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Tattoo Artist


Ahh, tattooing. It's an ancient art practiced by people around the globe since the dawn of time. From Polynesians to the Innu of northern Canada, tattooing is perhaps one of the universals that crosses cultures and continents.

Tattoos are now available worldwide, and many people have one, or know someone who has one. Tattooing is a powerful and respected art form, and the artists who create them are respected as well.

Tattoo artists meet with people interested in getting tattoos. The majority of clients pick from designs previously created by the tattoo artist. Some clients have an original idea in mind, and bring their own sketch with them to the studio, or they may ask the artist to design something specially for them on the spot. This requires tattoo artists to be flexible, original, and good at creating new designs. Some tattoo artists also work as pierces, putting jewelry through various body parts to create three-dimensional art.

Once the design has been selected, the artist then creates a stencil to copy, and prepares the region of skin to be tattooed. This involves shaving, if necessary, as well as cleaning with disinfectant. Once the area is prepped, and the client feels calm and relaxed, the tattoo artist can get to work.

Using a tattoo pen (a special instrument that can hold a number of vibrating needles filled with ink) the artist injects ink under the skin, creating an image. They often follow the stencil to begin with, and then complete the image freehand. Thinner, smaller needles create the lines, while thicker needles inject the colors that fill in areas. Because each person's skin type is different, tattoo artists must decide before hand what colors will work best with a client's skin. Once the tattoo is complete, the area is cleaned, covered, and hopefully the client goes home happy with the service!

Tattoo artists often get repeat clients, as some people get large pieces done that can take several sessions to complete. Some people just like getting tattoos, and return for a number of small tattoos to be imprinted all over their bodies. As professional artists who have a knack for making people feel relaxed and special, tattoo artists are talented in a number of important ways.
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  Interests and Skills  
Tattoo artists must be patient, gentle, and calm, and be able to instill a sense of trust in their patients. They need good eyesight, steady hands, and a well-groomed appearance. They need a good sense of color, creative flair and be able to sketch and draw extremely well. They should be skilled listeners who can follow instructions. They should be thorough people who pay attention to details. They need a lot of stamina in order to tackle the physically and mentally draining work. They should know a little about human anatomy, health and safety issues, and should feel comfortable around blood.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Consult with client about ideas and possibilities for artwork
  • Explain the tattooing procedure to the client
  • May gain written consent from a client
  • May design new image for client
  • Create an image stencil
  • Prepare tattooing area by shaving and disinfecting skin
  • Using stencil, outline, color, and shadow the tattoo with inked needles
  • Cover finished tattoo with antiseptic and bandages
  • Explain proper care of tattoos
  • Sterilize all equipment
  • May work as a piercer as well as a tattoo artist
  • May manage shop
  • Tattoo artists spend most of each day meeting with potential clients, discussing possible designs and locations for tattoos. They may complete only one tattoo a day, or they may work on 10. Most time not spent tattooing is spent creating sample designs, contacting clients to check up on the healing process, ordering supplies, and performing administrative duties, such as looking after finances and creating advertising opportunities.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Tattoo artists work in body art studios, which they may or may not share with other body artists. The work environment is generally relaxed, clean, and comfortable. They can be self-employed, or work at another artist's studio. They usually start work later in the day and work into the evenings and also on weekends, when the majority of people are free.

  Long Term Career Potential  
With additional training and experience, tattoo artists can work as body piercers, manage a body art shop, or open up a studio of their own. They may also choose to become visual and graphic artists.

  Educational Paths  
There is no set training for aspiring tattoo artists, but, obviously, some is required. While there are some private schools that offer tattoo artistry courses, most tattoo artists learn the tricks of their trade by working with a mentor. They do this by presenting an established body artist with a portfolio of drawings and by demonstrating a serious desire to learn. It is important for any aspiring tatoo artist to be skilled in drawing and illustration so courses in art, drawing and illustration and design can be valuable.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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