By Dan Henk
Looking from the outside in, tattooing doesn't look that difficult. If it's not that difficult, you learn the basics and you are good to go, right? Hell, if half the people on TV can do it, an actual school should be able to teach the essentials in two weeks! College courses take a good four years. If you want to go into a more advanced profession, you are in for an even longer ride. I don't think anyone would trust a doctor that went to a two-week school...
Tattooing is life altering. You could get hardcore diseases and die. More likely, you will get some scarred up shit-nugget that a kindergartener could have drawn better.
I went to art school, was doing art for bands and a few magazines, when Chad Divel, a tattoo artist at Visual Addiction in Carlisle, PA first brought me into this world. I thought it would be an easy transition. I was so wrong. I am genuinely embarrassed by some of the stuff I did in my first couple years of tattooing.
It is true that some great artists learn without an apprenticeship, but they all seem to agree that they would have gotten much further and much faster if they had a real apprenticeship. Most are embarrassed by it, and all of them learned humility through the pitfalls and mistakes they made. I know I did.
None of this is evident in the highly edited world of network television. If kids are stupid enough to imitate programs like Jackass, they will watch one episode of some highly scripted TV show, pull up e-Bay on their computer and buy a kit full of cheap junk.
Then they will start butchering their friends in the basement. If we're lucky, it will only give tattooing a bad name. If we are unlucky, uptight conservatives will use it as an excuse to ban tattooing.
(Dan Henk is a tattooer and blogger for Tattoo Artist Magazine. Dan Henk can be found at: http://danhenk.com/.)