From crayons to needles

By Jessica Erro/El Inde

Andy Pratt finished with the needle machine in hand after 5 hours of pain in my left side. Amazing. Exactly how I wanted it. A part of a quote from a movie that changed my life. “…Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection…”

I smiled at Andy, a skinny 28 year-old guy previously in the Navy, with tattoos all up and down his body (even his forehead).

Pratt got his first tattoo when he was 15 with his mother’s consent in Tucson. It was a tattoo of a barcode, which he still has today. He was intrigued about the industry ever since then and was amazed people could make a living while creating art for others. 

Pratt was always good at art even from a young age. He was an introvert who enjoyed coloring and drawing in his room during family get togethers instead of conversing with the others. In school, he excelled in creative subjects such as English and art. (The first subject might have come from his English professor parents though.) He started as a tattoo apprentice in July 2014 at 21 years old and today, he owns his private studio.

For Pratt, owning a business is much easier than people try to make it seem. He is responsible for giving some of the people in Tucson tattoos on their arms, legs, back and thighs. His shop minimum is $80, but the price range can go anywhere up to thousands of dollars for multiple sessions — depending on how big and how much detail is wanted and needed.

He built his business from scratch doing everything himself. He bought the studio, set it up, attended to it, and now manages it all. Pratt knew he could have his own studio when his clientele kept coming back and bringing friends, and some even became regulars, coming to him frequently.

He likes working by himself and not having to manage other artists. If he does ever grow his shop, it would be a collective team, he says: he never wants to take from other artists, but insists they will only split rent and utilities.

“The life of a tattoo artist is a lot of work, more than any job I’ve had before,” Pratt says. “You have to love your job. You can’t want the job because you make your own hours and it pays well. You have to put in the work because tattooing is the hardest art medium to work with.” 

Pratt’s favorite style of tattooing has changed over time. Currently, it is black and grey realistic portraits, usually headshots of celebrities or family members. He doesn’t have a favorite tattoo design, but he loves when clients give him artistic freedom. This means that when he suggests something that would make the tattoo look better or wants to add something to make his vision work, the client complies.

“Before getting a tattoo, research your artist, make sure they are producing work that you enjoy, and listen to their guidance,” Pratt says. “No good tattoo artist will try to sway you in one direction or the other, they want to give you the best possible outcome.”

Hyde and Jekyll tattoo by Andy Pratt. Photo courtesy of Andy Pratt.