I am not some complete fresh-faced newb with a sublime tattoo on my upper arm ready to make the big bucks slangin’ ink, I’ve been around the block getting ink, around the shops with friends in the biz, and apprenticing under my ex-wife learning modern tattooing for a bit…where was I going with this? Oh right!
I am also not a complete imbecile who will just grab some stuff and start stabbing myself with colors, before setting up a sign that says, “Uncle Willie’s Stabbin Cabin, five bucks a name” on it. Now, I’m teaching myself this form of tattooing, but I have resources helping me which leads me to;
STEP 1: Resources
I’ve studied the history of tattooing for easily a decade now, both in written form and via YouTube. YouTube has tons of resources, and so I took to YouTube to watch documentaries on tattooing, tribalism, and tribal tattooing techniques, the history of stick and poke in particular, and finally how to stick and poke tattoo. One thing to note here, in looking for videos on how to stick and poke tattoos, my first and most principal concern was hygiene and proper care and safety. I found that stick and poke aka hand tattooing aka traditional tattooing, is more sterile and easier to keep sterile and clean, than modern tattooing, due to everything being one and done (single use).
I needed to know the hows and whys of things, and I needed to know common mistakes to look out for and how to fix them, such as line blowouts and needle depth. Resources became a hobby unto itself, as I compiled study materials, videos, suppliers of tattoo goods, found online flash, etcetera. I found tons of channels, websites, manufacturers, and the like and made it my duty to love them all for something they brought to the table in this journey for me.
With resources in tow, I knew that hand-poke tattooing would be my new love affair, more so than modern tattooing ever was, as it embraced tribalism, and a connection that is deeper to the art, per dot, per press of the needle into the skin, one at a time. I studied and studied some more, watching countless videos, and reading dozens of articles and websites, and then, I got a poke-and-stick tattoo kit from Dragonhawk Tattoo Supply to get me started.
STEP 2: Practice
Once my kit arrived, I immediately set about to practice what I’d learned on the practice skins I had purchased to get me going. Right away I felt at home, with no nerves, it felt like old hat (man my slang is out of date Daddy o) and I did some simple little designs that turned out good. The practice pieces on the faux skin got larger and larger and I realized that with minimal knowledge, some artistic ability, and maximum patience, this type of tattooing isn’t that difficult.
I spend two to three hours practicing at a time, and it feels like forty minutes… the concentration caused by the poking motion creates time distortion and also it’s kind of fun. When you use a tattoo machine, the machine is set and you are simply controlling its trajectory, with hand poke tattooing, depth, trajectory, closeness of the next poke, etc… is all up to you, on every poke, every time. Practice, practice, practice, because while it isn’t extremely difficult, it isn’t easy either; there is no room for mistakes, and you will improve for the rest of your life, so long as you continue to practice, even when you’re not tattooing.
I am currently working on the largest practice piece I have done and depending on how it turns out, I may begin tattooing on myself as the next step. I will take a picture of it for a future article here talking about it and other steps moving forward in this journey. I cannot wait to start tattooing myself, but I want to be prepared and confident that I can do exactly what I want to do in my flesh, hence I didn’t begin by inking myself, I purchased artificial skin to practice on. I may decide to run through the entirety of this kit and my fake skin, just to practice enough, then get more needles and such to begin tattooing on myself after.