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The Unique considerations of the medium of tattooing.

Updated: Jun 11

To address a topic which I feel will greatly assist both the recipient and the applicator of a tattoo in its consideration.

One may be benefit by the recognition that the "viewing opportunity" of a tattoo, is different than that of a typical creative form.

For most art forms the space in which you have the opportunity to observe the artwork is prolonged and typically enshrined: a gallery, a piece of public art such as a mural or a sculpture, a contained unit which you can purchase, or a performance , these are sometimes referred to as "Dionysian ( from the Greek god of chaos and wine) " or "Apollonian" (from the Greek god of the Sun), regardless as to which of these two art forms a creative endeavor may find its distinction, both are usually afforded the opportunity to be observed.

Tattooing stands among few in its reclusiveness.

Even when a tattoo is worn by an individual who is intent on displaying that tattoo at every possible moment, the reality is that most who view that tattoo will only be able to observe it in a very fleeting occasion: passing by on the street, perhaps at a pool or on a beach, maybe at a bar or public event. Whatever the case it is also even more rare that the person who is observing your tattoo will be able to get a very close look at the tattoo, and even rarer will they ask to inspect it ( although many people i have tattooed have told me this does happen to them from time to time which i consider a great compliment.)

Recognizing this reality, it may shape and warp the aesthetic considerations of what may constitute a successful tattoo. Of course the consideration of ones goals when acquiring a tattoo as to what you intend the tattoo to do for you are important notes of ponderance. Ideally, a considerate tattooist will do their best to help you most accurately pinpoint what is the most appropriate way to execute a tattoo for your being which will bring you great satisfaction and joy for your many years.

Many things may incorporate themselves into these considerations. Many tattooists have their own systems and methods in order to help with this process, many people who consider themselves to be tattooists do not afford much time to these considerations at all.

I will now list some of the things which I like to consider when designing a tattoo, these considerations are not "Laws" , sometimes i follow these considerations, sometimes i do not. One must retain a flexibility with their considerations as there can be many factors which can alter the course of a project that cannot be predicted before having a detailed understanding of what it is that is going to be made, and hopefully an understanding of whom it is going to be made for.

The considerations are not listed in order of importance:

  • Is the tattoo being designed in such a way as to resist physically the inevitable wear and tear that the body incurs over the course of life of the wearer ?

This being the reality that tattooing is not the same as any other art form physically in that is permanently resides inside a living being and thusly behaves far differently than any other artistic medium does. Something which can be made on paper, or on a screen, does not accurately or exactly translate into the medium of tattooing, if this is not appropriately understood when designing and applying a tattoo, then the tattoo will not retain its original spirit and life, and the project will end up in a state of failure. This applies directly to the design process of making a tattoo, where certain choices in the way a tattoo is designed will lead to it aging well, while others sadly will not. It is of the deepest importance to consider the way a tattoo will age beyond all other considerations as regardless of anything else, if it ages poorly, then whatever you set out to do in the first place will not be achieved. There are many , many more details which can be discussed on this topic but i will leave that for another time, or more ideally to be discussed with you in person.

  • Will the tattoo stand the test of time aesthetically/ stylistically?

So many things can be unraveled from this question. I will attempt to keep this explanation brief: The soul of an aesthetic can elicit reverence, familiarity, longing, fear, nostalgia, love, belonging, happiness, beauty, sophistication and many other deep and pleasing emotions which can and will stay with a tattoo depending on how it is designed. What I very much so encourage one to consider, is that if these emotions and aesthetic implications are not considered when selecting an aesthetic ( style) , then what may come through can be "shallow" in its meaning, and thusly leave an essence of shallowness which will be carried around with you, obviously this is not ideal. Regardless of your taste, It is of deep importance to ruminate exceedingly on what aesthetically will represent you not just now, but deep into the future, so that you may carry the tattoos you have acquired or applied with pride in your accomplishments, rather than apathy or regret.

  • How will this tattoo affect my overall appearance ?

Something which i have been very grateful to have absorbed from the study of Japanese Tattooing: the body is a single canvas. Every decision that is made affects the overall balance and form of the entire figure, thusly when applying a tattoo, the entire body of the wearer must be understood as being affected by this decision. Making choices with this understanding will encourage a person to be led down a path which will result in them having a cohesive collection of tattoos which compliment each other and make each other stronger, rather than work against one another and result in an appearance of disorganization. This especially applies the choices of placement of tattoos and the way they compliment ( or work against) the natural form of the wearer, being considerate of the shapes and forms underneath where a tattoo is placed will make a huge difference between a tattoo being excellent or simply adequate . It may also be considered what "part" of the tattoo is going to be most often viewed by an observer, and that whatever part that is should be a part which is visually satisfying if possible within the composition. If one has not yet acquired a tattoo, it is greatly beneficial to study tattoos and their many expressions in aesthetics for an extended period of time before embarking upon the journey to acquire them. Through doing this you can move foreword with confidence knowing that whatever it is you decide to tattoo, you can be sure of your footing towards work you are happy with.

Beyond these considerations there are many others , many of which branch off into more specific areas depending on the style of the tattoo that is going to be created, but for now that is a good foothold to provide someone who needs it with better tools to go out and make successful tattooing happen.

Now to briefly return to a topic i mentioned in passing earlier:

Consideration of the medium of tattooing as a third artistic form.

To simplify the Aesopian language which was used earlier: creative forms can either be "of the moment" or "in pursuit of permanence" (Dionysian, or Apollonian) .

I propose that " Tattooing" when expressed with love, passion and dedication reveals itself as a "third artistic form" , constituting the synthesis of the permanent and impermanent creative forms. The "moment" when one is receiving a tattoo is in a sense an internal and external performance. The recipient of the tattoo must endure significant "feeling" and "perform" so as to ensure the process of the tattoo is made possible, they must contribute themselves in full to achieve the manifestation of the art. As this is the case the recipient deserves to take great appreciation of their own spirit in the achievement of a successful tattoo.

The Tattooist in this equation of course must "perform" in not only the application of the tattoo, but also in the procuration of an environment where this tattoo may be created. A "stage" comparable to that which is required of the "of the moment" forms of creativity, for this stage is made for this performance and this performance is of this moment between the tattooist and the recipient. This is expressed both in the physical work environment, as well as the interactions between the two people engaged in this performance.

Yet while we sober ourselves from this intoxicating procedure, we recognize that the "tattoo" has been created from this performance, something permanent is left behind. Yet this permanence is only as lasting as our mortal lives. Which to the wearer, is as permanent of an experience as one can possibly receive, for a sculpture in a museum or a great painting may only be enjoyed so long as the observer is granted the time to witness it, the tattoo will be with the wearer for as long as they live.

With this all being put in mind, I wish to express that tattooing is a form of creation with which deserves the deepest reverence from all who participate in it, both recipient and tattooist. We must honor this act of creation with the deepest respect, as what we curate on the outside becomes what we curate within, and the reverse is also true. As the understanding of how special this creative act becomes is more widely understood, so too will the quality and spiritual feedback of tattooing as a whole expand and bring value to the societies within which is exists. I firmly believe that tattooing holds the potential to serve as an invaluable conduit for societies expression of its own internal working and through this we may dive deeper into ourselves to discover a stronger, and more fulfilling sense of both direction and belonging, with which tattooing will both feed the roots of, and become the flower.


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