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An Ode to Photorealism Tattooing
Despite being covered in ornamental blackwork tattoos, I love all genres of the art, which is why it has been fun exploring them all in my books when I can't have them all on my bod.
One of the volumes from the Black & Grey Tattoo box set, focused on photo realism in tattooing, and on its pages were lush renderings of images, from pop culture portraits to wild animals to family tributes, and much more. There are so many ways to explore photorealism in tattooing, which makes it an exciting art form.
And when something is exciting, well, it usually ends up on TV.
The folks at Oxygen's tattoo competition show, Best Ink, have asked me to do a post on photorealism in light of tonight's episode, which pits the tattoo artist contestants against each other as they vie to create the best realistic drawings, and tattoos on clients who expect an artistic miracle in five hours. You can catch a preview of the episode here.
Realistic tattooing has not merely developed in in the past decade--it has mutated, leaping far beyond normal progression in its artistry and execution. There has been explosion of photographic representations tattooed with great precision and depth. It has invigorated the tattoo community with the possibilities of mastering a difficult art on a difficult canvas.
Both new and experienced artists face a number of challenges in realistic tattooing; the most obvious one is making it look real--capturing the look, and even the soul, of the subject. Many portrait tattoos, for example, commemorate the loves of the wearer: family, pets, cars and even fictional characters. The personal significance prescribed to these tattoos adds to the great responsibility of the artist. Another challenge concerns the longevity of the tattoo. A skilled tattooist may choose not to render certain details in the tattoo exactly as they appear in the photo because, as skin ages, lines blur and ink fades, which could leave a portrait of Marilyn Monroe looking more like Marilyn Manson. Realism specialists also find ways to create a harmony with the body so that the tattoos don't look "slapped on" but appear organic to the wearer. It's particularly difficult to have this balance and stay true to the image but stellar artists find the right mix.
Keeping all this in mind, it will be interesting to see if the contestants on Best Ink do justice to the genre and come up with work that demonstrates the true artistry and exciting possibilities of photorealistic tattooing. The show airs at 10 PM EST ... and yes, we'll be drinking.
* Brad discusses the types of stares and vitriol tattooed people enjoy by strangers on the street ["You ruined your life"] as well as how often we're fetishized ["A couple of women in their late thirties fawned over me and one of them said, "It makes me wonder what kind of fucked up things must be going through your head."].
* He experienced the feel-up by drunk people. We all know that one.
* A guy came up to him and with a high five said: "Welcome. Your life is now theater."I think it's a great quote and made me think that the stares, comments, and touching can stem from the idea that, by being visibly tattooed especially with facial work, you become public property.
* His great conclusion: "the most difficult part of having a face tattoo is spending your day explaining your shitty life decision to every single person you meet."
While he drops some possible reasons why people would tattoo their faces, he can't really understand it -- and maybe that's because he engaged in the whole thing as a hipster experiment (and wow, Canadian hipsters seem just as ridiculous as those here in Brooklyn).
Reasons why people get tattooed are so individual and vast. Having a faux tattoo may inspire witty one-liners, but also inspires an unironic punch to the face.