Popular Styles of Tattoo Art in 2019
Whilst tattooing is a centuries old tradition, popular styles in the tattooing world change from year to year. People choose to get tattoos for all kinds of reasons from tribal identification to self-expression to rebellion against social norms, but there are often identifiable trends that drift in and out of fashion.
Whilst tattooing methods have progressed with the times from the traditional hand-poked approach to 3D printer technology, the experience remains the same. Whether it’s your first tattoo or your thirtieth, you still find yourself sat in the tattooist’s chair, trying not to squirm or moan too much. Personally, I always find bringing along a distraction helps in these moments; a soothing playlist on Spotify, a few fast-paced spins at Pokerstars casino or even a particularly tricky crossword can help distract from the pain. Who knows? Perhaps the future will see pain-free tattoos become a reality. However, here we’ll take a look at some of the most popular types of tattoo art so far this year.
The term ‘blackwork’ often refers to tattoo designs that involve large areas of, unsurprisingly, black ink. This can range from bold designs that take up a lot of surface area on the body, to smaller and more intricate patterns that fit into a more conventional and easy to hide space. Some brave souls may opt for an entire limb covered in uninterrupted blackwork which contrasts with the rest of their skin. One great example of striking blackwork is that found on Tim Commerford, who plays bass in Rage Against The Machine and Audioslave.
Whilst Western readers may already be familiar with the traditional tattoo designs of the USA and Europe, there is a growing demand for irezumi, or Japanese traditional tattoos, outside of East Asia. Irezumi designs often look to Mother Nature for inspiration, and motifs like tigers, dragons, cherry blossoms and chrysanthemums feature prominently. Japanese folklore and myths are also an integral part of irezumi artwork, with tengu (supernatural beings), oni (demons or trolls), and geisha (female entertainers) amongst the most popular motifs.
Delicate floral designs have really come into their own in recent years; the development of tattoo gun technology has allowed for more delicate and intricate floral tattoos to be realised on skin, and therefore a trend for using thinner and daintier lines has prospered. Flowers provide tattoo artists with endless ideas for new designs and can be accomplished in either plain black ink or using different colours. These fragile but elegant tattoos look perfect in paler pastel colours, and the traditional language of flowers can be used to give the design a deeper meaning.
One type of design that has persevered in recent years is that of the mandala. These beautiful repetitive patterns originated in Indian religions like Hinduism and Buddhism and are often used to focus thoughts and attention in a form of meditation. Mandala tattoos can incorporate any type of style, including bold hand poked shapes as well as intricate detail, and can incorporate sacred geometry or patterns found in nature. Because of their shape and adaptability, they can be tattooed anywhere on the body; many people choose to have a design placed in the crook of their elbow or across their shoulder.
This technique in tattooing looks best when used in clear, geometric patterns or when a particularly fine type of shading is required. Dotwork uses many tiny dots to make up the complete design, rather than the standard mechanical method of injecting ink beneath the skin’s surface with multiple needles at a time. For this reason, most dotwork tattoos are hand poked. Hand poking is the original way in which tattoos were created and involves the tattoo artist using a single needle dipped in ink to fix the design under the skin.
Handwritten words and phrases
Moving away from illustrations, handwritten words and phrases are having a big moment in the tattooing world. From song lyrics, to literary quotes, to notes written by loved ones, nothing proves the power of words more than having them permanently tattooed on your body. The great thing is that words can be tattooed in literally any style you wish for; graceful handwriting flows across the skin, elevating any phrase to something beautiful, whereas bold black lines and block capitals make a strong statement. Perhaps the most recognisable text tattoo of all time is ‘love’ and ‘hate tattooed across the knuckles of both hands – a classic!
In complete contrast to my earlier mention of blackwork, coloured ink is enjoying something of a renaissance. Rejected for years as being too ‘showy’ and ‘old-fashioned’ for the new generation of tattoo lovers, coloured ink is now being used in ever more innovative and creative ways to produce contemporary designs. Some people forego the black lines all together and opt for a design that utilises colour in a refreshing and modern way.