I had a great conversation with Josh Payne over the past couple days about success, popularity, and what motivates us. He has only been tattooing for 5 years but I was really impressed by his maturity. We bounced opinions off each other for hours during which we made this observation: Misplaced ambition affects the whole industry.
15 years ago, when I was just a young buck trying to get a my foot in the door, I could name almost every great tattooer there was. The artists who were supremely talented and truly pushing the envelope were all over the magazines, had several sets of flash, attended all the conventions and were very recognizable. They were, by all means, Rock Stars.
They achieved this success by an unparalleled dedication to providing their clients with quality beyond their expectations. Yet, to me, and many like me, they were inaccessible and there knowledge remained a closely guarded secret. Their popularity seemed almost unachievable to us.
As a consequence…it forced many of my peers to look for short cuts in hope of finding the same popularity as the previous generations. That started a race to the bottom and a low point in the tattoo history. This problem has plagued the industry for years, and some of the clutter still remains, but I am happy to say that it has changed for the most part.
Today, I could never dream of naming every great tattoo artist. You can find extremely talented tattooers who are making huge contributions to the industry in almost every city. Most remain “under the radar” and have stopped looking for the easy way up because they don’t measure their success by their popularity anymore. Instead, measure it by the satisfaction of their clients, as it should be. The industry has gone full circle, almost. Finally, we are on our way back to a great place in tattoo history.