relax don't do it

Originally published 10/26/2007

 

working female tattoo artist
As a tattoo artist for many years, I’ve seen many people who are interested in learning the trade. I’ve also seen many make the mistake of trying to take a shortcut to becoming a tattoo artist at home, or as a hobby.

If you are planning to tattoo “for fun” or as a hobby, you should know that in most states this is illegal. The biggest, and most serious reason, is for the health and safety of your (potential) clients. Tattooing in a bacteria-ridden space, with unsterilized equipment, or even worse, non-disposable equipment, is extremely risky.

The risks associated with home tattooing start with minor Staph infections and end with septicemia (which can be fatal) and transmission of serious, life-threatening viruses. Also, using your home as a tattoo studio puts you and your family at extreme risk of infections and diseases. Simply put, this is not safe, and is most likely against the law.

When you decide to learn tattooing it’s best to be careful. There are unscrupulous people who will try to take advantage of your interest, and knowing the usual steps taken to become a tattoo artist can help you avoid them.

Having an interest in tattooing and being able to draw, while necessary, are not the only things you’ll need. You’ll also require a lot of dedication, patience, and sociability. It is hard to become a tattoo artist. A typical apprenticeship is tiring, demanding, and difficult. The process of apprenticeship is designed to weed out those who are not capable of dealing with the stress of the job, and those who are not patient enough to cope with its demands.

hourglass and candle tattooIf you apprentice, you will be granted the respect of your peers, and have more access to knowledge, equipment, and skills than if you try to muddle through (dangerously) on your own.

Artists the try to learn on their own do, rarely, become respected in the field- but this takes decades of hard work, rather than a few years.

Most will never achieve acceptance if they have not apprenticed properly.

If you’re the typical starving artist, tattooing can look very lucrative compared to where you’re at right now, but it’s not really a craft you can learn on your own (despite what those unscrupulous people might say).

If you can’t be patient and persistent, you won’t be a good tattooist anyway.

Dealing with clients is much more difficult than learning to tattoo, and without the barriers and obstacles to learning there would be no way to ensure the temperament of potential tattooists.

(more…)

Creating your own photo reference

Originally published on 06/14/2008

PHOTOGRAPHYWe all know how boring it can get to see the same few poses, faces, or roses tattooed again and again. It’s a strange ethical question in some ways- is a still from a film, a figure model on the internet, or a flower you find on google, stolen property if you trace/redraw slightly, and tattoo it?

You can start fixing this by beginning to create your own photo reference library. If you have a relatively decent camera, whether or not it’s digital (although digital is easier, and what I’ll be discussing here) you can acquire a lot of reference that nobody else has access to.

Photograph everything. Get a big memory card- it’s a write-off- and start taking pictures of the flowers in your garden, ask your friends to pose for you. Have them stand and sit in different positions and make different faces, different emotions and moods. Just be sure to organize your pictures by sunject, not by date! That way you can always find “red rose bud” in the mass of pictures you will end up with.

This brings originality to your work, while allowing you to stay fairly true to life. If you plan to specialize in photorealistic or “color zombie portrait head” style work, you’d better start shooting now, because if I see another devil’s rejects stillframe #13892 again I will scream.

have a heart, NRA.

Originally published on 06/24/2012.

I don’t really think I need to re-state my position on gun control laws, since it’s obvious that I am a gun owner, and that I think owning weapon is a right, not a privilege.

However, I want to re-state them anyway.

I think everyone who has not committed a violent crime should be permitted to own whatever weapons they choose, without having to register them or alert the government. I see the need for background checks; it only takes ten minutes to run a name and see any violent convictions on someone’s record. I see no need for waiting periods, for anything else.

I am very, very lefty. I’m basically a retired anarchist; I would still love to live in a gift economy, but I do not think this can happen during my lifetime, so I’ve modified my actions based on what I think is possible to accomplish.

