From Apprentice to Artist

Artist JD Soriano poses infront the Ink and Water sign at the back of the Yonge St. location. He has just finished a clients tattoo and was ecstatic about the outcome. (Jonathan Pereira//Marked Magazine)


Apprentices normally spend a year practising before actually inking the skin, however, for people like JD Soriano, he has already begun tattooing clients after only half a year.

Soriano has been an apprentice for the past six months. But he is rapidly transforming into a full blown artist. When asked about his experience as an apprentice, he said that time went by faster than he thought.

“I thought it would be a longer process, but it’s only been like six months and I’m tatting now,” Soriano said. He admitted that he never knew if he could really make a career out of tattooing.

“Thinking about it now and the time we are in now, it is actually a really booming business,” he said.

Ink and Water Tattoo has stepped into the spotlight as one of the city’s chic, emerging tattoo businesses. They now have two stores; one on Bloor St. W. with the other on Yonge St. just south of Eglinton Subway Station.

JD Soriano poses with his tiger tattoo, which he recieved from guest artist @Martinitattoo. (Jonathan Pereira//Marked Magazine)

At the shop, they aim for the ‘root cause of the tattoo,’ according to Soriano. A standard session involves an in-depth discussion about the tattoo while having some candy and refreshments. This gives the artist more context to work with.

Growing up in Scarborough, Soriano was always interested in art and began drawing at the age of ten. His love for art stemmed from his childhood memories of Anime and Dragon Ball Z, where his uncles had initially taught him how to draw.

At Ink and Water Tattoo, Soriano uses his artistic skills to focus on the style of ‘realism’ tattooing. Shadows, core shadows, and the bounce light is all something to consider according to Soriano. But he learns more as time passes.

He feels like just yesterday he was sketching, but today he is actively tattooing clients through flash sales. ‘Flash tattoos’ are pre-drawn sketches that have received approval by mentors, and while tattooing on clients, the mentors often step in and add helpful tips.

Meg Burns, a new apprentice at Ink and Water Tattoo, is now in the preliminary stages of her apprenticeship where she has learned about setting up for tattoos, preparing the machines, and how to clean up the station afterwards.

Burns went to Ryerson for Geographical Analysis, but wanted to do conservation work. “As I got further and further into my program I realized that I couldn’t do this,” Burns said.

After halting her university degree, she looked back at her history of art. She jumped into the field with full support from her parents and started applying to tattoo shops for an apprenticeship.

Burns applied to Ink and Water Tattoo a couple years ago but with no luck at the time, she went to Heavy Hearts Tattoo in Kensington for her apprenticeship.

After a couple months there, she was told that the shop might be closing. Her former boss then referred her as an apprentice at Ink and Water, to her surprise. “He referred me without telling me, and Ink and Water reached out to me and said to come in and show my portfolio,” Burns said.

From there, she came in with her portfolio and was told to bring 50 new drawings by next week. She worked hard over that week and created flawless sketches that would be up to the standards of Ink and Water. After showing her sketches to Michael Pecherle, one of the shop owners, she was told that she got the apprenticeship.

Burns aimed to specialize in black dot work, also known as pointillism. This method of tattooing involves thousands of tiny dots that form into a solid image when seen from a distance.

She was initially nervous about people looking at her unrefined work, but through the mentors’ constant suggestions, she grew to feel comfortable and even welcoming to the criticism. Burns explained that the mentor-apprentice relationship is beneficial to her work.

“They’ll give little tips. It’s always constructive criticism, and it’s always very supportive,” she said.

Marvin Mariano is a full-time tattoo artist and owner of 8 Ink Tattoos located in Pacific Mall on Steeles Avenue and Kennedy Road After tattooing for eight years and learning about different tattoo cultures from around the world, Mariano decided to open his own store.

He now works on a daily basis with clients which keeps him busy at all times. However, he added that when he does get the time, he will be introducing a new three-month apprenticeship program where he will work hands-on with apprentices to teach them the ways of the trade.

Mariano explained that within the first month of the program, the apprentices will be strictly practising. He will also be guiding them through the daily duties of an artist. Everything from how to sketch, to how to use the tattoo machine on vinyl imitation or pig skin.

“The pig skin is probably the best because it is the closest thing to actual skin. The only disadvantage is that it starts to smell afterwards,” Mariano said.

The second month of the program features applying what the apprentices learned on their friends or ‘tattoo guinea pigs,’ according to Mariano. The final month gives the apprentices free reign over their own workstations, with continued guidance and assistance from Mariano throughout the last month. The exact dates of the apprenticeship, however, have not yet been announced.

Tattoo artists on average work hand-in-hand with their apprentices to pass on the lessons they’ve learned from their mentors. As the tattoo industry grows and expands, so does the mentor-apprentice relationship.

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