First of all, before I get to the point of why I want to raise this question, let’s make it clear on the outset that the actual number of tattoo artists with no/barely any tattoos themselves is very low. Yet, for people who want to get tattooed, this is a very important issue because a TATTOO ARTIST IS THE BEST ADVERTISEMENT OF TATTOOS.
How can you ask me to bear the pain, and carry on for a couple of more hours, when you yourself haven’t ever gathered the courage to go through the same?
And, when you come across tattoo artists who do not have any tattoos themselves, it is not supposed to raise your confidence of going under their needles. Would you go to a Yoga class where your trainer isn’t fit and flexible? What kind of a chef would you be who doesn’t get foodgasms? Exactly that way, I don’t understand the headspace of many ‘experienced’ tattoo artists who refuse to have considerable amount of tattoos themselves. To a serious collector like me, the lack of tattoos on a tattoo artist represents a lack of belief on their end on the art form itself. And here’s the problematic part; for decades this question would never have been raised because of the rite of passage a tattoo artist would have to go through in order to become one. But now, the scenario is changing.
In age-old tattooing school of thought, tattoo artists got their tattoos during the apprenticeship periods. In the master-disciple relationship dynamic, the apprentice gets rewarded with the opportunity of being inked by the master, as that has always been considered the most legit way of understanding the nuances of tattooing. As a tattoo artist, you need to have experienced the tattoo machine on your skin, before you start tattooing others. If you have no idea of what I go through under your needle, on what basis do you gauge my condition when you’re tattooing me? How can you ask me to bear the pain, and carry on for a couple of more hours, when you yourself haven’t ever gathered the courage to go through the same?
Tattooing is not just about what you are capable of drawing on your iPads, and how cool and state of the art your printer is, or how many followers and likes you have on Instagram, it is a sacred art form, and the oldest form of language known to humans. It’s a vibration, an energy that an artist forms within himself/herself, and then channels it on to the receiver’s body through the tattoo machine. If the tattoo artist has no fucking idea of what that pain feels like in different parts of their body, they are as good as bluffing you when they tell you one part hurts more/less than the other. It raises questions on whether they really love tattoos at the first place, or are they just in it for purely other reasons.
Of late, in India, tattooing is being driven from an industrial perspective that makes it a lucrative career option. Now, there are two sides to tattooing being seen as a lucrative career option. Many fine arts graduates are considering tattoo apprenticeships post college, as that way they learn another medium to express their art. And then, there’s the other faction where tattooing is being broken down, packaged into career-driven courses where interested candidates are turned into ‘professional tattoo artists’ in 3-6 months. That is worrying for the true tattoo community. In a setup like that, these candidates aren’t determined based on their love and passion for tattoos, but maybe how good they are with the pencil on paper. That is important too, but cannot be the determining factor over the former.
My social timelines keep getting flooded with these posts of ‘x% off on full sleeves/full backs etc.’ by artists who don’t have sleeves or back tattoos themselves. Man, your art can be amazing, but please understand that as a tattoo lover, the imagery I decide for my body is only half of the game. The more important half is the experience I have with you.
Tell us in comments if this is something that bothers you too.