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Jaycel Adkins

Apprenticeship vs. Schools vs. Self-Taught

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One of the worlds best tattoo artists is Shige from Yokohama, Japan"....."and has never done an apprenticeship, Shige is simply self-taught. In 2000 Shige and his wife Chisato opened their first studio in Yokahama, Yellow Blaze Tattoo, also called ”Ouen” in Japanese, where Shige still works today"

This man is one of the best tattoo artist of the traditional neo japanese era. If he listened to people like you, we wouldnt have him. Most people should get apprenticeships because that is what this kind of artform/culture makes it interesting. Others will make it on their own because it means more than some words to not do it from an anonymous poster/person on a forum.

If you are serious, if you live to tattoo, if you have talent why not? He did.

Tatto artists and others like to protect themselves like magicians, but people are very capable, complex and amazing. With time and dedication you can make it so.

I dont like 80% of tatto art i see, does that mean they should not Tattoo? Does that mean the people who have been tattooed feel that way, i dont know and it doesnt matter. If someone is treated professionally, free from hazard and comes away with what they thought or better. Opinions on how good someone is are meaningless.

I dont like your stuff, you might not like mine. guess what as everyone else puts it we are both still plugging away.

I hope this helps people who care to do what they love, its not a lifestyle you start or stop, its culture and something you live for.

smarter people get on with it and dont ask forums.

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I just thought I will share my humble experience. I've been offered an apprenticeship a long, long time ago. The artists were impressed with my drawings/art. But they didn't go through with it as another person came to the shop the next day. This guy tattooed all his army mates. He was doing it with a self-made machine. No artistic bone in his body, honest! But the shop owner felt that the guy will be better suited for an apprenticeship (although other artists who worked there felt otherwise). It crushed my spirit for a while. Now I plan to pay for a tuition before I seek apprenticeship again. I want to make tats on pig skin, synthetic skin and finally, after I feel I am ready to do it safely, I will tattoo myself. But I would never consider tattooing other people without serving full apprenticeship!

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This is not intended to be learned outside of an apprenticeship. Are there a few exceptions? Sure but they are rarities and not part of the conversation. That's what makes them exceptions. Everybody points out the one in a million as if it applies to them.

Tattooing is learned through an apprenticeship for a few reasons. There is no other/better way to learn the subtleties and necessities of our business/art/craft/way of living. So much of what you need to know, the vast and overwhelming majority, cannot be learned on a forum, in a stack of books or...gasp...even in a course lasting a few weeks. Hell, I've known people who were actually decent at the tattooing part but still had no business being in the industry -- because there's more to it than that. Just like (since weak comparisons abound) being able to cook doesn't make you a restauranteur. So much of it is about shop conduct, problem solving, decision making and intangible attributes unique to tattooing.

Another reason to pass through an apprenticeship is...because we say so. That's how it is designed to work. Who gets to determine the fate and direction of a trade if not the established tradesmen? It's not like wanting to do it is reason enough to be handed a shot. We don't need it to work for eveyone, it works for the craft. We've earned this and whether or not it seems fair to outsiders, part of that is earning our right to remain in it with our heads up by protecting it, often from those who don't respect it. People who are granted legit apprenticeships with qualified individuals are supposed to be few and far between and we reserve the right to be hostile to intruders in this house we've had a hand in building.

Chances are if you are being turned down for an apprenticeship, there *is* a reason. Skill, attitude, locale, maybe you (the collective, nonspecific "you") are just a bad fit. If you feel these don't aplly, keep trying...in the way prescribed by the existing legitimate industry, but remember keep your standards hish and keep in mind -- It is the job of established tattooers (and I don't meant stars) to police the growth and protect this thing that is sacred to us, not to provide a "right" way in for everyone who wants to do this.

...and I'm amazed at all the people who will move across the country to study for a career in some other field, even study abroad but when it comes to tattooing, stall out at their city's border, throw their hands up and say, "I've asked everyone in town for an apprenticeship, time to buy some pigskins."

@Ursula: It's not better or more important than other trades, just unique in its history and challenges. You can look around and see the result of a bloated industry being struck with bad legislation, bad press and hacks determining the viability, appearance and tattooing's outcome due to sheer volume. I genuinely believe everyone or almost everyone here respects what you and so many others do in your/their respective line of work -- speaking for myself, I do.

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everyone teaches themselves.

