View Full Version : Markus Lenhard over zijn werk...

15-05-2009, 10:50
lang stuk tekst, maar weer eens een leuke rant voor alle tattoo liefhebbers... :p

source: Lux Altera: What does my job compare to? (http://luxaltera.blogspot.com/2009/05/what-does-my-job-compare-to.html)

What does my job compare to? (http://luxaltera.blogspot.com/2009/05/what-does-my-job-compare-to.html)

I get that question once in a while...
I get a lot of other questions a lot more frequently like, "How did you learn this?", "Do you also do your own tattoos?" or "Will colors really fade?"

I got a studied response to each one of those by now. They are all legitimate questions, some requiring a bit more patience than others.
But i rarely hear "What Job compares to what you do?"
Probably because an answer to this would require a certain degree of imagination to be useful. But perhaps also because there is just not anything in particular that is obviously comparable to what a Tattoo Artist does.
I would have to dissect this a little bit if i would want to be anal about giving a satisfying answer. Satisfying to me, of course. In other words, being anal about it is not an evadable matter.

i will try to not get into a rant this time... i am a stern mofo sometimes and of course rants write themselves without any help so
"i'll try, everybody!" I might fail in which case, do take my shit with a grain of salt...
Of course if you want to rant back at me and give a chance to dismantle your disbelief for my lack of respect, i can't wait. But since this is not gonna be a rant. everyone will love me after this, of course... Can't wait.

Now on to the main subject. What would I compare this job to? I had to think hard on most of these a few were very obvious. i will start in no particular order. They are all important.

The Pharmacist:
-you are in a trade that requires huge amounts of knowledge in a manifold of different subject matters. None of which is directly open or obvious to your client but has crucial effects on the quality of your performance.

-you are the go to person if people run into problems that the best friend or neighbor has no satisfying advice for or if any given advice by above subjects failed to deliver the goods.
You are very likely the one that has to be ready with a solution to problems that could be impeded by coming to you as a professional directly.
Which is a bit nerve wrecking but stupidly how all of us seem to roll: First trust those you know albeit their total lack of professional experience for the subject.
If this fails (and only fucking IF) will you look for advice by your much trusted (accusing eyebrow raise) tattoo artist or in worst case scenarios your most trusted medical doctor.
(whoops, no worries i am out of rant mode right away. Here we go)

-you are in a position that requires a responsibility of good advice towards your client BEFORE you have earned any money of those clients, who very likely will be unable to estimate the effect of the product you are selling.
Not only are you a trusted adviser but also will you, from time to time, have to give advice that could possibly harm your business and meanwhile improve the business of those that lack this same responsibility (which really hurts).

I.E.: a client comes in and has to wait for an hour until you are ready to talk. Turns out he/she wants a lettering tattoo on a very visible spot consistent of arabian letters (which are hyroglyphs for me) . My reference which he/she brings in is a PostIt with a horrible 2 second example of the most horrible clawfingered scribble i ever saw. All of which, in a language i can not read, understand speak or in any way comprehend. Me, struck with disbelief try to point out that i can not tattoo it as it is but also lack the means to repair it in a manner that would be tattoo worthy since i have no idea how you write arabian. The client, obviously confused and angry tells me that it is not of my business to judge his/her handwriting and tells me to do it anyways because she likes it as it is. I refuse and of the client wanders to find someone who will say yes...

another Example:
"Can you do bio-tattoos?"
"Sry, what?"
"you know those that fade after a few weeks."
"Nothing like that exists, i can assure you that"
"But i heard from all my friends that it could be done!"
"i am sorry to disappoint you, but there is no way to tattoo anything in your skin that wouldnt stay there. Anyone who tries to sell you a bio-tattoo is lying to you."
"Maybe you are lying!" takes off...
Me thinking: "I am not the one taking your money... why should i be the one who lies."

So you are in a position where you have to make decisions between good advice and good business by yourself. And this exactly is one of the main pointer that determine the professionalism and/or quality of a tattoo studio and/or Pharmacy.
There are pharmacies that will happily sell you any kind of feel good, homeopathic, herbal or plain mystical bullshit you could ever want and that doesn't do dick or is plain harmful.
Or there are the responsible one that will tell you that there is no known treatment for your disease or at least none without any unwanted side effects.
The cozy, no side effect, no inconvenient dosing schedule, no health authority, no animal testing, non chemical, non poisonous approach is just too nice sounding to dismiss... It's also too good to be true.
But that doesn't matter to most of us... We want, we get.

Always listen to the ones that don't tell you what you want to hear! The wants that will reject your money to save their professionalism.

