Inked AU/NZ – Authentink Article – January 2014
by Kian ‘Horisumi’ Forreal
So I have been thinking a lot lately about what’s going on in the tattoo world and why many artists working a multitude of styles globally are so disillusioned with it on a philosophical level, myself included to some extent and I came to a few conclusions that I will share here with you. For instance in the Japanese style of tattooing there is a lot of just plain bullshit ‘fake’ Japanese artwork getting put on people, and I mean FAKE, like the people tattooing it don’t have a fucking clue what they are doing. This bums me out, a lot. The main reason this pisses me off is that the average person for the most part doesn’t know chalk from cheese when it comes to tattooing, and who can blame them? Just your average fella on the street or in the bar only has the most superficial knowledge of tattooing, what he sees is what he knows…. And much like buying knock-off watches or clothes in Thailand or Hong Kong… the fakes destroy the brand power of the genuine article.
If you see a thousand people wearing the same copy Rolex Submariner watch from the markets of Bangkok that they paid $40 for then the real deal watch that costs $9000 isn’t special anymore… 99% can’t tell the difference, you may even doubt its veracity, you’re certainly not impressed or bedazzled by it, and if you’re the owner of one, you are probably a bit disillusioned yourself and may lose interest in it. While it is an amazing timepiece, the crap ones have ruined the brand.
The Ed Hardy clothing brand is a great example of this, probably one of the most copied fashion brands in recent time that was absolutely destroyed by the knock-off market in Asia. So many people wearing it, spending top dollar here in Australia yet so much fake gear out there, the market was flooded… eventually everyone just put it down and walked away from it disgusted.
And that is what I fear with tattooing thanks to all the half assed attempts at tattooing going on now.
Used to be that a koi tattoo, say a ½ sleeve with a chest plate was regarded as an awesome symbol of traditional Japanese tattooing, an awe inspiring tattoo that would mesmerize people with its colors and details and most important; its symbology. For me it still is a great motif, but for many a layperson it is seen as cliché now as a dolphin tattoo was in the 90’s. And that’s a shame, and it is preventable of course.
Like any undertaking we need to take it seriously, to try our best to honor what it is we are doing and to honor those that came before us. The common person that is not tattooed or has contact with the tattoo world only sees tattoos on the street while they are getting around, and these days there are plenty of sleeves out there to see! Mostly they are quickly executed black and grey ones that are indistinguishable from a distance. Or perhaps the average person sees them on a co-worker or friend… and what he sees in this instance is what he judges tattooing to be, good or bad. And from what I hear from most people it ain’t good. And I can’t say I blame them, I walk around the city and I see a lot of ‘not so inspiring’ work, stuff that looks like it was banged out as quick as possible. I am not sure what motivation is here, perhaps to join the tattoo fashion crowd and be sleeved up by 20 regardless of the artistic merit to your work.. just quick and cheap! I can’t say too much as I was sleeved up with crap when I was 20, but that was a long long time ago and it took some effort back then to get that done and to find places to do it, and we didn’t have the great selection of art and artists that we have now, and of course I regret not getting much better work.
There really is no excuse now for not getting nice tattoos, and it has the much loved knock-on effect of inspiring other people to get nice work as well… I absolutely guarantee that when all the 20-25 year olds get to 30-ish with their crappy black & grey sleeves that they had hastily scratched on… they will regret them.. and look to remove them.
There are true and passionate artists out there making incredible tattoos, people who care about the art and about you and how you wear your art. Seek out these people that, support great tattooing, they might not be the most well known name, but if the tattooing is good then its good for tattooing. I guess some people are bummed because tattooing used to be special, being a tattoo artist was special; people who got tattooed were special, like a brother/sisterhood. We’d nod to each other in the street or stop and have a chat. Its just gotten so mainstream, its like pop music now, celebrity tattoo gossip mags of who has what tattoo. Is this what its come to?? That bums me out.
Everyone trying to outdo each other is another good one, you know getting tattooed isn’t a competition right? With more and more young people getting face tattoos to look more and more ‘hardcore’, if you’re not a serious gangbanger prison thug then just you look ridiculous, what’s your life plan after looking ‘tough’?? I am not talking about Maori moko or other ethnographic motifs and traditions… I mean just young guys and girls getting words and stars and symbols on their faces… in my humble opinion it makes tattooing look immature and gutter… but that’s just me.
I guess being a bit older now I have some perspective, but even when I was 20 there was no one with a triple digit IQ that was tattooing their face, a few necks and hands but rare.. and I was rolling with some hard guys, back then everyone had an eye on the future or perhaps how getting such visible tattoos would handicap their dealings with society. I’ll be interested to see how it all works out for this mob, I always chuckle to myself when I see the local park dwelling hobo or Surry Hills derelict sporting an old faded hand tattoo or neck tattoo… he would have gotten those 30-40 years ago… you don’t see a lot of successful folks that age with visible tattoos right now.
I’d like to find a way to put the genie back in the bottle… make it special again, maybe we should make tattoos hurt more than they do, make it dangerous and dark again because right now I see a lot guys in boat shoes and polo shirts walking tiny dogs with sleeves tattooed up and I am thinking, whisky tango foxtrot!!