There's a lot of truth in this. A certain amount of technical lessons in the beginning would help, but ultimately we will be left with teaching ourselves and learning on our own. I know I am going to come under attack because I am not a tattooist, but I am an artist and I know how I learn things and I observe very closely how others learn (or not as the case might be). When is the last time you had a lesson in how to talk? I know I speak a lot better than I did at two, the last time I received a speaking lesson. And those lessons were quite rudimentary, I assure you! Since then I learned from everyone I ever came in contact with and sort of 'taught myself.'

What learning and achieving artistry all comes down to is:

1) Copying - Copy the stuff you like. Copy the stuff you don't like. Copy the stuff other people like. Copy the stuff other people don't like. Copy everything that's pertinent (a mentor/teacher might help you determine what is 'pertinent').

2) Consider - Now analyze what you've copied. Cognize, understand the where/why/how the copy falls short. Understand why you like some things and not others.

3) Create - Now with a heightened understanding, make the things you don't like into things you do like. This is where your personality and style are going to come through and you'll start creating an identity for yourself.

Said another way imitate, assimilate, innovate.

Ok, I am getting to the point. It's not necessary that someone 'teach' us. What is necessary is that we learn it. Learn through exposure and awareness and through the cycle of copying, considering, and creating! Do you think it's any coincidence that the best artists (musicians, painters, tattooists, architects, doctors, etc.) are well-traveled, exposed, experienced and aware?

Shige? He might be doing a lot of learning on his own, but trust me, that stuff he does wasn't created in a vacuum. He got ideas from everywhere.

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Maybe if all you want to do is learn the art aspect of it while damaging the trade and a long line of victims, you're onto something. The cool thing about learning to paint is that all your mistakes end up in the trash. They don't get seen, much less affect someon'e life...and tattooing is not just an art, not just another medium in your ArtBin. There are plenty of artists (and people who fancy themselves artists) who don't much to offer of benefit to the craft and it's suffering for their indulging themselves.

Funny, the forum guidelines say it's not cool to ask how to break into tattooing -- but to tell someone the way you made up in your head and call it a "thought experiment"...sure, why not?

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I thought it went without saying that I was in no way advocating irresponsibility to the trade/craft or disregarding tradition. So I will go ahead and say it, though it is now redundant. "I am not advocating irresponsibility to tattooing or disregarding tattooing tradition."

And if one can't express an opinion in a discussion forum then where?

My point is people will find a way to be who they are. No lack of formal tutelage nor apprenticeship is going to keep them from it. So many great tattooists come about having never had an 'apprenticeship'. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. A college degree wasnt required to start Microsoft nor Facebook. You think the world really cares about Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg's academic credentials? Let each individual deal with (or not) the guilt and bear the burden of how he got there. If you need an apprenticeship -- get one. If you learn better from youtube and the web -- go for it. If you think you need a PhD in tattooing -- seek it out. If you learn better through exposure to the world -- get out in it! There is no one way. Not for tattooing, not for anything.

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I thought it went without saying that I was in no way advocating irresponsibility to the trade/craft or disregarding tradition...If you learn better from youtube and the web -- go for it.

Nice. I guess a third of my life spent in this trade hasn't taught me much. I'll leave this to you experts.

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@horitsune2 While Shige is a great tattooer in his style, he didn't get there by himself. Firstly he started out with western "one point" tattoos that he would see in biker magazines while still doing some Japanese work. Practicing on a group of friends that would tattoo each other. Opened his shop in '98, then met Filip Leu in '99 which really opened his eyes to neo-traditional japanese. In the early '00s he went to Switzerland to study under Filip Leu.

So you can say that he did become good his own way, its iffy. Also Horitsune II is a real tattooer which I don't think would take to kindly of other people using, that is unless of coarse, he is you.

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surprised this thread got bumped after 8 months of dormancy. instead of just talking in circles, why not just re-read this entire thread 7 times or so and get the same basic result. when oversimplified, it boils down to two fundamental sides...

1) tattooers who have gone thru an apprenticeship will advocate an apprenticeship because they understand how much it taught them.

2) aspiring tattooers who have not had or do not have an apprenticeship will believe they can do it on their own, because they don't know what they don't know. THEN, if they're lucky/persistent, they'll get an apprenticeship. (see #1)

folks in category 1) will never change their minds. folks in category 2) may only change their minds when they get far enough along their path... but it also might not ever happen. of course, this is oversimplified and there are many aspects to each side, as well as exceptions.

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