Lately, over the past couple of weeks, I've been finding myself becoming increasingly interested in something that I thought I would never be interested in: tattooing.
It feels a little bit like an epiphany, or some kind of awakening of curiosity. Growing up as a country bumpkin like me, tattoos and strange people and all the "colourful" things of the world, were very far away and hadn't much to do with my life. I didn't discover rock music or even music that spoke to me, until I was about 16... up until then, or even later (I was slow), I didn't really know that you could make a living with art. Neither did my parents. They never discouraged me from drawing, but out of concern they encouraged me to look at other things. Art could be a "hobby". In some ways, as a shy kid, I took a lot of their opinion, or the opinion of country folk, on board. There wasn't that much crazy in my life.
And so, I used to look down on tattoos, or people who got them. But something has happened recently, that's made me think differently. When I went to art college, I used to think that art was one thing, or could/should only be expressed in one way. The things that I liked. When I got to college, it was a shock. Art was not just about painting and drawing and life studies. The studio was a mad house of theatre and expression and feeling. I realised that art could not be contained and probably shouldn't be. I still stuck to what I loved, but it was an important lesson.
It seems that when it comes to tattooing, the reverse has happened. I've been mostly exposed to the stuff I don't like. The crude, the cliché, the things that aren't my cup of tea. This is probably the reason that I was first turned off tattoos... I never gave it a chance and I missed out. I'm embarrassed about that now... With illustration and painting, I've always been able to wade through the stuff I don't like, to find the things I do, because I knew they were buried down there somewhere. In much the same way, with tattoos, I'm only beginning to scratch the surface, to realise that yes, for the first time, there are tattooists out there who make skin art that so excites me that I visibly vibrate in my chair, the same way my favourite illustrators do. This is such a big deal for me. I NEVER looked at tattoos and got the same pleasure. Tonight I discovered Ryan Mason. The guy's work is sick. It's full of beautiful woodland creatures entwined with nature. Mason treats them and their surface with such delicacy and love... and the colours! For the first time ever, I'm excited to start exploring tattoos. I'm beginning to be won over by the enticement of having living art on your skin. I never understood WHY people thought of it in that way. And it's because I was never exposed to it. I can't believe this, a whole new avenue of art awaits!!
So, my final year of college is already 2 months in. I've been thinking a lot about what it is I want to do with myself when I'm done; how will I survive. I like graphic design, I've learned so much from it, but I will never be a graphic designer... I LOVE illustration. But how does an illustrator survive? This summer past, I did a 3 month internship in an iPhone games company. It was the most fun ever. Three months in the bedroom of a bungalow designing characters and environments. It's my dream job. I think. But here's where I run into a problem: there's little work for a concept artist in Ireland. Even in that company, it might be years before they're ready to take on staff. And if not, there are only 2, maybe 3 others if I'm lucky. My only other options are to leave for England or America. Then it depends whether it's video games or film. I could be travelling a lot... and I'm tired of travelling so much. I've been doing it for years. I'm a homebird. Although I used to fight against it, I like the comforts of the countryside and nature and of having a place to come home to that feels right. Even after living in Dublin for 4 years, I still love home. If I want to avoid the staleness of graphic design, the uncertainty of freelance illustration and the emigration of concept art, then what do I do with myself?
Just before the summer, my brother told me one morning that his friend had text him saying that there was an apprenticeship going in the tattoo studio that her brother worked in. I jumped at the idea of doing something different. Even though I had no idea about tattooing or apprenticeships, I rang the guy up and went to see him the next day. All that day I thought he was gonna laugh at me and send me away... but the guy was blown away by my portfolio. Apprenticeships are seemingly very hard to get... but this guy, Angus, was saying he'd cut off his pinky finger to take me on right there, because I'd make him a lot of money. I was really flattered... The only problem he had, was if my heart was really in it. To be honest, and I like honesty, it wasn't. I think for me, I presume that everyone in art really loves what they do. It's a calling... I never felt like tattooing was a calling and so I would be a cheat until then. I felt like I needed to get that itch for it, to feel genuine. So I went home and thought and looked up some stuff and then forgot about it for a while... but all of a sudden it's come back. Out of the blue - the urge to get my first tattoo and explore this stuff. I'm finally starting to get excited and interested. I think I could be good at it. Tattooing is a skill that can be done anywhere and is something so many people are interested in. I wouldn't have to move away or travel. I could live where I wanted to. I could even one day set up my own studio and run a business and earn a regular income (because someday it might not just be me... and I don't want my family to living on erratic income). Best of all... I'd be doing art all day and meeting tonnes of weird and wonderful people. I could even grow my hair long again :)
Mmm... I think I'd like to become a tattoo artist.