Inked AU/NZ – Authentink Article – July 2010
by Kian ‘Horisumi’ Forreal
From what I can tell more and more tattoo shops are opening up all over Australia and the world every day. I am not sure where all these tattoo people are coming from but there seems to be a steady rise in working tattooers available for potential clients to choose from. Diversity in most things is great as it can breed cultural growth, originality, competition and fend off stagnation with an injection of new ideas and perspectives and motivations. Tattooing is no different. There definitely needs to be some growth, some cultural diversity and hopefully some people willing to take some chances and try some new things. Perhaps not so much in pioneering new tattoo styles, as that’s been done already with varied successes, but in their approach to the art and the actual promoting of Art. Apart from a few good shops here and there that are busting fresh and strong work there are a lot of shops just playing catch up and repeating everyone else’s style and art.
To the clients of these shops I say ‘ask for more’! Push your artists to be original, don’t settle for copies of copies of someone else’s tattoo, and move on if you feel your artists are lazy or couldn’t be bothered. You want nice tattoos right? Everyone wants a great tattoo but it doesn’t come easy to any of us. As an artist you must strive everyday to improve yourself, even after 17 years of tattooing I am forever kicking my own ass and am not satisfied at the end of the day, I am always trying to improve and that is the way it must be. As a client you must look for ways to help your artist improve, bring him interesting projects and reference, give her some rein to experiment, providing he/she is up to the task. Lets make tattooing ours again and not just a TAFE course trade where folks are replicating things out of magazines 9-5 in a dingy office.
It used to be that interesting and rebellious people got tattooed, the outcasts and outlaws, the people that took chances and threw caution to the wind and couldn’t give a fuck what anybody thought about them, now it’s a bloody popularity contest amongst artists and clients alike… let’s get back to being those outsiders again but with an eye for great art and a renewed spirit for adventure. Micro lettering and your favorite celebrities’ anklet tattoo do not count.
Collecting, viewing and studying art is great way to get a feel for interesting talents and the appreciation of created images and whatnot. You don’t need to spend a fortune on original paintings or prints, just head into your local cool bookstore and browse the art section and check all style of paintings and drawings from the old Dutch Masters to illustrated medical books of the 1800’s, plenty to see there to whet your appetite and make you think in different ways Alternatively head into your nearby counter-culture artsy shop that does sell prints and art and see what’s on display, ask questions, and learn what you can about a particular style that grabs your attention. The more you know about an artist’s history or saga and the tradition of a style the more you come to feel a connection to it. You can reference and admire all sorts of different styles and takes on things that will train your eye to differentiate between ok Art and great Art. And all this will help you love and appreciate tattooing and its myriad of styles even more.
I was asking around the shop today for some ideas and themes that the other artists I work with thought should be addressed, the main one that we kept talking about was the whole ‘tattoos need to mean something’ bit that clients get obsessive about. I know for a lot of people that this is a crucial factor in their tattoo decision process and that’s cool, several of my tattoos have overt and covert meanings, nothing wrong with that. And some are just cool looking works of art from artists whose work I admire and I let them have freedom to make some cool shit on me. Just good-looking pictures that mean absolutely nothing except what they are portraying. The medium is the message.
Getting a tattoo just for the sake of having tattoos. And one more time, Tattoos for the sake of tattoos. Because we can and because they are cool, tough, sexy or whatever. Fuck yeah! Beautiful art is great to look at, whether it’s a sexy pin-up, a tall ship sailing the stormy seas, a freshly severed samurai head, doesn’t matter, if its done well and everyone is happy.. Mission accomplished! The personal meaning that can be attached to it is the experience of the who, what, where, when of getting the tattoo done. Not too many other things can do the same, last a lifetime AND never be taken away from you.
Now this might sound strange coming from a tattoo artist whose work is surrounded by and defined by its meanings and mysteries, I am speaking of course of Traditional Japanese tattooing. The main difference is that the images and designs in my art, for instance, like a peony flower or a tiger, has a simple meaning of say beauty, elegance or strength, but the meaning is not one attached to the wearer but to the image itself. It’s just a representation of the idea that lends itself to the image. There is no personal meaning but what you give it, and there is none necessary if you choose there not to be. You can have a big mean tiger on your chest that is just a big mean tiger, no further explanation needed. Easy. I have to stifle a laugh sometimes when I hear folks explaining their Miami Ink tattoo meaning stories in the shop to the poor counter staff who become proxy therapists, it doesn’t have to be that complicated. Lets all just learn about, make and love great art, great tattoos and try to make the right decisions in decorating our bodies. And lets remember that our skin is a non-renewable resource that must be respected and cherished!