If we’re talking professional tattooer, then yes. But if we’re talking professional artist, well, not quite. I always tell people I am, but it’s a lie. I’ve rarely looked at tattooing as art, but rather an artistic skill, like a dude who makes custom crown molding. There’s no doubt about the artistic skill involved, and at its highest levels it’s amazing, but is it art?
I see art as something I am creating for my own enjoyment. Something I make for reasons unknown to others, but enjoyed by them nonetheless. I know this argument goes in a lot of directions, because many working artists make their living from commissions and being hired onto other projects not their own. If they’re not artists, then what are they?
I’m not trying to say doing commission work means you’re not an artist. My entire career is commission work, and I do like to believe I’m an artist. However, I’m not a professional. I could only scrape out a very meager existence if I solely relied on my own creations. I have to do what most artists do, and that’s sell their skills to whoever will buy them.
In my mind, that makes tattooers and other commission based working artists craftsmen. An advanced artistic skill set used for another’s purposes in exchange for money. Craftsmen are an important part of the fabric of nearly everything in modern society. Interior designers, graphic designers, cabinetmakers, carpenters, sign painters, the list can go on forever.
This leads me to question how it is that I actually want to apply my skills. Do I want to take the path of least resistance, doing what is expected, and what I’m paid for? It took years of uphill battles to stake my place in tattooing. It’s taken care of me financially, and my keystone goal is the security and comfort of my family, so it would make sense to do that.
Of course I’m also a fuckin idiot who can never take the path of least resistance, and I always have to do things the hard way.
Maybe it’s childish of me, but I want to do things my own way. I want to create what I want to create, and I want people to love it. In the past, simply being a tattooer was what I wanted, and it was a massive uphill battle. At this point, I’m established, have a client base, a shop, and I’ve become more and more selective of the projects I take. But oh no, that’s never enough for me “mr I never have enough.” I’ve got to be a fucking addict about the whole situation and want it all.
That means I want to go all in and pursue art against all odds. I have to SUFFER to enjoy the success! Or to justify the failure. I don’t want to follow any convention, I just want to kick the door in to stake my place at the table with professional artists. That’s how I’ve always made my way: by defying convention. Any time I try to follow trends, it falls flat and looks contrived.
I’m not a good businessman. I’m terrible at the practical end of things, like bills, books, accounting, and all that other adult stuff. I’m good with ideas. If I REALLY want something, I’m good at implementing plans to start it. I’m a workhorse and stubborn as shit. I will beat a dead horse until it reanimates and asks me to stop beating it.
I want to be taken seriously as an artist. I’ve always wanted that, but I’ve never desired in any way to follow traditional routes for that recognition. that’s basically a staple in my personality. Crave attention and respect but refuse to get it through any means but my own.
I’ve been debating how seriously to take my art for a full decade, and I always sit on the fence when it comes to decisions. It never seems to be the right time, or it always takes a backseat to everything else. Usually I’m backed into a financial corner that focusing on art won’t pull me back from.
To be honest, I just don’t fucking care anymore. I’m going to do what I want, because I could be dead tomorrow. I’m going to do it my way, and I’m going to do it hard as hell. If I want to reach the level of professional artist, then motherfucker, I’m going to be a professional artist. The foot has spoken on this one.