Recently I’ve been posting on social media highlighting my growth as an artist from 2001 to now. I was met with praise, support, wonderment, and surprisingly (at the time) there were people lamenting about their own struggle with pushing themselves to progress their skills and create art. It was surprising because it’s a sensation I hadn’t encountered in years: the struggle to create. I’ve been in it, devoted to it, and completing pieces I was proud of for two years. In retrospect I remember the self doubt vividly. To those that are in the thick of the sensation of self doubt, that are comparing yourselves to those that have already succeeded in ways that you are pursuing, please take a moment to view this wonderful interview of Ira Glass, joined with creative visualizations of his words.
I’ve been accepted into the apprentice program at Forbidden School of Body Art & Tattoo! My wife, Crista, and I are moving to Portland, OR in April and my apprenticeship begins the following May. I’m ecstatic about what the rest of the year has in store for my future as an artist.
This represents an opportunity to explore a life long goal. I caught the tattoo bug as a teenager, when a coworker of my mother’s saw a drawing of mine, and asked if he could get a copy to have it tattooed. In my early 20’s, growing up in San Luis Obispo, CA, the opportunities weren’t at my disposal in order to pursue an apprenticeship. There were only a few studios in the area, I wasn’t involved in the community, and to be completely honest: my portfolio was unfocused and unpolished. I was working full time to support myself, barely making ends meet on a monthly basis, so even if I had an apprenticeship offer, I wouldn’t have been able to take it.
At the time, I had thought momentarily about getting machines and researching/teaching myself from online materials. However, I respected the art too much to pursue it. Also, the thought of “scratching” on myself and my friends (who were eager to offer their flesh) just didn’t sit well. In my opinion the living canvas: skin, is the most complex medium possible, and it would be arrogant to assume I could teach myself how to do it well without the proper tutelage. So, I put tattooing aside in my mind, and focused on my professional progress through the tech sector.
The better part of a decade later, in the fall of 2016, I found myself at a cross roads in my career path, and I chose to leave the tech world. My plan was to live on savings for a couple of years (what I call my midlife retirement), and return to my passion: drawing. New experiences have always fueled my creativity, so I traveled, explored, adventured, and each time returned to my pencil and paper. What you see on my website is mostly the result of these endeavors. At the time I didn’t have an end goal in mind professionally. My hope that at the end of the midlife retirement, with a new body of work, I would know what to do next.
As 2018 approached, I felt my midlife retirement coming to an end, and I didn’t have my next step as a professional artist in sight. My wife and I had made plans to move to Portland, OR when our lease ends in May. I found myself mentally preparing to return to the tech sector. I updated my linkedin, my website portfolio, and began to put feelers out for potential opportunities. The closer I became to following this career path, the larger the sinking feeling became in the pit of my stomach. I believed in my art, and I knew it hadn’t been just a phase before resuming my unsatisfying career.
As fate would have it, my career epiphany was found entirely by chance at the bottom of our fifth or sixth mimosa. Over brunch, and discussing all the excitement regarding Crista and I moving to Portland, my friend Lux recalled getting her most recent tattoo the last time she was in Portland at Forbidden School Body Art & Tattoo. Inception was complete, and the thought was a spark that set my mind aflame. I returned to a thought I hadn’t revisited since my early 20’s: that I could be a professional tattoo artist. It just made complete sense. By the time I got home that night there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that I had found my next step.
I was stoked to learn that Oregon is one of the most strict licensing states in the country. In order to be licensed you must either provide proof that you’re already a licensed tattoo artist from out of state (providing 3 years of W-2’s) or attend a state approved school that has curriculum requirements defined by the state: 360 hours of training (210 theory/150 practical), chairside supervision under a licensed tattoo artist. Must have documentation showing a minimum of 50 completed procedures (which means “a tattoo that has been finished, including any touchups or additional work following initial healing and the client is released from service”). Training must be conducted by an Oregon licensed tattoo artist registered as a teacher by the Higher Education Coordinating Commission’s Private Career Schools division.
That night I contacted the school, submitted my portfolio, my artistic statement, and hoped.
Over the next couple of days, everything fell into place. They loved my portfolio, my professional history, and my goals for being an artist and interest in the industry. They were accepting two students for enrollment starting in May 2018, which was perfectly in line with when we had planned to move to the area. After graduation, they offer you space in their studio, but also encourage and understand if you want to pursue opportunities at other studios. Their instructors are working artists themselves, and their work is exciting and in line stylistically with what I want to pursue as a tattoo artist.
I’m so grateful for how everything has come together. My work over the last year has enabled me to unlock an opportunity that I had previously thought impossible. For the first time in my life, I won’t be just working for a living, I’ll be following my passion. I’ll be a professional artist.