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THE APPRENTICES

The tattoo apprenticeship - a dream for many creative folk, but notoriously hard to come by in the industry. And for good reason. The privilege of permanently making your mark on someone else's body should not be taken lightly. It's one thing to be drawing on a piece of paper all day, but pushing ink into people's skin with a needle is a whole other ball game.


It takes a lot of passion, dedication and time to get to the point of tattooing full-time. And with all the hard work that goes into an apprenticeship, a little encouragement can go a long way to keep an artist motivated.


We asked our Instagram community to share some up-and-coming artists they thought deserved some praise, and asked these artists to share a little bit about themselves and their journey.


Jake Newbury


Left: First tattoo on skin by Jake Newbury.


"My name is Jake and I’m 28. I’m living in Brighton, and working in Eastbourne at Happyland Tattoo under John Washington.


Why I decided to get into tattooing is a long story, but my mum died unexpectedly just after my 21st birthday. I found drawing as a bit of an escape, I guess; a reason to keep my mind busy.


I was obsessed with tattoos from the day I got my first one. I started drawing on post-it notes, because I had those on hand; just some roses from tattoos I liked. They were awful! From there it progressed from a monthly thing, to eventually weekly, then daily. I worked in Lucky’s Tattoo Museum when I was in New Zealand, which really was my foot in the door, so to speak. I owe a lot to Dre, the owner, for giving me a chance to hang out and paint there. That really gave me the hunger to try and make a go of this as a career rather than a hobby.


My favourite tattoo style is traditional, and I take a lot of inspiration from the tattooing styles you see in Australia. John Entwisle for me is one of the best tattooers there has ever been. I fell in love with his style immediately.


During lockdown my housemate had a boyfriend called Pete, who had a lot of traditional work done by John. Pete had said to me I should go and get tattooed by John because we would really get on. So I did just that. When lockdown was over, I got tattooed by John and showed him my portfolio, which was at that time a work-in-progress.


I then hung out with John at his old shop for probably a year before he opened Happyland. There was no chance of apprenticing at his old shop for various reasons, but John said when he opened Happyland, my apprenticeship could start. I can’t explain how buzzing I was, probably 5 years of hard work all worked out in that moment. Missed out on many, many nights out to sit in and draw/paint.


The most valuable lesson I've learned so far is hard... You learn every single day, but John's work ethic is honestly unmatched. I’ve hung out with/worked around a lot of tattooers and the guy is a machine. He tattoos back to back most days, and then paints a whole 60cm x 60cm ceiling tile in the evening. All the while being a father and a husband. The work he puts in pays off, because he is busy with loyal customers. That’s shown me: Work hard and it will be recognised.


A surprising learning curve for me has been pulling lines towards me. I knew that was what most tattooers did, but teaching my hand to come towards me felt so alien at the start. I’m glad I did it from the beginning and it feels more natural to me now, but before, my preference was the push lines when drawing/painting. Now even when I draw I pull lines mostly."


Follow Jake on Instagram: @newburytattoo


Chris Beaumont



"I’m Chris Beaumont, 33, and I’m the apprentice at Pretty Strange Tattoo in Hastings, UK. I have a background in graphic design which combined perfectly with my love for Traditional tattoos. The design concepts in both of keeping things simple and readable clicked for me.


I’m a late starter to the industry. I spent 10 years in the retail trap but never stopped drawing. Every lunch break, day off, evenings I’d be drawing. While working on a graffiti style mural for a friends new business, I met Sabrina (@sabrinamoontattoo), the owner of Pretty Strange. She also asked for some mural work, saw my old tattoo sketches and designs, and offered me the apprenticeship.


After 6 months of working both jobs, I moved to the shop full time. The most valuable lesson I’ve learned so far has been to find the right mentor, trust the process and be patient. Too many apprentices rush the basics like hygiene, equipment knowledge and beginner techniques to get to the fun stuff. They’re paying the price for it now with limited knowledge and bad practice.


In terms of artists that inspire me, I’d have to mention John Washington (@johnwashingtontattoo) from Happyland Tattoo in Eastbourne. He’s a perfect role model for the industry. He eats, sleeps and dreams tattooing, and is one of the rare few artists who are giving back more to the industry than they’ve taken from it. In terms of movements, I try to look outside of tattooing as much as I can, drawing from graphic design, graffiti and typography to keep pushing my work."


Follow Chris on Instagram: @chrisbeaumonttattoo


Ghoulish Tattoos (Amber)



"My name's Amber (@ghoulishtattoos). I’m 22, I’m a tattoo apprentice from Birmingham and I love all things spooky! I’ve wanted to be a tattoo artist for as long as I can remember and it’s the only thing I could ever see myself doing in life. Drawing was always my favourite hobby growing up, so it all just felt so natural to pursue a career in it, and being able to create permanent art on people is such an amazing feeling.


My favourite tattoo style is traditional. I do alot of black trad, but colour is always such a treat when I get the chance to do it!


I looked for apprenticeships for years and years. After being shut down by so many studios, I finally saw a post from my current studio saying they were looking for an apprentice, so I applied and had gotten the apprenticeship within the same week. It definitely felt like a right place, right time moment.


The most valuable lesson I’ve learned is definitely not to be too harsh on myself. It’s so easy to compare your work to others, especially as an apprentice, and sometimes it’s hard to see progress, but it’s always there.


If you could tattoo anyone, dead or alive, who would it be? Mac Miller."


