Making a living off ink
The life of an artist, regardless of the medium, is not as easy as one may think. For 10 years, a Greensboro tattoo artist has struggled to make a living with some ink and a buzzing needle.
Brandon Webb is 28 years old and has been working for one year at Infamous Ink inside the Four Seasons Mall. Webb said his passion for tattooing came from his love of drawing and sketching at 16 years old. Webb decided to drop out of high school and shortly after, entered the workforce. Webb said he could never hold down a real job because he kept getting laid off and nothing had really stuck.
“I kind of just like lost faith that I would ever get anything,” Webb said. “My mom told me to use my art and I was always like, ‘I don’t know how, what could I do?’”
When he turned 17, he bought his first tattoo kit off eBay and started practicing on his friends.
“My friend Robert Jones let me do my first tattoo on him when I got my kit. I colored in a cross he had on his arm,” Webb said. “It was horrible, I chewed him up and he let me work it out and fix it years later.”
During this time, he moved from Raleigh to High Point and was living out of his car for two years. After going through multiple jobs, Webb was 18 when Dallas Morris at Tattoo City in High Point gave him his first real job as a tattoo artist. Webb said he did not find himself until he figured out how to tattoo.
“I worked there for 3 years and I tattooed myself everyday for a month before he let me tattoo my first client,” Webb said. “I did my whole left arm and right leg and once I did this, I realized this is what I was going to do and I have been tattooing for 10 years now,” Webb said.
Webb said after his time at Tattoo City, he entered the vicious cycle again with trying to find a long-term job. After no success, he decided to start tattooing out of his home.
“I just never thought I would ever find a shop that I’d be successful at,” Webb said. “I wanted to give up tattooing because I could not make a living out of it.”
Webb moved to a shop Thomasville called, Just Inked and worked there for four years. He believes Just Inked is what put him on the map in the tattoo world as far as getting his name and brand out there.
Tammy Johnson, the shop manager and piercer at Infamous Ink reached out to Webb via Instagram and had asked him to come work there. At that time, Webb was working at another shop in Greensboro, and did not pay attention to her job offer. After some misfortune at that shop, Webb took her up on the offer.
“That shop closed down and I didn’t know what happened, the doors and lights were off and they had stolen everything I owned,” Webb said. “I had to start over again when I came here, the owners helped me get back on my feet and if it wasn’t for Chris I would probably still be homeless.”
The week he had started at Infamous Ink, he was living in a hotel for the first month. After a month of working there, his luck finally turned around drastically. He attributes some of this success to the shops location in the mall where he said “gets incredible traffic.”
“It has been a rough road up and down as far as surviving in this business,” Webb said. “This shop really hit it off for me.”
Webb describes his art style as realism, and it has always been that way. He said he always loved drawing portraits as a kid. Now, he really likes to do color portraits and said those are his main niche.
Webb said out of all his tattoos, which span from his left shoulder and right leg down, his favorite tattoo is the one over his eye that says devotion.
“I am devoted to this until the day I die,” Webb said. “I have devoted my life to tattooing and I can say that 100 percent there is nothing else I would want to do.”
Johnson said Webb is an amazing artist with a big heart. She said they are a family and not just coworkers.
“I adopted Brandon a year ago,” Johnson said. “I am the only female in the shop and I kind of took on a motherly role. I try to look out for him, help him with his finances and maintain in general. I mother him.”
Johnson said Webb looks at things so differently than everybody else. Tattooing for him is like paint by number, Johnson said, it is so simple for him because it is like second nature to him.
“He is under appreciated for his art,” Johnson said. “At this point in his life, I feel like Brandon should be so much further, but I feel like there was nobody there to help him out and that is what we wanted to do, we all found our home together.”
Shawn Wright is a tattoo artist at Infamous Ink and he describes Webb as an awesome guy.
“His art is phenomenal, I have learned a few things from him since I have been here,” Wright said. “He makes it look so easy, he makes anyone feel like they can do it, like they can go home and try it.
Webb and Wright both agreed that at a tattoo shop, artists do not really get along.
“So, when find artists that get along, that is when you got family,” Webb said.