The Unique Artist Canon Of Traditional Tattooing
- Posted by Carl Hallowell
- On September 20, 2018
I work in the traditional tattoo style. This is a style that is made for tattooing. It has its own artistic canon and excludes copying other art forms. I have of course translated just about every medium into a tattoo throughout my 23 years of practicing the art of tattoo. I have realized over time that no tattoo looks as good as a traditional tattoo, so that is the kind of work that I choose to focus on.
What Is the Traditional Tattoo Style?
The traditional tattoo style involves using traditional imagery, that is, imagery that has consistently been used for tattoos since the beginning of the artform. These images are then rendered using stylized imagery instead of realistic imagery. The design is then simplified for clarity and longevity. Bold outlining, heavy black shading and solid colors round out the look. A fair amount of skin is left open as well, imbuing it with the airy, bright look that was once called “The Classic Open Style of Cap Coleman”
A good traditional tattoo is simple, direct, and to the point. It looks great! It is tattoo! It is not a renaissance painting or engraving. Its not a computer generated design. It’s not everything but the kitchen sink. It is straightforward. It is not clever. It is tough, and beautiful at the same time. Tattoo!
Recreating Images For Tattoos Shouldn’t Always Be Done
Anything, almost, can be replicated as a tattoo. I just don’t believe it should be! I think that tattoos should look like tattoos, and not copies of oil paintings, comic books, or pen and ink drawings. Tattoo design is it’s own art, craft- it’s own world altogether.
As far as replicating outside works or ideas as tattoos, I would say that 90% of tattooists just say yes- I don’t know if it is from thinking primarily about the money or it is just that they do not have a particular direction in their work. There are some designs that no tattooer wants to do! But there is always somebody out there who will, whether his ego wont let him say no, he is a masochist, he likes a stiff challenge, he is a beginner, or he is hungry. I say why wear work that no one wants to do? Doesnt that kind of insinuate, in and of itself, that it is terrible design?
The Real Side Of the Traditional Tattooing
Unlike these ideas and the artists that are purveyors of them, Tattooing as our elders knew it was already fully evolved. Traditional tattooing is not sprawling, without focus, lost, free of all rules or laws. It is pointed, selective, small. It is a complete language. It is like the 26 letters of the alphabet, complete, exact, not lacking and in no way superfluous. Perfect.
Many people start off with “beginner tattoos”, and learn how to collect and wear tattoos over time. I attempt to circumvent the regret of early learner tattoos by taking the customer into the realm of real tattooing right from the start. Real tattooing is not my invention, nor that of any one artist. It is the soul of the art form that has been handed down through the years, tattoo by tattoo.
In my opinion, modern tattooing has lost this connection. We do whatever we want, however we want. A sacred link is broken. The meaning is in carrying on that fire, that ethos of the ages. The meaning is larger than any one of us. It is tattoo!
Another note on aesthetics for my customers; I have begun to understand that a tattoo sleeve should have some juxtaposition in the images on it. Kind of like an old flash sheet. The Jesus next to the anchor next to the dagger next to the skull, etc, just that collision of disparate imagery colliding to make the inscrutable poetry of tattoo!
Tattooing From The Dallas Tattoo Artist’s Perspective
Well, obviously , as an artist, I have very strict opinions about how I want the world of tattoo represented. I go about my work to do my part to make this vision realized. I owe a huge debt to Tattooing, I want and need to do right by it, the best I know how.
If working in a tattoo style and look for your tattoo interests you, I hope that we can work together sometime soon!
Please check out my portfolio on my website or my instagram with these points in mind. This will give you an idea of “tattoos that look like tattoos.” It is my belief that anything less than that is missing the point of this singular and powerful art form. If the work strikes you and you are ready to wear some of it, please get in touch with me today! I am proud to say I personally respond to all emails I receive. It would be my pleasure to respond to yours!