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As soon as I walk into the tattoo shop my ears are bombarded with heavy metal music and the sweet, sweet buzzing of needles. I take a seat and chat with my artist about the piece I came in for and soon the shop help hands me the mandatory paperwork. She starts admiring my already sleeved left arm and begins to share her own ideas for her next piece and where on her body she wants to place it. “I think I want to start adding to my legs. I just love those pictures where they’re in the bathtub and their tattoos just look so good!”
The art of tattooing is not being recognized and appreciated the way it deserves because of people like the Pinterest girl. Many younger people are criticised by many older people today because tattoos have somehow become this new outlet for easily expressing that you can be your normal self, but also this aesthetically pleasing picture. Many girls (trust me, there are guys too) my age have small, hidden tattoos that allow them to be edgy if they feel like it, which by default puts them in this group of ‘people with tattoos.'
Many of us who live for the art of tattooing get all hot and bothered when we fall into the same group as these people because tattooing is so much more than just some ink that can easily be seen with that one tank top you have. Tattoos are the ability to express images we see in our imagination, images we feel by way of ink on human skin. While most people just see lines and colors, there are so many aspects of a tattoo that make it art: the way the shading fades, where you can see how heavy the artists’ hand was and when he began to sweep away, the use of borders or no borders, the heaviness of colors, the highlight of grey, the swirls of black.
The most common societal argument that takes away from this art is the misplaced and unnecessary fear that one day our ink will magically spread out like molasses on a hot day. This fear was valid for a moment when silicon-based ink was the only thing sailors used to tattoo pigs and roosters, but what most people don’t know is that the ink used today by tattoo artists is water-based. This difference in ink is as important as the switch from landlines to cell phones. Besides this main societal hang-up, the other important hindrance to the art of tattooing is the fact that extremely talented artists are forced to belittle their greatness to infinity signs with inspirational quotes. How is anyone supposed to believe that there is so much beauty in tattoos when all they can base their knowledge on are tattoos that ‘can be hidden so my parents won’t see, but my boyfriend can when I wear this one shirt.’
The emotional ties or reasons for a tattoo are to be respected, just as on outfit decision is to be respected. No one deserves to be questioned on why they chose to wear checkered Vans, because we are in 2018 and supposedly those are still in style. So with respect to anyone who chooses to get inked nowadays, most of society believes that in order to have a tattoo you need a deep emotional reason, such as your cat who just passed away loved to sleep on your arm and his favorite toy was yellow so now you have a ‘realistic’ style yellow sunflower on your forearm. Then there are those of us who discovered the American traditional style and walked into the sessions not knowing what your artist had drawn up for you, as long as it was within the style and it fit well amongst the other pieces on your arm. When it comes to splitting hairs about symbolic or emotional validation of a tattoo, it’s a double-edged sword that no one cares to take part in. Once society gets past this unnecessary validation associated with the grieving process, that is when the art of tattooing will make leaps and bounds.
The art of tattooing has never been so systematically developed and collectively strengthened as it is today. Artists from all over the world and from all different styles have constantly been striving for greatness within the past 15-20 years in order to build an industry that stands highly upon common core values, such as integrity, humbleness, back-breaking work, and overall greatness. This art and industry will only continue to push social limits, continue to produce hardworking artists, continue to create a damn rainbow bridge from our ideas of fantasy to reality.