Follow Amber on Instagram: @ghoulishtattoos


Pokeeboi (Cal Ramsay)



"My name is Cal, I’m 25 and I’ve been tattooing on skin for just over 6 months. I’ve always been in love with tattoos since I was about 12, and I’ve been drawing since I was super young, with my mum being an artist. It was as soon as I got my first tattoo (the day after I turned 18) that I decided I wanted to get into tattooing.


I’m still exploring a few styles at the moment, but my favourites currently are high contrast black work pieces and anime stipple work. Who knows what I’ll end up doing in the future though, I actually enjoy trying new things the most!


I was locked into a graphic design career for a long time, so it was a slow process trying to pull my portfolio together/find an apprenticeship. I spent a lot of my time hanging out in tattoo shops, to the point where I ended up helping build/paint/brand three of them. After helping Kris (my mentor) put his shop together, he decided I’d waited long enough for my apprenticeship and started helping me put my plan into action 😂


My most valuable lesson so far would be hard to pick (there’s a lot to learn) - but I’d say above everything you need to live and breathe your work to make progress, and to never be satisfied with where you’re at.


There’s some anime artists that I’ve seen recently, the likes of @donniebydesign @markm_tatts and @tattoosbykenan that have really got me inspired to progress in stipple shading and use of negative space. Watching some of their progress reels really has me entranced."


Follow Cal on Instagram: @pokeeboi


Katrine Macklin



"Hello, I’m Katrine from the vibrant London Kings Cross Tattoo Parlour. My journey into the world of tattoos started as a kid immersed in drawings, eventually leading me to study illustration at NUCA University Norwich. The allure of tattoos was irresistible, intertwined with my art school experiences and the music scene I embraced. Lockdown became a pivotal period for me to rekindle my passion for painting and drawing, propelling me into tattooing after a transformative encounter with @terrakiu. Managing at Red Point Tattoo further solidified my decision to dive into tattoo artistry.

 

My favorite tattoo style revolves around the dark allure of medieval, etching, and blackwork tattoos, drawing inspiration from the intricate world of old comics and illustrations.


I found my apprenticeship through longstanding connections with the talented artists here at Kings Cross Tattoo Parlour. Snappy Gomez recognized my unwavering passion, offering me the chance to apprentice in this dynamic studio, a leap I eagerly embraced.

 

The most valuable lesson learned on this tattooed voyage is to persevere, even when the path meanders. Hard work, humble listening to the masters, and steering clear of arrogance have proven to be the compass guiding my artistic journey.


If you could tattoo anyone, dead or alive, who would your dream client be? My dream client would be the person who is reading this :)"


Follow Katrine on Instagram: @katrinemacklin

 

Courtney Knowles


Left: 'New Growth' illustration by Courtney Knowles.


"Hi, my name is Courtney, but probably better known by Death and Bloom. I’m a tattoo apprentice at Albion Ink, Leeds, UK, and have been tattooing for 4 months now. Some of my favourite tattoo styles are illustrative blackwork, etching/woodcut and American traditional.


I first began thinking about tattooing as a career back in high school. I already spent most of my free time drawing or painting, and knew that the only thing I really wanted to do was make art. I grew up listening to a lot of pop punk, emo and metal bands who were more often than not covered in tattoos and soon enough, my focus turned to drawing flash and and planning for when I was finally old enough to get tattooed myself.


When I turned 17, I ended up working on the front desk at a local tattoo shop in my hometown as part of a school work experience programme. My days would mostly consist of making tea and drawing, but I still thought it was the coolest job ever. Being a part of a community of likeminded folk who had that same drive and passion for creating was something I hadn’t encountered before, and seeing the artists in the shop working only solidified that desire to tattoo and seek an apprenticeship after I finished my uni degree.


The way I found my apprenticeship was pure luck and being at the right place at the right time. A few years after graduating from my fine arts degree, I decided to take a leap of faith and quit my full time job to start my own business selling art prints and hand painted homeware under the name Death and Bloom.


My mentor actually stumbled across my work whilst I was working my stall at an arts market and we got chatting about tattoos, and how I’d been slowly building up a portfolio with the intention to find an apprenticeship eventually. He’d recently opened a new studio in the city centre and mentioned he’d be looking for an apprentice in the near future, so if i was interested I could pop in with my portfolio for a chat. And the rest is history!


One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learnt so far in my apprenticeship has definitely to be patient with myself and the learning process. At the beginning of my apprenticeship, I’d often get caught up comparing my work to other artists or apprentices that had been tattooing a lot longer than me and worry I wasn’t progressing fast enough.


I quickly learned that there wasn’t a one-size-fits-all apprenticeship and that everyone progresses at their own pace. Nobody knows everything and there’s always room for improvement, take constructive criticism on board and use it as motivation to do better next time. We all start somewhere and comparing your day 1 to someone else’s day 100 probably isn’t doing a world of good.


A few years back, I created an illustration titled ‘New Growth.’ The piece is made up of a large amount of intricate florals and foliage which can be seen to be almost taking over the skeleton they surround. The idea of new life and beauty sprouting from the bones was something I found comfort in, a kind of optimistic spark amongst the darkness.


I made this piece at a time I was feeling a little lost in terms of what I was doing with my life, as the reality of being self employed sunk in. I struggled a lot with my mental health during this time and I wanted to create an illustration that somewhat represented this transitional period I was going through. There was something incredibly therapeutic about creating this piece and still to this day, I receive messages from customers who’ve bought this print and find that same comfort and sense of hope that I did in this illustration.


Follow Courtney on Instagram: @deathandbloomtattoos



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