(Whoops, did rant again or what?!)

I have to keep those a bit shorter so on the following i rely on you coming up with the connceting examples yourself which will also help me staying out of rant mode.
Okay, next

The Nurse
i know how gay it sounds but we actually do a lot of
-Cross contamination prevention
-Listen to whining and personal stories, nodding knowingly while sharing advice...
-Spend hours with people that we don't like and/or that don't like us while having to remain our highest standards of executing our job and without forgeting our responsebilities
-Trying to comfort where we can and/or want
-Vomit pouch providing in those rare cases needed (that's crossing into stewardess which is even gayer so i stick with the nurse which is a tad bit hotter, too. IMHO)

The Plastic Surgeon
pretty much another twist on the pharmacist.
-having to educate people about the decisions they make is tough if those decisions are for life. Something not many first-timers can wrap their mind around. Not to sound condescending.
-dealing with the human body as a medium for your creation is tough and challenging. It asks for a certain level of experience and can not be learned in theory. And there is always a level of risk involved that the client needs to know about and take into consideration. We are after all making changes on the appearance of out clients. Responsibility!

The Graphic Designer
no not the artist.
I don't feel that artists have the necessary distance to their work. which is required for doing good, solid work.
And by good, solid work i mean work that not only satisfies the tattooer and the "tattooee" but also has mainstream value of looking right, being readable by most people and aging well.

Design is something that is made to look good and appeals to most people.
It is tailor made for the object or purpose it is used for. Art is stiffly attached to the artist and a very egocentrical thing to toss into a tattoo.
If you are an artist that does things that have a big audience and is tattooable in a sense of longevity. Fine.
But art can be ugly and lame. Still an artist always likes what they are doing and there are always people that like the most ugly and twisted shit for personal reasons.
But something that is specifically attached to a certain taste is automatically fragile when it comes to accepting it as a body part for the rest of ones life... Time changes opinions.

This is very generalizing and i understand that there are exceptions but it's the way i feel about it. The way I define art (a personal way of execution of imagery that is directly connected to an Artist and wont conform without sacrifice to a medium it is not intended for), is has no place in tattooing as such.
Changing art into proper design without loosing it's appeal and/or style is an art form in itself so this most controversial.

15-05-2009, 10:50
The Scientist
this certainly does not appeal to everyone in this trade but i think it is something that can make one a fast learner and better tattooer. Most of the best Tattoo Artists out there (that i know) use the scientific method (consciously or not) to determine how to improve their work step by step, the safest way possible with the biggest feedback of valid information.

-Ask the right questions
-Gather knowledge
-Find a problem
-Work out a solution with the foundation of the gathered knowledge
-Experiment (if that fails, don't get attached to your brainchild but swallow your pride and move on!)
-Move on to higher ground

Good stuff.

The Musician
-knowing your instrument by heart is what this one is all about. A good tattooer hears and feels when he does it right. It requires a well trained ear, hand-eye-ear coordination, dexterity and experience. Tuning and using a tattoo machine right is like tuning and playing an instrument. It is very intricate and asks for a lot of practice and endurance. Working with the ever changing medium of skin and the ever changing setup of a tattoo machine/needle/grip/color makes this probably one of the hardest and unpredictable instruments that you could find. So in a way a tattooer not only has to have the abilities of a good musician but has to be able to improvise in a jam session with a new band every day.

So far for the parallels to other professions...

Now, i realize that these cut into each other as most of them are comparable to one another.
A good question that remains is, what is the difference between a good solid tattooer and a good solid tattoo artist? Both of which deserve the same amount of respect. Well, maybe not the same but both have their place and are vital to this industry. and of course the field here is also all shades of gray between the two.
In order to not be totally wishy-washy though, i have to generalize while totally being aware of the unique ways everybody handles their job. That's the scientist in me, the statistician, the bit of geek if you will.

I understand that all this makes it sound like we tattoo artists/tattooers are some kind of übermensch, super entity that can do pretty much everything. Remember, i am trying to convey the most perfect scenario, the way this should be taught to a student. Not the way it actually is. Only the way it should be.

So what is the difference between a tattoo artist and a tattooer anyways?
Why always the distinction and is it really that important to think of the difference?
No it is not that important. However a lot of us do like to make that distinction. And there are certainly people that do not deserve to be called artist in any way just as there are artists that are not to be called tattooer out of reasons you might understand after reading the following.

