Learning the "Language" of Tattooing


- The Language of Tattooing -

Materials In This Module:



Let's talk a little bit about mindset and studying the traits of the greats. Many of you come into tattooing and you're already fantastic artists. However, the things that make a drawing, a painting, or a good design a good piece of art doesn't necessarily always translate into making a good, solid, long lasting tattoo.

Collectible work from the master - Horiyoshi III

So one thing we study is, what makes masters of the tattoo industry so great? What makes their work so long lasting? What makes it readable as a tattoo, and what makes them stand the test of time? One of the main things you're going to want to do is your homework. Do your research and start looking through great artists work. I'd start with the old traditional flash stuff. That's more my style. So when studying the old flash, for example these are books from Henk, from Amsterdam. He has catalogs of all of these fantastic tattoos from the early 19 hundreds.

Flash from Henk Schiffmacher

What you want to do is start asking yourself what made these designs such good tattoos. Start seeing things that you liked as well as things that you don't like as much. Start looking at elements that you can incorporate into one good tattoo and start making your own voice, or style.

Many artists, when they first start out, get a bit overwhelmed and discouraged because they have these great visions in their head, but they can't yet translate it onto paper. That's where practice comes in and that's where research comes in and that's where studying the masters comes in. You want to be an artist because you have good taste, you know what looks good, but becoming a good tattoo artist is more than just having good taste. You have to be able to produce the skill. And this comes with practice. This comes with studying the greats that came before us.

Tattoo lengend Lyle Tuttle

When you're looking at their work, don't be afraid to redraw or even copy these directly. Again, you're not tattooing these. You're not selling these. You're not making money off of these. You're doing it with the intention to learn and study them. Don't limit yourself to just the older masters like this, but look at modern guys as well.

If you're not selling their work, you're not posting it up online as your own content, but instead you're drawing it. You're tracing it, you're learning the language of tattooing and this is helping you progress your own skills.

So before we dive into actually showing the technical side of drawing and moving you up into free-handing your own stuff, I just want to say that for you guys who always email in and you're like:

"ah, I'm so discouraged cause my stuff sucks. I don't want to tattoo anyone yet. I don't even want to draw yet because I'm not that good."

The only way to get good is to practice and to fail consistently until your failures lead to success. So for you guys who are writing in and you're discouraged that your work's not where you want it to be, that's a great trait to have.

You have to be obsessed to be a master, but even the greats started somewhere.

I worked with some apprentices and some pro guys in the past that didn't care that their stuff sucked. They just keep putting out crappy work year after year after year and they'll never be great artists because they don't care to get better.

So for you guys who are discouraged by your stuff, not being where you want it, that's the best trait you can have as an apprentice.

Feeling like your work isn't good enough is the best trait you can have as an artist. It will keep pushing you to get better.

That's the best trait you can have as a lifelong artist. Ideally, you'll never be satisfied with where your work is at, and that's going to pull you forward, that's going to push you forward to get better and better and better. It's going to push you to try new equipment, to try new techniques, and to continuously step out of your comfort zone and keep getting better and better tattooing.

Study the greats, meet them in person when possible. (Your instructor Jay and the legendary Ed Hardy.)

Drawing, tattooing, and being an artist is a lifelong learning process, and that's what's fantastic about it. So you guys writing in who are discouraged - you're the best kind of artists out there, and the one that we want and NEED to have in the industry.

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