Hello again dear reader here I am again and welcome to another tale from The Naughty Step
Have you ever heard things like this when you hear ‘artists’ or clients discussing tattoos?
“But what will it look like in ten years?
“You should stick with the classics they’re proven styles”
“The bold will hold”
“It’ll never heal”
Well, doing the kind of work I do, I hear it a lot. Like a lot…This kind of cheap criticism has long been an ‘easy out’ for ‘artists’ who either don’t want to or have no interest in the progress of tattooing as an art form. It’s easier to plant that kind of doubt in a clients mind in order to talk them into a tired old design that’s been done a thousand times and has long since lost it’s cultural, spiritual or artistic relevance than it is is to be one of the artists who want to push the art form forward.
And it’s a criticism that has been levelled at every new form all the way back to the birth of modern tattooing. You’ll have no doubt heard the ‘it’ll never heal’ criticism levelled at colour realism in recent years all over the interweb by people who have no business or nearly enough qualifications to critique work done by some of the best artists tattooing has ever seen, ever. But, can you imagine a world where black and grey doesn’t exist? Or is criticised in the same way? Seems impossible right? Wrong, it was called the 70’s. As amazing as that may seem as recently as the 1970’s you’d struggle to get a black and grey tattoo unless you were in a prison in East LA. Just find a copy of the brilliant film Tattoo Nation for a great insight into the birth of black and grey and see how ‘artists’ viewed this modern day staple of tattooing in it’s early days.
I think what is considered traditional is really just a matter of longevity. It’s human nature that some artists will always look to history for inspiration and some will look to the future to see what is possible. It’s two different mindsets. But – as tattoo has become big business – the argument that traditionalists have always used in an effort to maintain the culture, quality and ethics of tattoo has become a poisonous mindset used by a few, jealous, small minded people that only serves to hold tattoo back and keep it down.
The disadvantage of only looking backwards is that the art-form never progresses beyond the point it was deemed traditional, and its styles, tools and techniques are locked in time forever and as we move further and further forward, its iconography has less and less resonance in the modern day.
It’s also ironic that the artists responsible for creating and defining the styles that we would now consider to be traditional tattoos weren’t traditionalist at all but far from it! They were mavericks and pioneers. If a technique didn’t exist, they created it, If the tools weren’t good enough, they improved them using the latest technologies. If the supplies didn’t cut it, they made their own.
In fact they are responsible for almost everything we take for granted in modern tattooing. They simply defied the establishment and simple defiance is sometimes all we have as a weapon to push things forward.
“But mine is a proven style”. Yeah, but not proven by you though was it. And Actually no it won’t necessarily unless you’re as good as one of the guys that invented it.
You see an originator is a different animal to a copycat. The originator invents and discovers techniques. Refining them as he goes until they are perfect. But the copycat just does it the way he was told. Right or wrong and without ever questioning if the information was even correct in the first place.
By hiding behind the hard work of the originators and claiming that because their work held up yours will you are at best fooling yourself and at worst lying to clients and standing on the shoulders of giants to achieve ‘success’. You are a Charlatan. Holding tattoo back because you can’t move forward.
It takes 4 seconds for a dinosaur to know it’s dead and it’s taking you longer. I’m counting down to yours.