Why I quit my job after 17 years and what I learned

You can see why Craig James is a popular tattoo artist by just looking at a few of his awards. His artwork graces the Wolverhampton tattoo studio, which he runs – and it is exquisite.

He is best known for his tattoo portraits adorned on the bodies of loved ones and celebrities. Craig wasn’t always destined for this kind of career. British Steel employed Craig for 17 years after his love for art was dispelled at school by teachers who told him he couldn’t make it a career.

Craig began to take up pencils again at the age of 30, after having stopped drawing for over a decade. He started drawing portraits to make a living but soon realized that he would not be able enough to support his young family.

Craig realized he could create portraits of people through tattoos after seeing Kat Von D, an American tattoo artist, on television. After spending a year studying, he was able to complete his first piece for a friend, a portrait of his children.

Craig stated that it turned out well, and he is proud of it. My friend still talks to him so it must be okay!

A portrait done by Craig of boxer Tyson Fury
Craig painted a portrait of Tyson Fury, a boxer. Image: Craig James

New Ink is now owned by the self-taught artist Wolverhampton. BlackCountryLive 45-year-old told BlackCountryLive that he was self-taught and spent a year reading technical books. I didn’t want to cause anyone skin damage.

“I was always considered the best at drawing at school, but it wasn’t a career option. Although my art teacher encouraged me to take an art GCSE, the headteacher refused. My academic skills were not up to par and I was told that a career working in the art would never be financially lucrative.

Craig decided to change after a minor fight with a colleague at work. He stated that while he initially annoyed him, now he has given him the push he needed to do other things.

“I wanted to do something that I was good at and that I liked, which led me to art. So I got back to drawing portraits. It took me twice as long because I was not used to it.

A tattoo of rapper Ice Cube
A tattoo of Ice Cube (Image by Craig James)

“I enjoyed it at first, but then I realized it was too slow to make money. I needed to make a living so that my wife and children could support me.

“I was watching TV and saw Kat Von D doing portrait tattoos. I thought it was amazing that you could do them. That inspired me to give it a try.

Craig stated that Donna, his wife, supported him in making such a major career shift. “The first award that I won was a thank-you to Donna for helping me through this big change. He said it was for a Robin that I had tattooed on her in honor of my mother.

While awards don’t always make you special, you can be competitive with them. I won the best show at a major London show and it made my legs wobble!

People see the awards and recognition that you’re good at what they do. To be unique, everyone must do something new. Competitions are where I feel most at home.

Craig has tattooed portraits of Del Boy and Michael Jackson
Craig has tattooed portraits of Del Boy and Michael Jackson (Image: Craig James)

Craig once was asked by someone to tattoo their name on their backside. But now he prefers portraits. He loves Michael Jackson and Del Boy from Only Fools and Horses.

Craig can complete an average portrait tattoo in five to six hours. He has also tattooed one himself, turning Elvis Presley upside down on his thigh.

Covid The business suffered, and the energy bills have quadrupled since the start of the cost-of-living crisis. Craig insists that he still loves his job.

“The cost of living is absurd right now. Our energy bills are now quadrupled. It’s made it more difficult to be fair. I have to increase prices, which is something that I don’t enjoy doing. But it is an amazing job and I love the variety.

“I won’t tell my children they need to find a job. You need to do something that you love.”

He said that regulation is needed for the entire tattoo industry. “You could open a tattoo shop tomorrow if you were aware of cross-contamination,” he stated. “The government dismisses tattooing, and it is viewed a little like a rogue enterprise.”

Craig’s work can be viewed on Instagram here.

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