I believe in spending public funds on welfare, schools, higher education, and healthcare for all citizens. I believe that religion has no place in ANY publicly-funded system or in ANY politics. I think that people who want abortion to be illegal are idiots. I think that patriarchy is bad, that our culture is set up in many wrong ways. I believe in class warfare, unions as a concept, the rights of workers, and of the underclass to act out.  I dislike  the way we use our military to screw up other areas of the world, and I think our policies are a direct result of corruption and patriarchy. In other words, I’m not right-wing, I am NOT republican, and I am NOT in favor of god, the bible, and apple pie. I’m basically a commie pinko.

heart tattoo art

So- while I agree with some things the gun lobbyists stand for- such as my right, and everyone else’s right to bear arms- I can’t donate any money to them, can’t support them in any way, because when I go to an NRA site and see people rooting for assholes who would put me in prison for my reproductive choices, or touting some bullshit flag-waving nonsense about how we should bomb “camel jockeys”, or condescension to female members or participants-

Well, that just sucks, and all of that is what I am against, and passing laws to restrict what I can do with my body is just as repressive as passing laws to restrict what weapons and means of defense I can own, and you guys, THAT is some BULL SHIT.  Women want to bear arms too. As do socialists, abortion providers and people who have had abortions, pro-choice folks, people who aren’t in favor of recent wars, people who dislike racism and sexism- we carry too. So putting us down on the regular is just foolish.

Now I’ve said my piece for the day. Time for more coffee, I think. Again, I know that speaking out means some people won’t buy my art, or like me, or whatever. That’s ok. Fuck it- I’d rather just speak my mind and be broke (because people who agree with me are poor) than keep my mouth shut and pander for the sake of a few bucks.

skulls, bones, dead things, and where they come from.

Originally published on 11/16/2013

raccoon skull mount taxidermyI want to talk a little bit about my materials. Mainly because I read a lot of forums and craft and art blogs, and tend to see the same comments over and over about artists that work with taxidermy or animal remains.

Nature isn’t cruel or kind; it’s just hungry. 

I get a lot of questions about various things I use- mostly about bones and skulls, but a lot of people have asked about other things too- plants, rocks. Usually people are just being dense- “did you kill all those raccoons?” or “who do you have buried in the crawlspace?” or, even better, “ewwww it’s dead!” A lot of people saying this also eat fast food, buy meat at the grocery store, and let their cats roam outdoors…

I work humanely- in a sense. I don’t kill anything to make my art but yes, they are real bones and skulls. I get them from a lot of different sources. Most of the game animal bones and skulls I get from hunters- I have friends who hunt for food, and who will give me remains to work with. Most of the deer, elk, and turkey skulls and bones I use come from these sources. I also get bones from family farms- chicken, pig, and goose or turkey bones, even a few ostrich and cow remains. Most of these animals are also killed for food.

I don’t use anything from factory farms, just farms where the animals are treated well. I know this is enough to upset some people but since I also eat meat I don’t feel bad about it- I WOULD feel awful using factory-farmed items. However if I came across some, or had a source, I might use them; that piece would probably be pretty damned dark though. I tend to work with the feelings the animal’s remains give me, to make a piece that expresses the creature’s life.

I know a lot of artists who work with animal remains are a bit more humorous than I am, or more light-hearted about it in general. I do see the remains as a medium but at the same time I don’t feel good making jokes at the animal’s expense. Very rarely I get a skull or part which is light, and happy- I will sometimes make a brighter piece with those. Usually though animals live difficult lives, and their bones speak to me about this, so I don’t work very light very often.

I get questioned partly I think because of artists that do slaughter animals in the context of their work. While I don’t do this, I don’t find these artists offensive at all, it’s just not my own way of working. I don’t think it’s horrible. I have hunted for food myself, and been present for slaughtering at farms. Again- I don’t think it’s awful if you eat at KFC, either. I just personally don’t.

