The art of tattooing has a long history- 1,000 years to be exact. The origin of the art form lies in the tradition of warrior tattoos used to commemorate a deceased loved one. But the once-subversive practice has gained acceptance in the fine-art world. Many have suggested that tattoo art is going to become even more popular in the future as society becomes even more connected and consumeristic. In this way, tattoos are seeing growing acceptance in the fine-art world, but the once-subversive 1,000-year-old art form doesn’t fit in so neatly.
Historically, tattooing originated among sailors as a way to commemorate a deceased loved one. However, early sailors didn’t have access to modern tools so they used needles made from fish bones. Over time, the practice transformed from memorializing deceased loved ones to commemorating deceased comrades. Tattoos became an outlet for warriors to express their emotions and feelings about the people they killed in battle. Since tattoos were used to commemorate someone’s death, they were thought to have spiritual significance as well. Through this lens, ancient cultures viewed tattooing as a form of penance or atonement for sins committed by the bearer. Today, tattoo artists use high tech tools and medical expertise to produce works of art with far greater realism than was ever possible 1,000 years ago.
Another fascinating aspect of the tattoo art form is how creative tattoo artists often use traditional designs in unorthodox ways to produce unique pieces. For example, George Hamilton a famous American tattoo artist used traditional Japanese designs for his famous sea monster piece commonly referred to as ‘Hamilton’s Snake.’ Another famous American tattoo artist named Horatio Jackson Crockett achieved national fame through his portrayal of Native American tribesmen in full tribal regalia in his book ‘Life Among The Indians.’ Through his art, he sought to show respect for his subject while still capturing his artistic flair.
Some artists still use traditional methods such as hand punctures with needles or ragweed paste or melted lead bullets dipped in ink while others use far more modern equipment such as laser machines or electric needles. Each technique has its advantages and disadvantages; hand punctures are far less traumatic for the person getting the tattoo but can be far less precise than machine equipment. Laser machines are much cleaner but can only produce light skin coloring rather than actual tattoos. Electric needles are both clean and precise but require extensive training for the person getting the tattoo since it can cause extreme pain if done improperly.
Another form of artistic expression that draws from tattoos is graffiti art- known colloquially as ‘street art.’ The original modern day tattoo artists were street artists who decorated urban environments with their work. Their pieces often feature bold colors and imagery that stands out against urban environments marked by concrete and steel buildings rather than canvas and skin. Essentially, graffiti artists’ work has a distinctly urban feel that is missing from many other forms of fine art popular within urban communities.
Overall, tattoos are seeing growing acceptance in the fine-art world due to their ability to express oneself through body modification. But this hasn’t stopped some artistic minds from interpreting these once-subversive images in new and creative ways. Tattoos have a long history that stretches back thousands of years- and they’re only gaining popularity among artists and consumers alike worldwide!
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