The tattooer:
will happily accept that he/she is not an artist at all but knows what looks well on a body and will pridelessly turn any proudly signed, eagerly and egocentrically self drawn piece of crap into a valid and well applied tattoo that deserves to be on a body.
He/she is also able to tattoo stuff he/she has tattooed a thousand times over as long as it is well applied and looks good and is what the client wants/deserves. Tattooing right from flash is no problem as long as the flash is looking good and is tattooable,
80% of the tattoo clientele is theirs and in good hands, too.
a few drawbacks are:
-Less artistic freedom
-More younger clients
-More clients with money problems
-More discussion time on bad ideas
-More repair work on bad tattoos or bad drawings
-More chance to have inexperienced clients
-More repetition of the same old
-Can easily turn into a time stamp job like any other

The tattoo artist:
Has to understand all the qualities of the tattooer. Remember, designer, not artist. eventhough we call it tattoo "artist" a good "tattoo artist" is also giving up a substantial amount of freedom to suit a customer and their skin without loosing what makes his/her work unique. This in itself is a leap that takes long for most to understand and/or accept.
Tattoo artists are in somewhat of a more luxurious position than the tattooer, one might think. But there is a flipside to it.
They normaly receive more respect and trust while being handed more controle over their subject matter which is a freedom many people dream of in their jobs. What a dandy live. Depending on how well they do, they can choose the pieces they want to do and might even reach a point where every piece they start is total fun for them.
While mostly doing custom work and getting to lay his/her own ideas on the bodies of others, doing bigger scale work and probably earning a lot more attention than the tattooer, there is also a few drawbacks:
-Smaller clientele
-Longer waitinglists
-More pressure
-Less tattoo time, more drawing time = less free time and less money
-Less pieces that will take longer
-More public awareness resulting in
-More critique which can be good depending on how one deals with it. resulting in
-More pressure to not fuck up, which can be good depending on how one deals with it
-More required self controle and self awareness, which can be good for ones character but also backfires a lot. All those extremes can lead to a
-Bigger chance of burn out
-not a lot of room for other non work related problems

And those two examples are only the absolute best case scenarios IMHO. Probably none of the above exist in real life without or without leaking into each other. Those are the prototypes.

This is a bit of a weird blog, and you might ask where i am going with this...

It's for those of us that get tired of what they do from time to time,
Those that feel on the edge of a burn out,
Those that have lost the fascination for the best job in the world and esp.
Those who think this job is something they can learn from the kitchen or like to try for a hobby because it looks easy on the TV.
Hey, fuck, it might just be the way to get rich and happy without that degree in school or that totally over rated talent in anything! You don't need to be smart to draw a little!
Jump right from the building side or the housekeeping into the fabulous future life of the rich and famous tattoos artist who has two cock addicted, hot girls, dry humping each of his legs at all times while talking in the coolest and funniest catch phrases the entire day without ever breaking into sweat or looking anything less than cool even if totally out of any physical shape... Holy crap! I can finally look like a total social misfit, and it will be my work outfit!! Look at those badasses leaving their lifelong mark on rock stars, touching half naked girls on a daily basis while listening to their favorite (also socialy unaccepted) music, swearing, farting, burping, being fucking rich rich rich and famous and defining the word c o o l.
You only need to draw a bit... and my neighbor loves my drawings and mom also always said i am a big artist! So lets go! This is so easy!!
whoa... i am not deleting this... it was too much fun to go to that parallel universe.

[Reality check]
If you don't plan to get really fucking good and put in what it takes, you are in the wrong business and should look for something where your premediated negligence is not harming the future of other people. Good luck with that. Anyways, you are in for a wakeup call sometime soon.
Agrivatingly, some can do their job with an attitude like that and sicceed grately while living of of the ignorance of our beloved but uneducated clientele...
If you are really into this and want to go all the way, always listen to advice, be humble and leave out the ego until you established your own stuff to a level that is accepted by other peers.
Always raise your bar just out of reach.
Never should a tattooer raise their bar to satisfy the taste of friends family AND customers. Or to just be a bit better than the guy next door. never be too lazy or irresposible to forget the hygiene and never think you know enough about any subject. Accepting critisicm is a virtue having faith in the own abilities is a crux.
And of course, always be the most skeptical of your own ideas before you distrust the experience of others. No matter what you think of them. These are the most important things to take on board when going on the long journey that is becoming a good, solid tattooer/tattoo artist.
just try to add to the industry. If you don't have anything to add. Keep doing what your doing because after a few years of struglle tattooing will feel the exact same to you as the shit you do now, only that you harm the business of those that do work hard on themselves while underperforming with possibly lifelong consequences on people that trust you.[/Reality check]

thats it for today. no imagery to make this easier to read.
ranting again towards the end there...

stern motherfucker,
over and out...