Evolution of a tattoo, from concept sketch to completed half sleeve. Sunflowers were the central theme, one for each of his daughters with a glowing star for his wife. But there were a few other considerations as well because he really wanted a half sleeve and wanted to avoid something “too” floral while having a piece flowed naturally with his arm. I sketched the concept art (see left), using movement, flow and color to set off the sunflowers. A few sessions later this sweet half sleeve was complete.
Tattooing has traveled a long way from its sacred origins in Indigenous communities around the world to its’ out of context arrival in North American seaports and military bases. And has continued to evolved further from crude art form to a fine art medium. Tattooing has in fact consistently evolved more rapidly than our society’s understanding of the medium and the people who choose to be tattooed.
This NY Times article (1.26.10) reports an estimate from the Food and Drug Administration that an estimated 45 million people have tattoos. The author also states “that it is unlikely that the ambitious professional… will ever have… a full chest or back ‘panel’ or a tattooed arm or leg.” Now, of an estimated 45 million Americans that have tattoos, I’m gonna bet that number includes ambitious professionals. In fact, a majority of my clients are ambitious professionals with tattooed arms and legs, and yes… even pack pieces.
Throughout the documented 5300 year history of tattooing, tattoos have been used to reflect changes in life status. This remains exactly why so many people continue to choose to wear tattoos. They are acknowledgements. Bookmarks. And while the media may continue to reinforce old stereotypes about tattoos and the people who wear them, assumptions about individuals cannot reasonably be made. Really – we have no idea what mind blowing tattoo sleeve is under that suit coat or what captivating back piece is under that dress. (Okay, sometimes I do because I put it there…but you know what I mean.)
And while its feasible that an estimated 17% of tattooed Americans “regrets it”, I find that statistic vague. What in life doesn’t change? The person we are at 40 will be (hopefully) different than the person we were at 18. Life changes and we change with it. And your tattoos can change with you as well.
Here’s a photo of a cover up I completed yesterday on (you guessed it) an ambitious professional. There’s an old saying that goes, ” The only difference between tattooed people and non-tattooed people is that tattooed people don’t care if you don’t have a tattoo”.
Today, almost a quarter of Americans now have tattoos. Yet there was a time — not very long ago at all — when tattoos were not at all acceptable in mainstream society. To be tattooed was to be an outcast and a freak. Many women found freedom in their decorations, traveling the country, performing nearly nude on carnival stages, making a living as “The Tattooed Lady”.
The first book of its kind, The Tattooed Lady: A History uncovers the true stories behind these tattooed women of the circus sideshow, bringing them out of the sideshow and examining their working-class lives. These gutsy women spun amazing tall tales about abductions and forced tattooing at the hands of savages, but shared little of their real lives, and though they spawned a cultural acceptance of tattooing that we still see today, they have largely faded into history. Combining thorough research with more than a hundred historical photos, this lushly illustrated social history reveals tattoo origins, women’s history and circus lore. The Tattooed Lady uncovers the remarkable women of the sideshow — many of whom were born and live in the midwest.
Amelia Klem Osterud is a tattooed academic librarian from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She has a Masters in history from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and writes and lectures on the subject. The Tattooed Lady is her first book. Visit her blog here.
Need some mid-week entertainment? Then get a cuppa Joe, have a seat and click here … ‘cause this will keep you laughing, gasping and guffawing for hours.
Yes, here you’ll see the good, the bad and the ugly… only all of it leaves you wondering, “really?… Really?… seriously. REALLY??” Some of this is the most heinous quality tattoo work you’ll ever see… and some of it is good quality work combined with stunningly unexpected design concepts. Check it out. You’ll see.
Yes, it’s that time of year. Whales are beginning to migrate as you read this… okay, not here in Minnesota where it’s currently -1º and we have no ocean shores, but in far off balmy climates where the ocean waves are rolling and the sun feels hot to your skin. (Let’s pause a minute and enjoy that thought…………) Wait! Here’s a photo of this week’s tattoo to help transport you there:
If I could edit time like LA Ink edits their footage, this back piece could be completed in one one hour show… I bet Michael would appreciate that. Oh well, one more reminder that life is not reality tv. This is the most recent installation of this work in progress. While the whale and her watery digs are the focal point, I’m working with the existing Newgrange spirals above and Celtic knot work below in order to create a smoothly flowing piece.
Thanks for the quote, Catwoman…
And thanks to the art and inspiration of Jim Lee, Cooter has this sweet new tattoo! On top of being far out, this design is also a cover up. I was so stoked to get going on this piece that I completely spaced taking a “before” photo of the previous tattoo… a bull.
Cooter and I had all kinds of fun hanging out, talking music (Cooter is a touring bassist), generations of Batman comics, kids, art and ink. You rock, Cooter! And props to Jim Lee!
Now for the thought of the day… an old school Batman quote:
Batman: One: “What has yellow skin and writes?”
Robin: A ballpoint banana.
Batman: Exactly! Two: “What people are always in a hurry?”
Robin: Rushing people? Russians!
Batman: Right again! Now, what would you say they mean?
Robin: Banana… Russian… I’ve got it! Someone Russian is gonna slip on a banana peel and break their neck!
Batman: Precisely, Robin! The only possible meaning!
… the tiger, not the dragon. BUT, this dragon rocks… so let’s highlight it anyway.
Morris created his original design, then I refined it to fit in proportion to his shoulder and to flow with the shape of his back. This dragon reflects another piece, while a different subject, that we rendered in a similar style on his other shoulder.
Fit and flow are the components that breathe life into your tattoo. This is a dragon well represented… and hey, nobody wants an unhappy dragon. A wise person once said, “Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup.”