It’s been a few years now tattooing, and to be honest its not something I ever saw myself doing. Maybe it was the needles, or the close proximity to people that kept me away and focused on more distance art forms like painting and illustrating. Regardless, it was a chance encounter with a tattooer named Brooklyn Payne that sparked my curiosity during a local show were I was body painting.
His gear was different, his trophies earned that day were something didn’t seem to worried about, he was, different. The world he was doing was somehow a step higher than the anchors and skulls being laid out all around me, it had life, it was art. I approached him with every expectation he wouldn’t entertain my questions, some artist aren’t too open about their craft and I understood this from dealing with other artists. Our conversation can be summed up as this. Payne told me he didn’t have time to teach someone art skills, which worked because I already had a high level, I told him I wouldn’t be disrespected and if someone tried to make me called a toilet I would use their head. Once our initial explanation of each others terms was agreed upon and i began a monthly trip to PA for the training. Training, paid training, not a traditional apprenticeship which would have me sweeping and getting coffee for a year. We simply work on tattooing. No other fluff.
The best thing Payne did for me was his network of people. Outstanding from this list is a man named Tom Ringwalt, owner of Tommys supplies, and the best ink in the world, Starbrite tm. Tom was born into the tattoo world and has excelled by simply being a provider of great service and products, but most importantly, he is a great person. From day one, even when Payne and I disagreed, Tom was supportive. I owe a great deal to him as a tattooer, and without meeting him may not have even continued to pursue tattooing.
Two others who need to be mentioned are the first people Payne introduced me to, Sam Chacon and Christine Barnum. Here I am, never tattooed a day in my life, and we approach these two working at our local show. Sam busy working on a back piece, friendly as ever, and Christine working along side him on a design for an upcoming piece. Super friendly and welcoming people. I had met a handful of great people right from the start, they were without judgment and always willing to help or answer questions, even to this day.
Payne has since passed and though we had a hiatus when he moved to CA, I’m glad we got to reconnect prior.
Some time had passed, 18 months or so, I was working steadily on fake skins and accumulating knowledge from sources I could find online that were reputable, like Jon Gault and his straight forward teaching approach. I had decided it was time and like so many artist myself was the first live skin application. Then also like most artists it was a stream friends and family to follow. Tom , Sam, and Christine continue to be supportive and friendly as ever and I spent a solid year tattooing steadily, the next year even more so sometimes working on 5 in a day. A habit I have since slowed down.
I also have picked up a handful of trainees myself, since I had a non tradition experience I felt I should also continue to do so. I don’t have people pledge like a frat, I have nothing to gain by having a young artist clean my toilet. It’s straight to the tattooing, not earning my knowledge through a year of torture. Kaitlyn and Taylor are doing well in NY using their art skills to greatly speed up their tattoo ability and Cindy, my travel & life partner, is also doing well. How I need up with all female trainees I’m not sure, I also have about 80% female clients also, another curious stat.