A 34-year-old amateur tattoo artist has beaten out more than 50 professional artists from around the world at the prestigious International Tattoo Convention Frankfurt this month.
Vincent Chang (張浩銘), is well-known in Taiwan’s tattooing community as a successful retailer of tattoo supplies and equipment, and a self-taught artist.
Despite being an amateur, Chang has several trophies under his belt, including the top award at a tattoo contest in Santiago last year and first place in last year’s Tattoo China Convention.
Chang’s win in the Best Color category at the competition in Germany, which ran from April 11 to April 13, was notable because the number of contests had been cut to four this year from more than 10 in previous years, making them more competitive than ever.
“More than 50 professional tattoo artists from around the world submitted entries in the Best Color category this year. The contest was so cut-throat that it took the panel of four judges, who were all German tattoo specialists, about six hours of deliberation before finally deciding on the winner,” Chang said.
Chang said his award-winning work was named Pirates of the Caribbean, the inspiration for which was drawn from the Hollywood blockbuster series of the same name and the US animated TV series SpongeBob SquarePants.
The work is a full-leg tattoo that took Chang nearly three years to complete. It depicts a pirate captain risking life and limb to protect a box of treasure, while a mischievous phantom stirs up ocean waves and storms, Chang said.
Chang said his infatuation with painting started when he was a child, which prompted him to study art at Municipal Hsinchuang Senior High School in New Taipei City.
He was forced to repeat a year at school after his sliding academic performance and after realizing that he was not “student material,” he dropped out of school.
“Fortunately, my English was good, so I figured I might as well save some money to pursue an art course overseas,” Chang said.
Chang landed his first job as a chef at a local restaurant.
Four years later, Chang’s life took an unexpected turn when one of his foreign friends advised him to start a small business selling tattoo equipment.
To diversify his store, Chang decided to learn the basics of tattooing about six years ago.
Rather than finding himself a master, Chang said he mostly turned to his customers for tips and advice, practicing what they taught him to develop his skills.
Chang acknowledged that luck played an important role in his success, because he was able to enter the tattoo supplies market before it became saturated.
Chang now also owns three tattoo shops in China.
“My parents were so concerned about my future when I dropped out of high school, but now, I have found a profession that has not only helped me fulfill my dream of going abroad, but has also made me financially stable,” Chang said.