Tattoo artists are the most trusted artists of all
Trust. On the surface, we lose it. People have lost faith in government, friends, family, fellow humans, and even God.
Fortunately, a sliver of confidence is on display every day in a most unexpected incarnation, if people are willing to shrug off the stigma.
Tattoo artist Michael Roybal has dedicated his life to building trust and acceptance through a misunderstood art form.
The reassuring smell of cleanliness freshened the air in the salon as the hum of the needle moved closer to the client’s bare skin, her arm outstretched for Roybal’s firm hands. The needle pulsed and punctured as shades of blue and green radiated between the black, and the trust between client and artist was never broken, as evidenced by the permanent cover art and past hidden etchings that took nearly a decade to manufacture. That’s longer than some civil servants’ terms in public service, or a person’s stint with their primary care physician, or even some friendships.
Make his way
Roybal aspired to be an artist since his youth. Born and raised in Las Vegas, New Mexico, he discovered self-expression through art. While studying at Highlands University to become an art teacher, he began running errands and performing various arduous tasks at a local tattoo shop.
Eventually, the owner suggested she learn to tattoo, and a new dream took shape.
“When I started learning to tattoo, I realized that the way I drew and the way I did my art was going to be very different,” Roybal said. “There’s a lot more that comes into play.”
Tattooing is a viable career option for artists in an industry that promotes growth; some artists earn six-figure annual salaries – which is only achievable through hard work and dedication.
Tattoo artists must be business savvy, patient, confident, trustworthy, intuitive to a client’s character, and determined to advance in the field. Roybal said “you never stop learning” as a tattoo artist.
“It’s really a lot of hard work, but it can take you anywhere in the world,” he said. “It’s more… do you really want this lifestyle?” Because if you don’t, it’ll eat you alive.
Next May will mark Roybal’s 10th year as a licensed tattoo artist in New Mexico.
A living canvas
Roybal’s abilities are vast and his style broad. He is able to create original pieces, cover up old tattoos with no memory in sight, or touch up aged works of art to make them stand out. Known for his color combinations, he is an expert at mixing standard hues to create striking hues and detailed, vivid work, but he is also capable of executing intricate tribal designs with smooth shading and gradients.
Being Hispanic, he understands that the culture has a lot of black and gray realism, and he also takes on the challenge of expanding his creative style. His open-mindedness and versatility help him build customer loyalty, and he begins by realizing that everyone is unique.
“You have to consider so many different things when you come up with a design. One thing, first and foremost, is body flow and body shape…everyone’s body is different,” Roybal said.
Tattoo artists deal with a living canvas. Each breath changes the landscape; every laugh, sneeze, cough or frictional abnormality could affect the needle path. It’s a big decision about what someone wants to mark permanently on their skin, and it puts the fate of their appearance in the steady hands of a tattoo artist.
“I try to do my best on every tattoo…and make sure it will stand the test of time,” Roybal said. “I just approach it that way, try to be humble about it. I don’t like to judge people on their ideas.
People are the walking wallets of tattoo artists, and their gallery has no boundaries or admission. The pressure to create quality work is key to maintaining a positive reputation.
Roybal himself hopes to be covered in tattoos one day, and his look is already daring. Although he has tattoos on his head, he noted that his face was off limits. It’s his way not only of expressing himself, but also of showcasing the work of the great artists he admires.
Still, her gaze turns heads, and acceptance has been an issue that has fluctuated throughout history.
A rich history
The hum of a tattoo needle was once synonymous with pain, and a living room full of glowing wickedness and promiscuous images cluttering the walls once represented bad seeds. This hum and these seeds are victims of surface judgment. Yes, there is an unsavory affiliation and an element of machismo and Marianism in tattoos, but not all pride and expressions should be called aggressive. There is much more to tattoos than what we see in modern culture, just as there is much more to an individual under ink.
Researchers have determined that the oldest surviving tattoos on human skin belong to Ötzi the Iceman, a man found on the Austrian-Italian border in 1991 who is believed to have lived between 3370 and 3100 BC.
Allison Hawn, a tattoo art historian and professor of communication at Phoenix College, explained that the acceptance of tattoos has gone up and down throughout history.
She said: “They were great art, then…relegated to the trash, to be picked up again as great art.”
Hawn explained that various cultures have considered tattoos a sacred art, with some associating tattoos with respect and status. She referenced the Victorian era where royalty got tattoos to show off their wealth, but when Samuel O’Reilly invented the electric tattoo machine in the late 1800s it became easier and more affordable for people ordinary people to get tattoos, and they suddenly lost value in the eyes of high society.
Hawn believes the art form is rising again as technology and ink have improved, increasing complexity and changing the perception of art.
“You see a lot more… push in certain areas like photorealism, you see a bigger push in things like abstract surrealism,” she said.
Researchers estimate that about one in three Americans has at least one tattoo. Yet there is still a stigma surrounding art, as well as artists.
Hawn said, “Tattoo artists deserve much more respect, both in general and in the fine art community, because it’s such a difficult art to practice.”
She added, “It’s always amazed me that tattoo artists have this ability to build almost instant trust with people who come in for tattoos. … Basically, I allow a stranger to enter my very private space … and permanently change my appearance.
The art of trust
The refreshing dab of ointment softens the slight swelling before Roybal gently places a wrap over the artwork. The wound will heal and the pain will fade shortly after the start of the session. The art, however, is eternal, and the customer is part of your community.
“People assume right away before they realize you’re not a criminal or you’re not the devil,” Roybal said of the change in attitude towards tattoos. “All is not as it seems…look a little deeper than the surface.”
Your doctors, nurses, first responders, accountants, financial advisors, teachers, and even your friendly neighborhood reporters may have tattoos. These are all people we trust on a day-to-day basis – which is to be expected given that a tattoo artist must somehow be the most trusted artist of all.
You don’t have to go get a tattoo if you don’t want to, but neither do you have to judge a book by its cover – especially when we’re all desperate for a little trust in one another. towards others .
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