So You Wanna Be A Tattoo Artist?

By Deb Yarian

image copy

My recent, internationally distributed book (ha ha), “So You Want To Be A Tattoo Artist?”- Helpful hints on getting started in an exciting career as a tattoo artist, with little or no training or skill, caused quite a furor in the tattoo world.

Both seasoned and novice tattooers alike, voiced outrage and indignation at what started out as a joke between my oldest son and me and then evolved into a satirical corporate style handbook.

While I understand that people are protective about what they are infatuated with, involved in and devoted to, I was still surprised and amused at the anger expressed by my critics.  Fortunately, there were far greater positive responses and most of my friends and peers, those whom I respect, got it and appreciate the humor.

So I’ve decided to take this opportunity and share a part of my book here and then I’ll stray from it’s sarcasm and approach the subject seriously.

“You may want to hold off before actually getting any tattoos. That way, you can get a “feel” for it, and see if it is something you want to get serious about.

If you do decide against it, you won’t have ruined your chances at a career in the food service industry by foolishly getting visible tattoos”

 image copy 2

OK… While I don’t think you necessarily have to be heavily tattooed prior to getting into tattooing & becoming a tattoo artist, I do think the experience of “getting” tattooed and the commitment to “being” tattooed should precede embarking in a career as one.

To quote one of my favorite songs, COMMON PEOPLE:

“Cause everyone hates a tourist

Especially one who thinks it’s

All such a laugh”

If you don’t want to get tattooed and have tattoos perhaps you should seriously question your motivation.

Here are some responses from some of my peers on the subject:


“I think a tattooer without any tattoos not only does a huge disservice to their customer by not being able to relate to the tattoo experience, the tattooer misses out on so many learning experiences that go along with getting tattooed. I was always told to get tattooed by the guy who taught me. You learn a bunch that will help you in your career. I took his advice.

 Plus, a tattooer without any tattoos is an insult to the tattooer who is covered. Who has dedicated his body to his life’s work. Being a tattooer and getting heavily tattooed shows a dedication to tattooers , and a craft that came before us. It shows our customers that it’s ok to get tattoos. Like we threw caution to the wind and just did it. If this tattoo thing doesn’t work out I’ll figure something out.  The tattooer with minimal tattoos seem to show that they aren’t completely dedicated and if the shit hits the fan, their tattoos or lack there of won’t get in the way of a straight job.”

-Nick Colella

image copy

“I personally believe that you can’t stand by anything with any conviction if you don’t believe in it enough to have experienced it for yourself… You can’t sell tickets to the freak show without having your own backstage pass. If not, you’re just a poser; without that pass you’re just a poser.

However getting heavily tattooed is no certain guarantee that you will get a front row seat.”

-Dawn Cooke

“I’m glad you’re getting a chance to speak more about the (hilariously awesome) booklet you wrote. Part of me thinks it’s important to question the negative responses you got, but another part of me feels like, fuck it, how could someone not know that was written sarcastically? I somewhat understand the reactions though… I too feel protective of tattooing and want to punch anyone who I feel is fucking with it.  The fact that so many people thought it was serious seems to be more of a reflection of the backlash from the corporate take over of tattooing and less about your sense of humor. I think that most tattooers will agree that what you wrote is a great satire once they figure out you’re on their side. I’m glad to have you on my side, Deb!!”

-Virginia Elwood

image copy 2

“I couldn’t agree more. How dare you choose to tattoo someone without knowing what it is like to be in their shoes. And more importantly, it’s an integral part of the learning process of being a tattooer. Getting tattooed taught me more about this craft in a short amount of time than almost any lesson I received during my apprenticeship. The very first thing I ask anybody seeking a foot in the door (before I gently tell em to fuck off) is if they have any tattoos?  Never trust a skinny cook and fuck the bald barber.”

-Lucas Ford


“There’s a right and wrong way to go about everything. What I’ve learned by getting tattooed is priceless. I can’t imagine being able to understand tattooing half as much if I had none or very few tattoos. That being said, however, quality over quantity is something to be respected.”

-Rachel Schilling 

image copy

“Why would you want to be a tattoo artist if you don’t even have tattoos? That’s odd right? Some people think it makes total sense. Sure, like a pedestrian mechanic, a homeless carpenter, a toothless dentist or an Amish electrician.”

-Mike Schweigert

Similar Articles

2 thoughts on “So You Wanna Be A Tattoo Artist?

Comments are closed.