Some of my pieces come from road strikes. I have been working steadily on a series of photographs and an extended essay about roadside nature and roadkill, about human safety and how highways affect the animals that live near them. As a consequence of this work I have come across a LOT of roadside remains. I did get a license to collect roadkill in several states (not all states need one, but some do) and have spent a great deal of time working with these remains. A lot of these wild animals are obvious survivors of repeated injuries (fractures and old healed injuries in their skeletons attest to this) and the way they interact with the road fascinates me.

skunk skullNo, I have not used anything I myself ran over.

Most of my feathers come from friend’s farms. Almost all of my plant matter comes from my own place- I live on the edge of the Siuslaw, and not only the yard/forest of my house but the clearcuts nearby furnish most of my lichens, moss, and wood. I do a lot of beach collecting too. I live in Oregon, and it is legal to collect many things here, since all beaches are public. I do refrain from collecting in park areas, since those are restricted. I also don’t collect or mess with the remains of pinnipeds, or vertebrate fossils- just invertebrate fossils, collected in nonrestricted areas.

I have a few skulls and things which I have purchased. A few mink, fox, and beaver skulls which I am certain are fur trade castoffs- these items have a very dark feeling to them, and so the pieces built with them reflect that. I also have used vervet monkey skulls- the importation of these was a pain in the neck, and they are killed as a nuisance animal- so they too have a very dark feeling. Like I said, the horrors of life, death, the hard times most animals go through, are the reason my work is not light-hearted and silly. I don’t use anything illegal, and I avoid using items which may violate CITES or the MBA. (More information on the legality of animal remains is available here, if you are interested.)

I don’t work much with animals that are domestic pets, but I occasionally get some materials this way. Usually these are used for commissions for the previous owner. Some of these are more light and happy. I’ve worked with a very battered stray-dog skull, just making that piece was very upsetting. It wasn’t a joke to me.

zpg, anti-breeding artI’ve worked with human bones too. This is where people tend to be most alarmed- although in reality it is easier to buy human bone than many animals! I get most of my human bone specimens from places which sell vintage anatomical displays, or from places such as necromance (among others) which sell oddities. Yes, these bones are legal. No, I didn’t kill anyone to get them. And YES, they are expensive for a reason. Again- most of these works are dark. I don’t get silly feelings from death.

I’ve sold work and done commissions for vegans- for people who are animal and conservation activists. My work is intended to speak about the way people are oblivious to the natural world. Nature is full of drama, death, struggle, and strangeness. I try to use the materials I have to portray that. Reminders of mortality are not for everyone. Horrific art is not for everyone. There are people who cannot sit through a horror movie and people who cannot listen to a description of how their hamburger was made. My work is not for these people, really- although knowing that my work may have given them pause or made them think about these things, about the darker side of life, is kind of the point.

Originally Published on: Apr 19, 2012

the struggle to decide; prints or not? downloads or not?

(originally published Published on: Sep 5, 2013)

I always struggle with the question of whether to make downloads of my work available, or prints. In one way, I hate doing it, because I like the idea of something I made with my own hands going to your hands, as it is, with no other stuff there. Then I realize some things.

  • If I was a musician, I’d sell records, not just perform live.
  • I can only make so many original things, in so much time.
  • I’d like to be able to earn enough from my art to make it worth the time and energy (see footnote)
  • I have to eat.
  • Many people want to be able to enjoy my work but couldn’t afford the cost of an original.
  • I can’t manage shipping and storefronts online and promotion for all of that, and STILL HAVE TIME FOR MAKING THINGS.

I will take these point-by-point.

shirtsIf I was a musician, I’d sell records. I’d want more people to enjoy my work than I could perform for in person. I’d want people to be able to take me anywhere with them. If I was a writer, I’d print books of my work. I wouldn’t expect people to only access my work through attending readings, or by buying the hand-written manuscript. I’d want my work to be accessible, something people could enjoy.  I also would maybe still sell the manuscript, or some signed first editions…but the books would be published, out there, even on a kindle.

