Q & A: PART 2
Of those whom find conversation to be helpful while being tattooed there's a repetition of questions asked while spending quality time with these clients during a tattoo procedure. I enjoy engaging on this level as it allows me to better formulate and articulate the message I am ultimately trying to convey with my body of work. Like tattooing itself, these articulations are continually evolving based on the constant intake of new information, but there are also consistent themes that are often touched on in every conversation. I'd like to begin using this platform to occasionally address some of these often asked questions as best as I can. I'm hoping to offer something more to my clients after the conversations have ended as well as give a glimpse into my thoughts, desires, experiences, etc., to new and potential clients. This is Part 2 of this series. Part 1 can be found here.
I started out at Off the Map Tattoo – NW in February of 2012, but not as a tattooer, I was hired on as the manager when the shop first opened its doors after partnering with Jeff Gogue. My job as I understood it, aside from the daily management of artist and shop tasks, was to be aware that I was generally the first person a client saw and spoke with when they came through our doors and the last person on the way out. That in a not so small way I helped shape their experience and that every client and potential client deserved to be treated as world class. It certainly took some time to build a solid repertoire of tattoo knowledge and to learn how to cater to the many unique needs of both artists and clients. I failed many times and with every failure I learned how to more adequately and appropriately offer my services in a better manner. I learned that sentiment and intention mean nothing if deeds don't bring about qualitative results. I learned about humility, humbleness, perseverance, struggle, determination, patience, and a whole lot about art and tattoo techniques and applications.
After watching Jeff oil paint one day while asking him a bunch of questions about his process I instantly wanted to try it out. I bought some paint and canvas board that night and started painting a snail. It took me a little bit to figure out how to push paint around and achieve the results I wanted, but I eventually finished that snail and was satisfied with the results. I signed it, titled it “Prospect” and moved onto the next painting.
I fell in love that night. I didn't want to stop painting. I craved more knowledge and would read what I could, talk to other artists about their techniques, and watched plenty of Bob Ross. I painted as often as I could and began putting my art out into the world. First on Instagram and Facebook, then later I began selling art through my online store and occasionally at art shows. I submitted some paintings to Out of Step Books for upcoming publications and was truly honored and humbled when they were selected and I was asked to be interviewed for "Antennae of Inspiration". All of this eventually lead to my peaked interest at the possibility of learning to tattoo. There were just a couple of things I perceived as very real obstacles; I already managed a tattoo shop and there was no way that was going to transition into an apprenticeship, and Oregon doesn't allow traditional apprenticeships anyway, instead a license is obtained by going through a tattoo school. I put that idea on the back burner, but it still simmered.
As time went on the Southern Oregon Art Academy began showing interest in opening their own tattoo school. With the advice of Jeff they would require 2 years of art training through their program followed by 1 year of tattoo training and licensing. It had the potential to offer a legitimate program given the general view of tattoo schools by the larger tattoo community and still work within Oregon's requirements yet going far above and beyond what most programs offered. I saw an opportunity that was too good to pass up and I didn't hesitate to jump on board. I slowly transitioned from full time manager to full time student and was committed to reaching my goal. I was greatly appreciative of the support offered from my co-workers and management team at Off the Map and to this day cannot be thankful enough. Unfortunately, the art academy was not going to be able to offer their program as they had imagined it and the plan was eventually scrapped. Given that the nearest licensing facility was more than 2 hours away and I had absolutely no intention of moving seeing as how my partner and I had recently purchased our first home, I once again put that idea on the back burner. Though this time it boiled.
I took a few months to reassess my aspirations. I temporarily transitioned back into full time management at the shop and thought long and hard about what I really wanted and which direction I needed to go in. Being back at the shop full time in constant proximity to such dedicated and creative personalities just amplified my desire to tattoo. There was a pull that I felt I had no control over. I knew I needed to learn this craft, and I knew I was willing to do whatever it took, by any means necessary.
In the Summer of 2014 I attended a state licensing program in Cottage Grove, OR. It was a two and a half hour drive one way through one of the worst mountainous stretches of the I-5 on all of the West Coast. I initially made the drive a couple times a week but once I began tattooing I usually drove there and back 4 days a week while still managing Off the Map Tattoo part time on the weekends. This left little time for anything else, including sleep, but I managed to make it all work and evaded any serious burn out or car accidents.
My first tattoo on real skin was simple. A traditional rose, some leaves, and a little bit of background. I remember sweating profusely, trembling uncontrollably, and being a bit anxious on the verge of nausea. I laid the needle to skin and pulled my first line. It was exhilarating. I worked slow and meticulously thinking about everything I had learned about tattooing up to that point. What would have taken a seasoned tattooer maybe an hour to complete took me about 3 hours, but it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life.
I was hooked. I tattooed as often as I could until the state licensing requirements were fulfilled. Upon receiving my official license in November of 2014 I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to transition from management to artist at Off the Map Tattoo. The transition was complete by February of 2015 and I was in full swing as a full time professional tattooer. It's been quite an extraordinary journey since and I appreciate the advice from artists, the trust of clients, and the support from my co-workers. I look forward with great anticipation to learning, growing and evolving as a tattooer and am ever so curious as to what the future may hold.