Insight on the Job of a Local Tattoo Artist

Quinn White, Reporter

Did you know there are almost 25 tattoo shops in Anchorage? You may not know that there are lots of hoops one must jump through in order to become certified tattoo artist.

James Allen, the son of the famous Larry Allen, actually went to college to study the art of tattooing. “There are not specific classes for tattooing in college what-so-ever. I just took a whole plethora of art classes; painting classes, color theory classes. It just changes college into a trade school of tattooing,” Allen says.

Allen works at the self-proclaimed world famous Anchorage Tattoo Studio. He has been tattooing for 20 years. When asked about what inspired him to start tattooing he says, “I’ve always been an artist and a musician. I grew up in an artistic household; it’s just something that I’ve always been around. My dad tattooed as well, which meant I didn’t want to have anything to do with the business. Y’know I just got into my teenage years, I got really interested in it, and I started an apprenticeship. I took some college classes and art and pushed my way into it.”

As most artists do, tattoo artists do occasionally mess up. According to James, “[Correcting a mistake], is the test of a true professional. You figure out a way to fix it before anyone notices. It depends what you’re talking about mess-ups as well, in the very beginning when you’re first starting, there’s always crooked lines.”

Sometimes tattoo artists get strange requests as well. “Nothing seems weird anymore. I did a man’s piece on time and it was a character of a man face down in a puddle of puke and a gutter behind a dumpster. That was probably the most peculiar, it was a lot of fun to do but I would not wear it myself,” he says.

If you wanted to be a tattoo artist, James suggests, “You get your artwork together, spend as much time as you can drawing, painting, carving, any other forms of artistic expression, get a very diverse portfolio together… If it’s the kind of thing that you’re really passionate about, keep your options open, outside of your immediate vicinity.” James says that his job is very rewarding. He goes on to tell about how much he loves seeing someone getting their first tattoo and them seeing it for the first time.

James says that he definitely recommends people to get tattoos, but encourages people to do research before they go in to get it done.