I have two hands. If I work the equivalent of fulltime hours, I can make maybe four things, of substandard quality, in a week. I can make maybe one or two things of good quality in a week. I can make one great thing a month. Now…how much is minimum wage? Should I set all the art aside and get a job at McDonald’s? Because if I can only sell a piece of art one time, mcdonald’s will pay better, and maybe I should set this art stuff aside permanently and get a real job…I can only make so much stuff with my own two hands. But if I sell prints and let people download the works, I can post it – set it and forget it. I can sell those while I am busy making other new things, and can continue to make money from a piece for years sometimes, long after the original is sold or destroyed.

I love making art. I spend all my time making things. I do have to eat. So therefore I have to charge money and sell my work- my choice is, work a job which takes all my time, and rarely make anything, or sell my work at a reasonable price and live off that money. I love making art. The process of actually making things, well, I will do that no matter what. I’ve had my Kafka years, working fulltime then coming home and putting in another eight hours painting. But my work wasn’t as good. And I had no time to show it to anyone. I need the time to show my work- to scan it, photograph it, share it, post it. If I don’t make any money from a piece, I’ll still MAKE the piece- but I will not spend the time posting it and discussing it and sharing it with you, or with anyone. If I was lucky enough to have inherited wealth maybe I’d have that kind of luxury, but I don’t. I wish I did, really.

EPSON MFP imageAnd yeah- YOU GUYS are broke too! I mean everyone is hurting. Being poor shouldn’t mean you can’t enjoy or own art! I want to make things accessible to everyone as much as possible. So- digital downloads. Most people have a printer- or access to a library with a printer in it- and can pay me a few dollars for a file, take it there, pay a buck or two to print it, and hang it up. Prints are next in line- the quality will be better, professional grade, the print will last longer, years even. Limited run? Why? It seems like a waste of time, of energy. I put my initials and a number on them and they’re magically worth more somehow? No. I do handpainted prints though- the next higher price things- and those are fun. I can take an hour and embellish a painting I already did- make new details on it, play around. The buyer gets something unique, like an original, and I get to play…

I spend maybe an hour or two a day online writing copy for my work, explaining it, discussing it, sharing technical stuff, writing, posting, and keeping track of what has sold. I spend another hour or so every day taking photos, scanning, fixing the damn scanner. And another hour every other day packaging stuff to mail out, trying to keep track of what goes where. I am not good at any of these things. They are REAL WORK, hard work I don’t enjoy very much. I’d rather be actually making things. So this work- I need to streamline it, make it as handsfree as possible. Selling originals is difficult. I have to post it everywhere, and hope the right person sees it, and then once it’s sold, do it again, the entire process, from documenting the work to explaining it to answering questions and pricing it and packing it and shipping it. All that work has to be done completely from scratch, every time I sell an original.

A print? I scan it, touch it up, post it, and it’s done. I can leave it there, just like that, for years. People can buy it a year later, without any additional work from me. It’s what they call a secondary income stream, and as an artist working alone I NEED that to happen as much as possible. It frees up my hands for making more better things. The digital downloads are the same- even easier, in fact. There’s no parameters to set, no material-checking, no worrying about quality control. It’s set and forget.

EPSON MFP imageSo, in order to be able to make more and better art, and in order to live, I sell originals, downloads, AND prints of most things. I charge people a tiny bit extra if they buy an original and only want me to do a limited run of prints. I charge A LOT extra if someone buys something and wants me to make no prints at all…for example, A painting I make- the original is a hundred bucks. I will probably (if it’s a good painting) make another two hundred off of prints and downloads of it over the course of a year. For me to sell ONLY THE ORIGINAL and still pay my rent, I have to charge three hundred for that original, now.

Should I do that? Sometimes I want to. Because I love the idea of something I made with my own hands, being in YOUR hands, with nothing in between us. Also because I like originals myself. But I can’t manage to, or figure out how to, promote myself well enough to always sell my originals, let alone for three times what I have them priced at now. So unless a magical fairy of promotion comes and makes me famous or rich, without charging me anything or requiring more of my time to work it…I will keep selling prints and downloads, of nearly everything I make.

