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“No matter how much tattooing has evolved, the basics haven't changed. It hurts. And it doesn't go away. It still takes a certain amount of guts to mark yourself for the rest of your life. Which is exactly how it ought to be.”
-Sailor Jerry

Over thousands of years, humans have marked their bodies with everlasting designs which are either plain or elaborate, but are always personal. Tattoos have served as status symbols, declarations of love, signs of religious beliefs, adornments, or even punishment.

Recently due to the discovery of the Iceman from the area of the Italian-Austrian border in 1991’s tattoo patterns, the oldest tattoo history has been pushed back from 2000 b.c, further thousands of years when he was carbon-dated at around 5200 years old. The tattoos that were seen on the iceman were small dots and crosses that were seen as therapeutic. The areas (lower spine, knee, and ankle joints) were seen as areas of strain induced degeneration and were not places that would have been easy to display status.

Tattooing devices were found in the town of Gurob in northern Egypt which were dated to 1450 B.C. There was also evidence that the Egyptians had tattoos due to mummies which the figurines found had tattoos on their bodies and limbs (4000-3500 B.C), figures seen in tomb scenes (1200 B.C.), and the figurines that had tattoos on their thighs. These forms of permanent marks found in Greco-Roman burials at Akhmim. In Egyptian culture, tattoos were distributed by the men to the women. It was seen that some tattoos were a mark of prostitution, protect the women from sexually diseases, or therapeutic. Tattoos were also made by using a hollow needle made from the local objects of that area. i.e. bamboo, porcupine quills, or bone.

Also, it was seen as a permanent amulet for pregnant women due to the pattern made by the tattoos. They would be in the specific spots such as the abdomen, around the thighs, and breasts. This is similar to the way that bead nets were placed over wrapped mummies to keep everything in. Women would place the small figure Bes at the top of their thighs to “Safe guard” their birth.

The instruments that were used to tattoo individuals were best described as a sharp point set in a wooden handle. There were also flat or wide needles as well. If these instruments were tied together they would produce the pattern of repeated dots. Dark or black pigment were generally used but other cultures such as the Inuit used yellow more often.

Most of the first tattoos were dots, lines, diamond patterns, and naturalistic images.

Different cultures use tattooing for different purposes. The ancient Egyptians had represented the male leaders of the Libyan neighbors c. 1300-1100 B.C. with clear, rather geometrical tattoo marks on their arms and legs and portrayed them in Egyptian tomb, temple and palace scenes. the 2,400 year old body of a Scythian male was discovered in 1948- preserved in ice in Siberia. His limbs and torso were covered in ornate tattoos of mythical animals. Then a woman with tattoos, again of mythical creatures on her shoulders, wrists and thumb and of similar date, was found in a tomb in Altai in 1993. "tattoos were a mark of nobility, and not to have them was testimony of low birth.” is a quote said by the Greek writer Herodotus. Ancient Britons also use tattooing as a mark of higher status ranking. Greeks and Romans used tattoos to mark an individual as “belonging". This means either to a religious sect or to an owner in the case of slaves or even to mark them as criminals.The emergence of Christianity made people feel as if they were “disfiguring god's image” and they were banned by Emperor Constantine. Native Americans used tattoos on the face and body, near the eyebrows, along the cheeks, and sometimes on the chin. Japanese had started tattooing in the late A.D. 3rd century.

Maori face tattoos are elaborate and are seen as high status symbols.They were all individual and told about each person's rank, status, and abilities. Sharp bone were used to cut the designs into the individual's faces, the pigment would be placed in, and the skin would heal over leaving the design sealed in. maori-facial-tattoo.jpgThese serve also as a rite of passage and they are more attractive to the opposite sex. Maori women were also tattooed but more towards the mouth and nose areas. Christian missionaries tried to get rid of this procedure but the tattoos kept the women looking young.

Tattoos serve as permanent protective or therapeutic symbols upon the body, marking people out into appropriate social, political or religious groups, or simply as a form of self-expression or fashion statement.

These tattoos are unique to a particular culture or subculture as a means of differentiating themselves from other local tribes or groups. These tattoos were used to identify the wearers as members of a specific tribe, medicinal, or religious rituals. The shapes are representative of animals, of nature, or of tribal life. Unknown 8.24.13 PM.jpegThese tattoos usually told a story, they illustrated a warrior's strength and their skill in battle. Tattoos of the sea usually meant that that tribe lived near the ocean. Tribal tattoos often incorporate the use of short line, circles, lines or chevron, and large sections of solid black- called “black-work”. The placement on the body is very important because it symbolizes the wearer's status. The modern tattoos are now a “bastardized” blend of traditional Maori, Polynesian, and Samoan tattoo styles. The modern use of these tattoos are purely for aesthetic which means they lose their original symbolism. It incorporates modern images, designs, and subject matters. But, there is also an increasing number of individuals who get these tattoos to celebrate their own cultural heritage.

