Today, ladies and gentlemen, I shall deliberate upon and ponder that quality which artisans in any discipline can sometimes struggle to retain, one of the most fundamental elements in maintaining a mind which is fertile and conducive to progression: humility.
Achieving a state of humility can be a Sisyphean task for any artist, regardless of discipline, but to use another ancient Greek example, the Spartans provide an inexhaustible resource of wisdom: as masters of war and unparalleled as a ground unit, the Spartans produced their warriors through the agoge, a disciplined training program. It was said to be brutal beyond description and made their soldiers into the best the ancient world had ever witnessed. One element of this training regime was known as ‘tree fucking’ (stop laughing at the back). whereby the boys would fall into line and push against a tree that had no chance of moving (mimicking a tactic used to quell enemy troops) until they collapsed. For the first few hours, laughter would inevitably erupt as the youths fell and tried again, but as they were ordered to continue when darkness descended and rain fell, the laughter stopped. This, believed the Spartans, was when learning could truly begin; a modest state of mind was achieved and primed to imbibe.
That is not to say that confidence or assurance are inhibitors of education, but harbouring ego often means that an individual is unwilling to accept criticism from others, even when it is proffered in a constructive manner. Conversely, all of the artists interviewed in this edition of Tattoo Master are undoubtedly aware of their prowess and flair for what they do, and yet all have such a solid grounding and refuse to be swept away by the compliments inevitably showered upon them. All are idiosyncratic, but they do share certain traits that drive them forward in the pursuit of refining their art. They observe; learn; hunger for knowledge; and head back to the studio and put into practise the things they have witnessed. These tattooists share their knowledge willingly and comprehend that suggesting a detail that may benefit another does not imply that said recipient of advice would abuse this nugget of tattooing gold. Without coming across as contrived, I feel as though they are conductors of the spirit of Tattoo Master; the one which advances the abilities of everyone with a love for tattooing and the drive to create excellent artwork.
It is said that genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration, but a good idea and strong deodorant do not an Einstein make: humility, dedication and determination are the attributes that will take your artistic skills into the stratosphere. Raw talent demands to be tempered and channelled, or else it will never realise its full potential.