I love you guys. Those of you with two bucks, and those of you with a million. You’re all people I like, and I want you all to be able to touch and enjoy my work.

Obligatory gift guide post.

bird in the handYes, I made a gift guide. There’s a few hundred things there by now! I know SO many creative and amazing people- and every year I buy from them instead of going to big box stores. Why? Well, partly because I enjoy owning things made by hand, by people on their own time. And partly because I hated every factory job I ever had. If you’ve ever worked in a factory you know- you may do the job itself well or with some pride, but you do NOT put love into each and every piece of your piece rate. Especially since you get paid peanuts, made to work holidays away from your family, and -unless you have a GREAT union- every single thing you make is like a nail in your coffin, hurting your back, blistering your fingers. Also, handmade goods, the money you spend on them goes right back into YOUR economy, not to some CEO’s offshore hoarding pile of money. The money you spend on handmade gets spent, right back into the world.

For those reasons, and MANY more, I buy from people who make things by hand themselves, from people who create art (then sell it or get it printed and sell the prints) and from people who curate vintage things on their own. These people do these things because they love them. And all too often these people are broke at the holidays, while everyone rushes to trample and kill each other to buy mass-produced garbage they’ll forget about in a month.

You can’t buy every single thing like this, of course- but there are a hell of a lot of things you CAN. And so, you SHOULD. You will feel good, the receiver of the gift you got will love it, and unlike factory goods- it will not be set aside and forgotten when the day is over.

Go check out the handmade and small business gift guide I made.

on becoming outgoing

the ghost writerI used to be really, really shy.

I went through years of just never talking to anyone, just going home after work. Reading. Spending time alone or with one or two friends. Then I went through a long, angry phase of hating people who were social. That lasted a while.

At some point, BAM! I was no longer so shy.

As soon as I didn’t care what anyone thought, things got a lot easier. If someone doesn’t like me, it doesn’t really matter. I mean of course there are people that I’d like to have like me- I still don’t feel all the way happy in a crowd- but now, it’s discomfort, a bit of anxiety, whereas before it was crippling and it kept me alone most of the time.

Of course some people don’t like me much, now that I am a loudmouth. But then again…some people wouldn’t have liked me no matter what I did.

(more…)

Charity work, part one- Women.

51b6a0c0 (64)Tomorrow I’ll be doing some charity work for a group I highly admire, who have assisted me personally in the past.

If you’ve ever been the victim of a sexual assault, RAINN can help. They even have online chat support, people you can talk to online. This is pretty good news for a lot of people- part of the way an abusive situation can manifest is in agoraphobia, or fear of the telephone. For some people even being able to call for help is impossible. And for those people, RAINN provides an online support mechanism.

If you need help, to get away from an abusive situation, or to get help coping with a past sexual assault or abuse, follow this link http://rainn.org/get-help/national-sexual-assault-online-hotline to the online support group.

 

If you want to help, you can become a volunteer for the new National Sexual Assault Online Hotline and be a part of this generation’s most innovative source of support for victims of sexual violence. For more info, and to sign up, visit http://www.rainn.org/get-involved/volunteer-for-RAINN/ohl-volunteer.

 

I owe them my life, pretty much. I have for many years. I am finally settled in with a kindly, gentle man, in a safe place, without any of the troubles I have at other times had in my life. I’m capable of helping, finally. If you too can, please do!

DSC_1132

I’ll be posting my charity plans/works weekly as I go through the summer. My next charity post will be Animals, and time spent volunteering at the shelter.

rats win races, sloths succeed.

