Everyone learns differently, and learning to tattoo is no different. There are several books on tattooing, such as the Huck Spaulding A-Z for example. These can only give you theory and understanding. Tattooing is something that comes through practice and having someone experienced to Mentor you. Your beginning tattooing experience means you are on the bottom of the food chain and you will learn through long hours of hard work as with any worthwhile career choice. Gaining an Apprenticeship is not an easily traveled road, so, if you do find someone to take you on, be appreciative as they are not easily gotten.
Learning to tattoo begins with learning to draw. Sure, you may be able to draw a tree, you've always drawn trees, but what about a pig, a pink bow, a dragon riding a unicycle? You need to be able to draw anything at the drop of a hat because you never know what a client will ask for. Down the line you might specialize but until you do, you will draw whatever walks in and their request. Drawing a circle and a straight line freehand are probably the hardest tasks you will ever do. Now, couple this with learning to draw them on a squishy, moveable and 3D surface that might move with a vibrating 2lb machine pulling you back. It's daunting at first. Once you have these on paper you may be able to do them on another medium. Tattooing on pig skin, pumpkins and drawing on skin with sharpie are just a few of the training tools you might try in the beginning. Once you move up to tattooing people, you start with free work. Often this will be on friends and family. This is the basis of your future clientele. Often you'll start with simple designs like kanji or names and it can take years to build up to a level of portraits and cover up designs.
How your mentor will teach you is entirely up to them. It can either be based on your strengths or how they themselves were taught. The more old school the artist the tougher the apprenticeship experience is likely to be and the more likely you are to experience hazing. Hazing sadly is a part of most tattoo shops. It is intended as good sport but as the person learning you will undoubtedly have the lions share of the jokes made toward you and your newbie status. Some of these are to help you learn, if you screw up the words flung can be brutal. Develop a thick skin if you don't already have one. They are also using this as a weeding out process. If you can't stand up to the pressure then you will quit, meaning you weren't up to being an artist as you couldn't take their banter. The important thing is to be aware if you are being taken advantage of. If your mentor keeps asking you to clean up after them but never critiques your drawing or actually shows you anything relating to the job you may simply be there to act as their assistant and they have no intention of teaching you.
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