How to Become a Tattoo Artist

Tattoos are a form of self-expression and body art that have been around for centuries. They can be very personal, representing an important life milestone like your first love or the beginning of your career. But getting inked is becoming more popular than ever before as tattoos continue to evolve from being small images on skin into elaborate designs with multiple colors and textures. To become a tattoo artist you need a high level of skill but also patience, time, knowledge about how ink works on different people’s bodies and much more practice!

The “How to Become a Tattoo Artist near Krasnoyarsk” is an article that tells you how to become a tattoo artist in Russia.

We’re back with another installment of our So You Want My Job series, in which we speak with guys who work in coveted positions and ask them about the realities of their employment as well as tips on how men might achieve their goals.

Today’s interviewee is a fascinating feline. Roni Zulu is a cellist, antique vehicle restorer, Freemason, and well-known tattoo artist residing in Los Angeles. People now have to wait months for an appointment with Zulu due to his professional achievement. Despite this, he did not have an easy road to this remarkable job.

Zulu received a master’s degree in fine arts and worked as a graphic designer, but he was unhappy with his existence. He had seen his friend’s family butcher a goat as part of the child’s rite of passage into manhood when he was a young lad. Zulu was interested at the moment, and his curiosity drove him to research many nations’ tribal customs, eventually concluding that tattoos were a spiritual practice that brought people from all over the globe together. He came to believe that tattooing was a sacred and ancient art, a symbol of rites of passage, significant life events, and healing, and that his true life’s calling was to bring a sense of spirituality to Western tattooing and move it beyond etching butterfly tramp stamps on the backs of drunken women.

Zulu visited the Tahitian islands and Samoa regularly for inspiration and to study the emblems of cultures all across the globe. He spent years studying the work of other painters and creating his own approach and style. However, when he initially started out, this sensibility, along with his interest in tribal tattoos (which were not fashionable at the time) and the fact that he was a rare black guy in a mostly white industry, made things difficult. But his unique technique to tattooing finally garnered him a legion of fans.

Zulu’s tattooing style differs from that of many other tattoo artists in the United States. He demands that a prospective customer meet with him multiple times over the course of several months. Zulu speaks to the client about the tattoo they want, what it means to them, and if it’s suitable for them during this time. He consults many faith’s mystics to gain a notion of how to mould the client’s aspirations. He feels that intimacy is a vital part of the tattooing process, and he works hard to establish a bond with his clients–he doesn’t tattoo “strangers”–and if he can’t, he won’t perform the tattoo. If he proceeds, he hands up the artwork to the customer after the tattoo is completed; each piece is unique and will be used on no one else.

I could go on about Zulu’s life story, but his responses to our SWYMJ questions are as fascinating. So let’s get started on it.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself (e.g., where do you come from?). What is your age? Describe your job, including how long you’ve been doing it, and so on.)

 

Terre Haute, Indiana was my home from infancy until early adolescence. In Sarasota, Florida, I attended the Ringling School of Art and Design during my senior year in high school. I relocated to Hollywood, California, in my early twenties and have lived here ever since. My present age is a lively, young 48! I’m a tattoo artist/designer that specializes in bespoke work.

2. What inspired you to pursue a career as a tattoo artist? When did you realize you wanted to do it?

I had a lucrative job as a commercial artist and graphic designer, but I wasn’t happy. Every day, I’d go to work and have my skills abused just for the goal of selling a product. No one cared whether my work elicited a deep human feeling or had a beneficial influence on people; no one cared if I knew about the great masters or the impact of art on society as a whole throughout history… My task was to create a product packaging that enticed customers to BUY, BUY, BUY!!!! I was starting to feel like a pimped-out hooker!

Many of my inked friends at the time showed interest in having me create tattoos for them since they appreciated my personal drawings and paintings. I did this for a long time until one of my friends asked that I not only design but actually tattoo his tattoo personally. I then decided to take up tattooing as a pastime for close friends, tattooing in a spare room in my house. Friends began to make additional requests, and my house could no longer accommodate them all, so I rented a modest studio space to pursue my pastime. To at least pay studio rent, I began charging for my services. Tattooing friends progressed to tattooing and charging strangers, and I guess that’s what I’m still doing after 20 years of tattooing… I have a hobby/passion that I like and get compensated for!

3. What should a guy do to prepare for a career as a tattoo artist? How do you acquire the essential abilities and creativity to thrive in your job?

To become a tattoo artist, one needs seek out an apprenticeship. First and first, one must be a talented artist who can draw and, ideally, paint; I can teach anybody the technical skill of tattooing, but your tattoos will only be as excellent as your ability to draw. When looking for an apprenticeship, be cautious; it is very common to be duped. Many would-be tattoo gurus are charlatans looking for someone to pay their rent, demean, bring doughnuts, and scrub their floors without providing a solid education. Find a tattoo artist that actually cares about your education and appreciates the art form.

