Monday, September 21, 2009

Everyone want to be a Tattoo Artist (without paying dues)






When I started tattooing back in 1993 there were no other black tattoo artists around. Then I read about Jacci (the first african american) tattoo artist who lived and worked in New Orleans. After reading about Jacci, I knew I had to honor the steps she had to follow to become a professional tattooist. I went over to Liquid Dragon tattoo in Asheville, NC and the owner/artist Robert sat me down, and told me all the steps I had to follow to do it the right way. In 93 I was just a "scratcher" a tattoo term used for people who tattoo out their homes, tattoo parties, or in the hood who was NEVER professionally trained by a tattoo master (a person who has been tattooing for over 10 years professionally) I knew I would never make real money being a scratcher and I knew I had to leave Asheville. I picked up another tattoo magazine and I seen other black people in the pages but they were not black tattoo artists they were a rock band called "Fishbone" from Atlanta. I thought to myself black rockers with tattoos? hell yeah my type of scene. I began reading all I could about tattooing and Jacci was the only other black tattoo artists I knew about at this time...I moved to Atlanta in 1994 in seek for a master artist to train me in the art of professional tattooing. I picked up the yellow pages and I called every single shop in Atlanta..everyone told me "NO" so I was STILL a "scratcher" but my name was buzzing in Atlanta and I was only 19 years old at this time. This young up and coming r&b singer name, Usher Raymond (only 16 at the time) asked me to tattoo "Bad Boy" on his arm...I thought to myself he's not even signed to Bad Boy, so I talked him into getting someone else...so he got "Usher with a sword" on his arm, a few months later he came back and I tattooed a K & Heart on his hand...I guess it was for his girlfriend at the time...I really needed a tattoo master and I wanted to learn how to do better tattoos...I heard there was a tattoo artists from Miami tattooing in downtown Atlanta in the 5 Points Flea Market. The tattoo artist was the legendary "ROB-G" R.I.P. I really wanted Rob-G to train me but I was really nervous and didn't like taking orders at the time. I had got in some trouble in the streets so I had to cover up a "BGP" tattoo I had on my left arm...so Rob-G did a black panther cover-up on my arm...I remember how he didn't use a "shader" and used a liner the whole tattoo..lol.I guess for only $40 in 94/95 he wasn't going to do his best work on me..BUT Rob-G let me hang with him for a few days and showed me a few things before going back to Florida. While hanging with Rob a few people told me about West End Tattoo...and they had black tattooist and the owner of the shop had just tattooed Tupac Shakur..I was a big fan of 2pac so I wanted to really get in this shop...I walk into West End tattoo nervous as hell, the owner Julia looked at my old scratcher tattoo photos, she told me my tattoos were really bad and told me to throw those photos away and she will train me in the art of tattooing. 2 Weeks laters I tattooing names and doing small roses tattoos at West End tattoo under the training of Julia, Freddy, and Bash...a few months after Atlanta tattoo legend, Lord Yatta left West End to work for Superman Tattoos...I learned how to do calligraphy lettering from Freddy a cuban tattoo artist from Miami, I learned the fine art style of tattooing from Bash, and Julia taught me the basics (outline, shading, etc) and business of tattooing. West End was a perfect vibe...then one day Julia asked to me look for more artists who might want to learn how to tattoo...my first thought was artist, Craig "Flux" Singleton but Flux wasn't into tattooing...so I asked Tuki Carter (back in college I let Tuki color in a moon tattoo on the back of my arm because I couldn't reach it myself) Tuki said he was down so Tuki joined me at West End tattoo, a year later tuki's cousin, Tylee joined us and then my college buddy, Tee joined us...It was a good year until some haters ran up in Tuki's apartment and shot Samba & Chris Carter (The shop managers of City of Ink) we sent Chris back to LA and me, Tuki, Bash, & Tee flew to Philly for our first tattoo convention, where we ran into tattoo artist, Paul Booth one of my heros at the time...he was really cool and humble...he was also in town for the tattoo convention...now this is 95 or 96 so there were not any other black tattoo artists at this tattoo convention...at the convention is where I found out what me and Tuki was calling "tattooing" wasn't shit compared to what Paul Booth and others were doing at that time...Cap a fellow Atlanta tattoo artits (Timeless Tattoos) told us we could sit down and watch him do a tattoo, I was amazed and humbled...there were only about 3 tattoo artists who were nice to us in the whole tattoo convention, the racism Julia told us about was crystal clear...one tattoo artist even told me and Tuki to "stick with flash"..flash are the sheets of premade tattoo designs on a paper.. street shops use those stencils to do the same tattoos on everyone. I felt disappointed on how they treated us because of our race..then we ran into another black tattoo artist from Popcorn tattoo in Philly and she offered us a job if we wanted to move...Bash years later left Atlanta and took that job at Popcorn tattoo...in 1997 I left West End tattoo...I couldn't do flash tattoos anymore I wanted to move over to "custom tattooing" but I was under contract with West End so I decided to open the shop in Asheville, NC 3 hours away from Atlanta....I would tattoo 2 weeks in Asheville and go back to Atlanta to be with my girlfriend (now wife) for 2 weeks...I had that shop for 3 years but being in Asheville which was very racist in the 90's I knew the police would end up killing me..so I closed that shop and moved the business back to Atlanta...now I was ready to return to Atlanta tattooing with a new custom style of tattoos