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Captain James Cook’s crew were the first who chose to get tattoos in the 1700s. Before this tattoos were not acceptable in Paris or London in the 1600s. Their tattoos served as mementos of their journey to the great tattoo cultures of Japan, China and the Pacific Islands. Enlisted servicemen got tattoos to signify their military unit, the battles they fought, and the number of people that they had killed. The invasion of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese was the crossroads and ultimate shore leave destination of servicemen. This was also the home of Norman Collins, a.k.a Sailor Jerry, who was a heavy inked former Navy man who had a tattoo shop. The locations the men would get these tattoos would be on their backs, shoulders and arms. Sailor Jerry combined using vivid colors, bold iconography, and artistic ambition to create a new form of tattooing. Also, the he was the first Westerner to learn from the great Japanese masters, he even vowed to “beat them at their own game”. He did this with combining their techniques with his own American sensibility. It took another level of commitment to inscribe your body with an image that permanently states your beliefs, affiliation or anti-establishment attitude. Even though the times had changed since his tattoos were first introduced, his designs are still wildly popular.

Photorealistic Portraits became possible in recent years because modern tattoo machines offered artists a finer level of detail and subtler shading. Portrait tattoos are good ways to commemorate someone and give them appreciation or the dedication that they deserve. These tattoos are used to keep the ones that are lost, near and dear by keeping their memory alive within the tattoo. Many men and women will choose to get tattoos to display their children. Portrait tattoos can be very different, they could have a framing, no background, the name or something important with that person. Mike DeVeries, US artist, is one of the world's leading tattoo portrait artists and his work has been commissioned by Sylvester Salone, Donnier Walhburg and others.

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In a period of criminals and bikers in the US, a different breed of British rebels were proudly wearing body art despite the negative connotations from others. The Bristol Tattooing Club (BTC) was founded by the tattooist Les Skuse began in 1953 and aimed to raise awareness for tattooing as an art form, improving standards in British body art, and challenging the prejudice that tattoos were a mark of criminality. The BTC had strict criteria of becoming a member and had to have “either a full chest or full back design, or at least £5 worth of work on their arms”. Also, for identification purposes they had to have the insignia of the club, which was a black bat with outstretched wings, as a tattoo.

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Ink flourished in prisons where designs were worn as a mark of gang membership and had set the scene for modern black and grey work which has become the most popular form of body art in the west. These tattoos are made as a form of communication which tell a lot about the wearer, including gang membership, status in prison, family relationships, special life events, spiritual beliefs and personal values. Prison tattoo artists began to use a single needle which spawned the distinct style labeled “fine-line”. Outside of the jails or prisons professional tattoo artists, adopted and popularized the all-black fine-line style in the mid- to late-1970s.

Tattoos of flowers and plants are usually done just because they are beautiful designs. But flowers and their colors can also carry symbolism which makes the flower tattoo special the individual. I.e. a red rose would express true love, while a yellow rose symbolizes friendship and happiness. Lotus flower tattoos are very popular in Asian and Japanese designs. In the Far East the lotus is widely respected while in the west we have the rose.89-bltnyc-rain-tattoo-designs-for-woman_0.jpg

Flowers are more than just beautiful. They vary greatly in size, color, shape, and meaning. Flowers represent the endless cycle of life, love, and loss. We encounter the different symbols associated with flowers from myths and folklore.

The most inventive and creative tattoos today are inspired by watercolor paintings, they look as if they were actually done on canvas and not skin.

Tattooing like this means being apart of an art culture.
A watercolor tattoo is just a simulation of watercolor artwork.

These tattoos are mainly consistent of geometric designs to delicate patterns.
They take more of a subtle approach in symbolizing ideas, such as a tree representing nature or a skyline to your favorite city.
Perhaps a tattoo for for an owner who likes to keep his or her secrets. This style of tattoo is minimalist and simple yet makes people question its true meaning.

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1. Under the Wave Off Kanagawa, Hokusai 2.The Kiss, Gustav Klimt 3.The Creation of Adam, Michelangelo

Tattoos today have let go their associations with criminality and deviance, to become a fashion essential. Celebrities flaunt their tattoos and there are reality TV shows such as Miami Ink and LA Ink. The industry has been growing and now is bigger than ever, a poll in 2012 showed that 23% of women and 19% of men have tattoos. The number is still growing!

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"50 Beautiful Minimalist and Tiny Tattoos from Geometric Shapes to Linear Patterns." Stylist Magazine. Web. 08 June 2016.
"Flower Tattoos." Flower Tattoos. Web. 08 June 2016.
Friedman, Anna Felicity, and James Elkins. The World Atlas of Tattoo. Print.
McComb, David. 100 Years of Tattoos. Print.
"Portrait Tattoos And Designs-Portrait Tattoo Ideas And Meanings." HubPages. HubPages. Web. 08 June 2016.
"Tattoos - Sailor Jerry." Sailor Jerry. Web. 08 June 2016.
"Tribal Tattoos History and Meaning - Richmond Tattoo Shops." Richmond Tattoo Shops. 08 Sept. 2013. Web. 08 June 2016.
"The Art and Meaning of Prison Tattoos." The Blue Review. 07 Mar. 2013. Web. 08 June 2016.