Prepare to spend a lot of money; you’re investing in an education similar to what some people pay for university.

 

4. I’m guessing that most tattoo artists want to own their own business one day. But how are they going to get there? How do you get your first job and then go about acquiring customers and establishing a reputation? What steps did you take to get to where you are now, and what advice would you provide to others?

After finishing an apprenticeship, you must create a portfolio of your work and apply for jobs at several studios. The majority of this legwork may be accomplished via email or online links to your work. Your portfolio will speak for itself, maybe resulting in an interview and eventual job. After some time tattooing at a reputable studio, you’ll develop a clientele that demands you by name, which will pave the way for you to eventually launch your own shop.

Opening your own studio is a major task; most artists are lousy businesspeople, so you’ll need to sharpen your business skills as well as your creative abilities; failing to do so is the leading reason of tattoo shop failure (or any artistic endeavor for that matter). Check your state and local regulations about the legality of starting a store; there are various limits that differ from state to state, and you must follow them or face closure. The health code and blood born pathogen training are the ultimate and most important compliances to satisfy; it doesn’t matter if you can tattoo like Michelangelo if you’re infecting your customers with a new strain of the plague!!!

5. What distinguishes those who go on to become successful tattoo artists from those who never make it? What characteristics must a successful tattoo artist have?

“We are all created equal,” it is stated… Sorry, but it isn’t acceptable in the art world; else, we would have all adorned a corner of the Sistine Chapel. To stand out from the crowd of tattooists in an ever-growing and increasingly socially recognized medium, you must be prolific and have great sketching and painting skills. As I previously said, I can teach anybody the technical aspects of tattooing, but your work will only be as excellent as your ability to sketch and/or paint. To succeed in this field, you must also be a “people person.” Dealing with first-time tattoo jitters, constantly answering the same questions to each new client, and deciphering a myriad of individual life stories will require you to be a bit of a counselor/psychiatrist/shaman in order to translate your client’s wishes and life experiences into a piece of art will take up a good portion of your day. Nobody appreciates the “I’m a badass tattoo man who’s too cool for school” BS anymore; if you’re not friendly, personable, and truly concerned about your customers’ requirements, they won’t want you tattooing their body.

 

 Zulu making tattoo on man's back.

6. What is the most enjoyable aspect of your job?

I make people happy; I help them realize their aspirations. I change them into frogs, ugly ducklings into gorgeous swans, and Clark Kents into Supermen. The genie in the lamp is me. I’m Santa Claus for grown-ups. “The body is the temple,” as the saying goes, and I’m the man who puts up the stained glass windows!!! I inspire individuals by demonstrating who they are and what they can achieve. Many rites of passage are facilitated by me.

7. What is the most difficult aspect of your job?

Hearing someone say something like, “I’d really want to have a tattoo but I can’t because…etc., etc., etc…”

“I’m getting the tattoo I’ve always wanted before I die,” a lot of terminally sick individuals tell me. Why does someone have to tell us we’re dying in order for us to start living?

8. How do you strike a balance between job, family, and personal life?

This is a job that may easily follow you home and must be controlled. Dealing with other people’s emotions all day will have an impact on you, and you must leave it at the work site. When you’re out and about, people will constantly want to chat about your tattoos and ask you questions about them. In my experience, it’s better to have a business card on hand and urge the inquisitor to contact you by email or phone the studio with any queries; if the work gets too demanding, you’ll grow to despise it… It happened to me, and I had to take a year off before I could return. It’s all too easy to get caught up in wanting to be “the tattoo man” and making tattooing your whole life…big mistake! Because this business requires so much of your time, mental, and physical abilities, you must find a way to de-stress by doing something unrelated to tattooing. I spend a lot of time cultivating bonsai trees and playing the sitar; these activities are quite zen and calming in contrast to the rigors of my studio, and they enable me to come back to work every day feeling refreshed. And, as much as you may take pleasure in being the world’s most renowned tattoo artist, keep in mind that if you are married and/or have children, being a decent husband or father is more essential to them than being a great tattoo artist.

9. What is the most common misunderstanding about your job?

People believe it’s easy or that we have it easy compared to a person with a “real job,” as they do with most artists’ jobs. Tattooing needs much more effort than you may expect. The stress of never being able to make a mistake at any point significantly surpasses most employment expectations! Under the strong everyday stresses of my business, I’ve seen numerous boys and ladies break. You will not succeed unless you have a genuine enthusiasm for it… If you’re simply looking for a quick buck, consider bank robbery; it’ll be less stressful.

 

10. Do you have any other advice, recommendations, observations, or anecdotes to share?

“I don’t place tattoos on people; I bring tattoos out of people,” is my philosophy.

 

 

Tattoo artists can start an apprenticeship to learn how to become a tattoo artist. They will be taught the basics of tattooing and then given a chance to practice on customers. Reference: tattoo artist apprenticeship.

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