Inked AU/NZ – Authentink Article – July 2014
by Kian ‘Horisumi’ Forreal
So after a year now of officially being a shop owner I can firmly say with confidence that I have experienced the ‘other side’ of what it is to be a working tattoo artist. Paying the bills! Dealing with the government, health department, tax office, accountants, managing artists, managing landlords and neighbours! All of it… All the bullshit associated with running a legitimate business. It takes its toll.. very rewarding to build something from nothing, to take artists on board and in the span of a few months to build them a clientele and make them busy, I find it very fulfilling, but its so very tiring. Wouldn’t trade it for the world but if you asked me 2 or 3 years ago about what I thought owning a shop was like I would give you very different answers to what I know to be true now. I had the pleasure of having a coffee with my old boss from Inner Vision tattoo the other day, Cliffe, and I was telling him how funny it is when the tables turn! I hear his words coming out of my mouth to my staff and my words coming out of those that work for me! Very ironic and makes me laugh a little every time it happens. The same way that clients think all tattoo artists are rich because we charge what we charge… all tattoo artists think that their shop owner is rich… haha… nothing could be farther from the truth! There are so many bills, overheads, fees, payments, insurances, taxes etc etc… just to keep the doors open… in one hand and out the other.. perspective really is a wonderful thing!
One of the things I find amusing about the new breed of tattoo artists that are out there looking for work is that they don’t know a thing about self promotion or marketing or at the very least showcasing their own work in a professional manner. Back before digital cameras we all struggled to get nice tattoo pictures of our work, to get a picture that didn’t have a glare or Vaseline smear, or the a colour saturation from the overhead lights, or blood in it.. as we were using film you never really knew what you were getting until you got the pictures back from lab. Whatever images did turn out ok you immediately added to your portfolio, all arranged nicely and looking sharp, usually blown up to A4 for the nice ones. Most of us took great pride in our portfolios, I had a very thick one I used to travel with… real pain in the ass to lug around but it made the difference when dealing with potential clients showing them a large selection of what I could do and how etc… and also to show other tattoo artists and most importantly to potential employers. A nice professional hard copy portfolio is the hallmark of a serious working tattoo artist.
Sadly.. this seems to be lost on the current generation. In the last few months I’ve had several artists come to me looking for work.. not a single one, not one, had a hard copy portfolio. Not one had a website of their own. Not one had a business card. Seriously WTF? Would you go to a job interview without your CV, without your credentials? You might.. but you wouldn’t get the job. Same with tattooing! I love instagram and facebook for sharing tattoo images and networking but neither of those platforms are portfolios. Your iphone is not a tattoo portfolio. Your ipad is not a tattoo portfolio. A usb stick I have to put in my computer is not a portfolio. As a shop owner and an employer I want to see large printed images of finished tattoos so I can discern the quality of the work and the artist. Seeing some outlines on a 3 inch screen means absolutely nothing to me. Trying to navigate through a facebook link to a profile page and hunting for images on a timeline isn’t a real good way to convey to a potential employer the breadth and depth of your passion for your art.
My unsolicited advice to tattooers is this; buy a decent camera, learn how to use it… take the time to master this tool. If you can take the time to learn how to tattoo and draw you can take a little time to learn how a camera works and how to take nice shots with it. Once you have your nice images get them printed at a good lab and make a nice little travel portfolio you can take with your when you out and about and can leave on the counter of the shop you work at. I promise you it will make all the difference in the world. As my regular readers know I am forever espousing to clients to look at artist portfolios, to look at recent work and find your artist based on merit and not solely on reputation or reference. Your portfolio should be updated regularly with your latest finished works. Pictures of outlines or uncompleted tattoos do not belong in your portfolio. Only nice pictures of the kind of tattoos you enjoy doing should be in there, there is no point advertising tribal if you hate doing it.
Once you have that nice portfolio of your awesome tattoos… come show me! And I might even give you a place to work!