Now it's 2009 and everybody wants to be a tattoo artist..they just want to skip all the training and paying dues just for the fame of tattooing...they never mopped the floors, they never seat next to their tattoo master for hours watching them tattoo, they don't even know who the first black tattoo artist is, they just want to tattoo..without following the right steps...and it really sucks when your BLACK and don't even know the history of "black tattoo artists" they don't even know Miya Bailey, Tuki Carter,Gino, Bash, Chris Mensah, Lord Yatta, Roni Zulu, Randy, Twig, Jacci, Dueler, Ant etc...Black artists who paid dues and opened doors for other future black tattoo artists...we made the blueprint to follow but we still have people disrepecting this art form and picking up tattoo machines just because its a "cool" thing to do...tattooing is NOT a fad...Lil' Wanye, Swiss Beats, Chris Brown, Rihanna, please get PROFESSIONAL training before you touch another person with a needle. It's cool to love this artform and it's cool to dress like US tattoo artists and look like us but don't tattoo without training...it sends out the WRONG message...real artists paid dues...if you really what to help professional tattooing invest in tattoo shops, give your tattoo artists CREDIT in your cd covers, shout out your tattoo artists on those award shows...teach the youth about the tattoo artists who created your IMAGE...but don't tattoo...thats a dangerous message to send out to the kids...many blessings and much love to all yall....

Shout Out to all the Black tattoo artists out there following the RIGHT steps...

9 comments:

s i n c e r e said...

Nicely written bruh... Back in the day there was a lot of racism, and to a smaller degree it still exists with certain types (we all know who they are).

I know back in 93 there was only 1 shop here in Baton Rouge, and they wouldn't tattoo black people. Now there are shops on every corner! And I just know all these people haven't done things properly.

dude.relax. said...

I wouldn't let anyone stick a needle in or on my arm unless they were a professional. I've been invited to tattoo parties and had the dude at the bagel shop show me the [wack] tattoo on his arm as an example of what he could do for less than what I was about to pay you to do (which I still stop and stare at whenever I walk past myself in the mirror). Now that I'm older I realize it's art, not fad. So I appreciate that you wanted to do this and you trained and worked and sat and watched and you practice and sketch. You listen too. So, even though I am still wrestling with who to chose to fix the other side of this back, you know, just to spread the love in the shop, you're always my first choice. Later for the bagelshop-guy.

southpeezy said...

damn. that sucks. people dont want to pay dues in anything now. i feel (not really) for the dumbasses who sit there and let these people tat them up with no training.

Wally Sparks said...

Dope blog.. I can relate kind of because it's the same way with DJs too... everyone wants to be one without understanding actual work behind it.

V!CK D@MON3 said...

I'm reminded of when I told my dad that I wanted a tattoo. I was 16 & the 1st thing he said to me was, "What do u want to get?" I told him, "My name." Then he said, "Why??? Everyone knows your name. If you decide to get a tattoo, make sure it's meaningful & personal to you." He doesn't agree with the idea of tattoos but he's won’t tell me not to get one. My Mom, on the other hand, doesn’t want me to get them at all. With that said, I didn't get my 1st tattoo until I was 22.

My first 2 vists to a tattoo shop were combined into 1 tattoo (left arm) Praying Hands with Mark 8:36 under it. My next tattoo (upper back) is a small Semper Fi tattoo (USMC veteran). The latest tattoo (right arm) is Japanese Kanji Ambition Over Adversity which is the title of a poem by Tupac (I'm a big fan as well).

All my tattoos are "flash" tattoos. I didn’t realize it until I read this blog. I know what I want but still look to my artists to be creative. I'm now at a point where I want to get my current tattoos touched up to compliment my personality.

I’m still hoping you come to the St Louis Tattoo Expo, Nov 13-15, 2009. If that doesn’t happen, I’m definitely scheduling an appointment.

Sole~Bound said...

I agree with you that artists have to pay their dues... you forgot to mention the hours most of you guys spend away from your children and wives/husbands...
much love Miya, you're never afraid to speak your truth, I respect that!
Sole'

Lungz said...

man,ive grinded so hard,kiss ass,asked questioned,got turned away...told i should try back in a few years,sweated and poured my heart into tattooing,im not the greatest artist in the world but i can do quality ink,so it is kinda disturbing when i see celebs and some very non artistic people tattooing,i didnt create the artform but i do hold it very dear to my heart,so i feel where you are coming from,if your tattooing cuz it's the latest fad....stop now,it truly isnt for you,but if you love creating beauting with your mind that will stay with someone forever....i suggest you go about it the right way...nice blog kid

drkay80 said...

wow..... i know you hear this all the time but you are amazing! in so many ways. Thanks for sharing and I do agree 100%, proper training is a must if you are going to put ink to skin. you don't see doctors just running out and doing surgery on someone without the know how.

Effum Body Works said...

..this is the world we live in. being a tattoo artist isnt the "rock star life" everyone thinks it is...we slave for many hours a day and miss important social and family time..and for these already famous or infamous people to tread upon our hard work just for "kicks" is total wrong. Its bad enough the people with the most money (rappers, movie stars, athletes, etc)get the worst tattoos ever and now they doing the worst tattoos ever also...lmao!..tight blog bro! holla atcha boy!