556740_10151360701822712_101340810_n559917_10151362094257712_740607251_nDSC_1159a reminder tattoo for a tattoo artist friend of mine. he wanted to remember to slow down, and do more focused work, instead of hurrying up and rushing himself. He is the kind of artist who feels a lot of pressure from his clients, he tends to feel so glad to be tattooing that he forgets that his work is valuable, that his BEST work is worthwhile…that people who want really good tattoos are willing to pay for them, and that he is capable of doing great tattoos, and therefore shouldn’t undervalue his time…

If you undercharge people, you start to feel rushed. it’s inevitable- you end up booked solid for months but barely making ends meet. hurrying up to get that tattoo done in time, in the small amount of time you quoted them for. it’s far better to quote high, to take your time, take that extra hour to do your VERY BEST work on people.

any rate- I love fucking sloths. And this one is particularly classy, too.

also,

 

298323_10151361506522712_1862424666_n

You poor kids.

my blog: like a hundred baboons writing shakespeare with assault rifles

My standard advice to anyone wanting to learn to tattoo is “MOVE OUT OF OREGON AND GET A REAL APPRENTICESHIP”. I find the idea of “schools” laughable and repugnant.

You simply cannot teach “class” of more than one person hands-on, tattooing is not like other fields in this sense. Apprenticeships served one-on-one, by the person who plans to hire you afterward, are and were the tattoo industry standard.

Being here is the first time I have ever heard of a tattoo “school” being taken seriously by ANYONE as anything but a scam that teaches the student nothing.
Churning out people without being responsible for their future career is a terrible idea; I’d never before heard of ANYONE being taught without being hired by the teacher once they’d learned.

An artist who is very skilled and dedicated does not have time or interest in teaching twenty people. They may take the time to properly apprentice one or two during their career. In order for an artist like this to have an apprentice in Oregon, they must open a school in a manner that assumes they will want to teach multiple people; they must charge money, they must do a lot of things which deters them from bothering at all. The system in Oregon is set up so that the very best tattoo artists won’t teach, and those with less skill, will.

SHE DOESN’T EVEN HAVE ANY TATTOOS


People who are proficient at filling out forms and such; not good tattooers. We end up with under-educated people with no place to work, turned loose to fend for themselves.

I feel like a lot of these younger artists were completely ripped off by the system, taken advantage of, their ambitions falsely turned against them. We could have so many highly-trained young artists here, instead we have a pile of people who COULD be great, but are flailing around trying to learn on their own. It’s a waste of time, and it’s bad for tattooing.

Again- you can NOT teach tattooing in a class. This requires apprenticeship and mentoring beyond that; should be done in the interest of furthering our art, not raking in cash from naive starry-eyed kids and then tossing them out in the street to beg for work (or worse, open their own shop because they can’t find a job…how are they going to learn more then? When they are working alone with only their limited knowledge to go on?)

A few people have done the best they can teaching under these rules, but a first-year OR tattoo artist is still, STILL, light-years behind almost any other first-year tattooer.

In tattooing, it’s not good form to talk down on whoever taught you, no matter how fucked-up things ended, or how poorly the teaching as done. I feel that the current rules in oregon were passed without any insight into the general standards of tattooing nationwide and have really made us look bad in comparison to other places. The school/apprentice thing being the biggest issue.

Y HALO THAR TINY JACKASS

It’s not so much the number of new artists, because demand is still high and rising. it’s the quality and skill of those artists! YOU SHOULD NOT TEACH SOMEONE YOU DON’T PLAN TO HIRE. simply put!

The input given by a mentor during the first few years of tattooing is just as important as the original apprenticeship, and a formal apprenticeship gives in-depth, hands-on information that can’t be given in a class setting, or by someone who is teaching a herd.

For you guys who are wanting to learn tattooing: MOVE OUT OF OREGON. If you have other things in your life preventing that, be aware that YOU WILL NOT HAVE TIME FOR THOSE THINGS ANYWAY. The time during your apprenticeship, tattooing needs to be the first and only priority in your life.

So, move! Find someone who wants to INVEST in you, share their knowledge, and guide you. Don’t slap down cash on the barrelhead and expect to be a respected artist because you bought in.

I’m crossposting this rant from a forum where I posted it all; I have snipped out a few bits that were more technical, but the gist is the same. Learn from someone who wants to hire you, teach only someone you plan to hire.

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