Thursday, March 23, 2023

The road to becoming a tattoo artist

Maynard tattooing at a tattoo convention. (HNNDaily Photo/courtesy of Richard Kim)
Maynard tattooing at a tattoo convention. (HNNDaily Photo/courtesy of Richard Kim)

HAMPTON — Tattooing has become more and more popular as time goes on, it seems that everyone knows someone with a tattoo.

What people may not know is the process it takes to become a tattoo artist.

Keith Maynard has been a tattoo artist since 2010 and is the co-owner of Foundation Tattoo in Hampton which opened on Sept. 1, 2017.

Here’s what becoming a tattoo artist is like from the tattooist’s perspective.

The journey

From a young age, Maynard thought tattoos were cool. He saw them on his dad’s workers and when Miami Ink came out, a tattooing reality show, it solidified his desire to become a tattoo artist.

He took art classes throughout middle and high school and then a few classes at Tidewater Community College, all studio art focused.

The first place Maynard worked was Blue Horseshoe Tattoo, the same place he did his apprenticeship.

To become a licensed tattoo artist in the state of Virginia you have to go through the Board for Barbers and Cosmetology.

To complete the approved training program you must have done 750 hours in a licensed Virginia School or a 1,500-hour registered apprenticeship, pass a written exam and submit the license application and fee.

Maynard opted for the apprenticeship and it took him two years of instruction and interning before he was ready to start tattooing.

Pig skin and cleanliness

Before you can even touch a tattoo machine you have to work at a tattoo shop doing menial labor such as sweeping, and cleaning.

“You’re helping them make more money basically,” Maynard said.

You pick up more information and learn slowly while working at the shop but he said tattooing is something that you have to actually start doing in order to get better at it.

Then you practice designs and technique on pigskin before working with people.

The classes will go over cleanliness, give you blood borne pathogen training and teach you about the mechanics of tattooing.

Maynard said the test is pretty straightforward and mostly application.

He was asked multiple choice questions about the types of needles to use for a particular design or what the parts of the tattoo machines are.

“When you get to the test you’ve spent time in the shop long enough to know these answers,” Maynard said.

Getting your first tattoo

Maynard working a tattooing convention. (HNNDaily Photo/courtesy of Richard Kim)
Maynard working a tattooing convention. (HNNDaily Photo/courtesy of Richard Kim)

The first time Maynard tattooed a person, he was terrified.

He said he had to wear a sweatband to catch all the nervous sweat coming off him. Despite that he did a good job and has been tattooing ever since.

He recommends doing research, having a general idea of what you want, be willing to work with your tattoo artist and to voice your opinion on design and placement.

“At the end of the day, it’s your skin they’re tattooing,” he said.

Maynard charges an hourly rate for his tattoos and the price fluctuates based on difficulty, placement and skill level required to complete the tattoo.

When asked what the difference is between drawing and tattooing, he quickly responded: “drawing is an art, tattooing is a craft.”

To see Maynard’s portfolio or learn more about Foundation tattoo, click here. 

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