you define your style. It’s exciting and you can tell that every day you’re getting better.
Flash forward a few months (or years) and you might feel a little less enthusiastic. Every day you’re working on the same lame tribal tattoos and names, you work on your flash but you never see any progression. It’s really easy to get burnt out in this industry, especially if your feel “stuck.” But all hope isn’t lost: you can improve your own work and get back to feeling proud of your tattoos.
Here are the top three ways you can make a visible difference in your tattoos:
1. Improve Your Art
I don’t mean just tattooing – I mean learning new styles, practicing and practicing some more. The best way to do this is pick a new style you’ve always wanted to learn and start by working with tracing paper. That gives you a better idea of the style, so when you want to create your own designs in that style, you’ll know the basic building blocks.
I personally recommend using good, quality markers when you’re learning a new style. While they cost more than Crayola markers or even watercolors, I find that you get a more tattoo-like result with Prismacolor or Copic markers.
Once you start learning a new style, dedicate about an hour each day to work on it until you feel comfortable making your own designs with it. Then you can update your flash and portfolio to include your new style and move on to learning something else.
2. Seek Professional Help
No, don’t go and commit yourself just yet! Instead, find a seminar or class with a tattoo artist you really admire. You can learn tricks and techniques from these seminars that would take you years to learn working on your own. If you physically attend a seminar, you can also make connections with other artists and sometimes vendors, which is really helpful if you want to travel later or need some extra publicity.
Short on cash? You can find some seminars on YouTube or order DVD copies of classes from some of the biggest names in tattoos. Video copies are great, too, because you can re-watch and rewind if you think you’ve missed something.
3. Any Volunteers?
If you’ve been doing the same tribal pieces, roses and names for so long that your head is spinning, it might be time to take a volunteer and do some work for free. Your only condition for this free piece? That your volunteer pick from one of your designs. This is a great way to build your portfolio when you have new styles, coloring techniques or designs you want to use. It’s also a great way to keep you from going crazy with those stretches of monotony that happen in every shop.
If you aren’t ready to work on skin permanently yet, you can usually find volunteers that will let you work on them with markers. Just make sure to use non-toxic, washable markers for this kind of practice – non-washable and permanent ink can take weeks to wash off.
Once you've shaken off the monotony, improved your portfolio and learned some new styles, you'll be ready to work and keep improving. Practice and patience will get you a long way in the industry.