I'm just in need of some good advice from other artists, I'm in quite a predicament. I just recently finished my apprenticeship a few months ago, and I'm totally grateful to say I've been unexpectedly booking out for a month or two since I got on payroll. I've been really lucky to find alot of clients who really like my artwork, but I can't say my actual tattoo abilities are astounding by any means. They aren't totally terrible, but sometimes my work doesn't heal like I wish it would, alot of my linework doesn't heal super consistent even if it leaves the shop looking great, and I often struggle with packing solid color, so I find myself having to do alot of touch-ups. I'm really uncomfortable with the idea of charging my clients good money when I don't feel like my work is 100% up to par nor do I feel like I can approach my boss with any issues I'm having when I have paying customers in my chair. During my apprenticeship I feel like I got little to no direction from my mentor. I had pretty standard apprenticeship in terms of duties; running the front, running errands, cleaning, scrubbing tubes, setting up stations, etc. etc.. but I also brought in friends that I practiced on for free, but I never had a ton of supervision during my technical learning process. My mentor sat in on two of my tattoos for all of 20 minutes each time. I have never really had one on one instructional time with my mentor aside from those 2 brief times, although I often sat in on their tattoos, they work very quickly and never quite broke things down for me or actually anwsered my questions, so I had a really hard time understanding their technical approach. I more or less taught myself, and I know I'm making mistakes that I've asked questions about before and have never been corrected. I sought out an apprenticeship because I so desperately wanted to learn from a licensed professional. I wanted to do things the right way. Although I've learned a little since I've been at the shop, I feel like I've hit a wall and I'm not progressing techinically all that much.
Aside from my own insecurites and short comings as an artist, there is an even larger problem. When I first got my apprenticeship, I would have never imagined the issues I'd be facing. This was my ideal job I had wanted for many years and I didn't think twice when I signed my contract agreement, stating that I'd have to work here a couple years after completing my apprenceship and if I terminated early I'd owe the shop a couple grand. Pretty soon after I signed my agreement, it came to my attention that the only actual licensed artist at my shop was my mentor, and that I was at the end of a long line of artists at my shop applying for their licenses. I began doing a ton of research into the legislation and law behind tattooing in my state, and reliazed how royally screwed not only I was, but how screwed everyone was, with not only expensive penalties, but public shaming that would ruin all of our careers that minute that the state discovers our situation. I dread spoiling my reputation so early in my career when this is my livelihood and my dream job. The worst part is that because I'm the newest artist at the shop, It would take me a couple years to even apply for my license, and the artist who is currently eligible for their license has zero sense of urgency to complete the licensing requirements. I thought by the time my apprenticeship was over, some of the artists would be licensed by then or would have alteast made some progress but literally nothing has changed. I have expressed my extreme concerns to my mentor and coworkers, but everyone brushes it off (even if it is the goddamn law) and my mentor puts no pressure on anyone to obtain their licensing and makes lots of alternate plans and excuses. If I hadn't been legally bound, especially with a couple thousand dollars at stake that I don't have, (considering I used a couple grand to fund all my supplies and machines) I would have left long ago. It also hurt me immensely to consider giving up on doing what I've always wanted to do and feared that I wouldn't have the same opportunity again. I care so much about my work, I bust my ass making art for my clients, learning, and tattooing but here I am, In a postion that I never wanted to be in. I wish I could talk to other artists in town but I don't want to put another nail in my coffin, or sabotage my mentor, my coworkers, and the shop. I wouldn't mind apprenticing over again, but I'd lose all my clients and have to bail out on all the long term projects I have on many of my clients. I feel so guilty that I'm not legitimate by law, even though our shop and practices are very clean and proffessional and my fellow artists are actually super talented, good people. Its pretty terrible.
I guess this post is my last resort because my situation has been eating me alive.
I started in the same situation except for the contract. If your not there working legally is there anything they can legally do against you. I left my apprenticship because i saw i wouldnt be getting the training i was looking for. After doing it on my own I realized i needed to find a shop to learn properly. I ended up working at a shop where the owner needed the help so he gave me basic tips to get me going in the right direction as far as lining and salesmen ship but it wasnt untill tattooing daily and learning the skin i realized how to saturate and do clean work. Reading Reinventing tattoo helped me take my tattooing to the next level. Ive been tattooing for two years now one year professionally. I would say if your using soft hiting machines to turn your voltage up to get color saturation. I quit using curved mags because i was getting less saturation after the heal. there is alot of things that could factor this . if you like you can add me on IG @red.tattooz and Ill give the best advice I can and answer any questions. As far as leaving clients dont worry about what you have now sacrifice is the only way you will gain or get to where you are going. I left the shop where i got my time in after the owner started controlling the work coming in the door about the time i started getting alot better. I was literally only doing two tattoos a week. I had built up 100s of clients and worried about loosing all i had worked for but after facing fear and moving to a new shop that fit my personality and vibes. I have gained a higher reputation, my work has improved, and My client base is triple the size it was what took me 9 months before only took a few months. We cant be scared of the blessings to come and if we dont change we may never find them. Hope this helps my friend.
The one area i have found that can be underestimated and uneducated is machine building and tuning. This sounds like the problem. Your art skills, design and technique could be dead on. With pooly tuned machines your dead in the water. Even if you buy a so called pre-tuned machine.
Adjusting your power supply is only the tip of the iceberg.
If it helps you are not alone. I think it is the old industry saying You have to pay your dues. Its really sad because I actually teach because of being in a situation like yours. My problem is the know it all entitled generation of apprentices that just want instant gratification without effort. Read your contract. Your mentor has an obligation to instruct you. In my contracts I outline what I will teach, what is included as far as supplies etc. The trainer has to hold up to his end of the bargin as well. There is a good chance you could file a counter claim. Also courts can be expensive so if you mention that you will counter sue he may just leave it alone. DO NOT STAY IN A TOXIC ENVIRONMENT! Correct advise was given about knowing your machines, handspeed verses machine speed, layering techniques etc. there is so many technical areas. Go to conventions, seminars anything. Good artists are humble and helpful. Egomaniacs are short lived and are fear driven they have NOTHING to teach. Hope this helps. Good luck friend.