I was asked why I became a tattooer recently.
I thought up all the typical rhetorical answers. "The art, man" - "It speaks to me" - "The history, dude". I even delved into the whole lifestyle aspect of it. All were applicable answers, but they just didn't cut it for me. I answered with "I don't really know." - knowing full well I was playing my damn self. The question became the splinter in my mind. And the answer was the motherfucker of all truths.
It got down to one reason that ate away at my humility. The reason that I've kept suppressed for quite some time. I wrestled with it. I was scared that it could be an ideology that would bite back at me if I chose to accept it. But over time I realized I can't fucking argue with myself. There was no escaping it, it's just how it is. Resistance to it was futile. Acceptance is inevitable.
I (really) want to be good at what I do, and then get better at it, every time. Plain and simple.
And many other tattooers, especially the hard working, have either come to accept it or wrestle with it like I have. Having this driving force is not a burden. It does not make you some pompous fuck-ass. It's a motivational force.
There are hundreds of tattooers and artists I look up to who melt my brain with how awesome their work is. It inspires me. I spend countless hours obsessing over their work. I want my work to resonate with others like theirs did with me. It just doesn't stop with the art. Those with good work ethic, drive, and a balance of commitments are sources of great inspiration. The company kept, the volume and the range of work, are all key factors. People like that just have that aura. One that I strive to emulate my own way because I feel people truly see that shit.
I'm not one of those "Man, I don't look at other people's tattoos. I just focus on my own shit" sort of assholes. That's total bullshit. COMPLETE bullshit. Progression's catalyst is seeing the crazy jaw-dropping work of your peers and predecessors. That fire being lit under your ass. To pass on what I'm left with after witnessing amazing work by amazing people. Being stoked on what others are creating, and not being a jaded fuck about things.
This is why I illustrate as much as I do. This is why I come to work early, leave late, and work on my days off. This is why I drive 10+ hours every month or so to sit in a ballroom with 200 other practitioners and do what I do. Never burn out.