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Nice is a Weapon

Drop the Gratitude and Lose the Attitude

by JasonLambertArtist

September 29, 2005

When I was 19 I fancied myself quite the artist. I had drawn since my first memories, had taken every art class in school I could and had been told by friends and family that I had a gift.

A local university renowned for its art department had an open "portfolio" day where representatives from numerous art oriented universities and institutes would offer a critique and info on how to apply to their school.

I didn't have much of a portfolio, but I threw some crap together and took it down there. Each and every person told me I was awful. Most did it nicely, but all the same the consensus was that I sucked. It was astounding, I was crushed. I wanted to cry and felt like I was 3 inches tall. I felt embarrassed that all these kids whose work was miles and mile better than mine had seen the awful junk I had been so proud of. And I was more ashamed still that those kids in line behind me had heard the representatives trying to gently tell me that I had no fucking skill whatsoever. It was one of the lowest points in my life to that point.

It was also the best thing that ever happened to my art. After a few days of feeling sorry for myself I realized that not only were these folks right in their assessment of my ability, but that somehow I had been completely unaware of how awful it was. My brain and ego had somehow convinced me that the rudimentary crap I was turning out was somehow great work. It wasn't, but now at least, I could see it.

And that's when my art started to get better.

I carried a lot of anger and resentment towards those representatives of art schools for years, but now I realize that without that burning away of my ego dream-world, I would have never taken a step forward.

In tattooing you inevitably come across people whose work isn't just simply mediocre, it's actually horrible. They repeatedly put out garbage and seem unaware of how bad it is. You wonder, "Can't they see how BAD it is!?" and of course, they can't. Its not willfulness or vanity, they simply have not had their eyes opened.

When you are a baby in the womb your world is dark, warm, and weightless. The moment you are born and that harsh white light of the world hits you, you are no longer an idea, you are a person. If you never came out of the womb, you could never grow or become truly alive.

And as an artist, if your eyes are never opened, you will never grow or become truly alive. And when your art goes on another persons body, your responsibility grows to encompass not only your own art, but that persons skin as well. Perhaps it's ok for a non-tattoo artist to toil away unaware of their abilities, but for a tattoo artist it is inexcusable.

To grow as a tattooer, you must be critiqued with your tattooing. You must be told that your masterpieces are trash. You must have that wall of defensive illusion destroyed from time to time. Without the purge of a wild fire a forest grows choked and stifled, and without the purge of a brutally honest evaluation your art does the same.

Every tattoo artist worth a shit that I have ever met turns aside any compliment like a man swatting flies. A comment such as "I suck" coming from the mouth of a person who does stellar work may be shocking, but is it worse than "I rule" coming from someone who subjects customers to crap work.

If you want to really help a tattoo artist, be honest.

Nice is a weapon.

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