[screenshot from fyeahtattoos: a post of sailor jerry flash butterflies and a post of a text piece with a long justification right next to each other.]
until (embarrassingly) recently, i would have been like “oh but flash has no meaning! quotes and literary tattoos are so much better because they are **deep and special** and whatever!”
(obvious disclaimer: i am only a teenager on the internet who really likes learning about tattoos. my opinion is kind of irrelevant, even though i consider myself well-read.)
but let’s just talk about this for a minute…
(tl;dr— a flash piece that you get “just because” and is well done > a boring and poorly-executed text tattoo with **tons of meaning**)
- even though flash gets a lot of criticism for being cheap and meaningless (as well as legitimate criticism for being racist, eg. the native american pinups and “g*psy girls”) it’s an art form just like any other tattoo. traditional flash goes back quite a while and is a huge part of modern tattoo history and culture. copying (and then designing) flash is an important part of an artist’s training. aside from being important in a historical context, flash is also pretty cool looking (aside from the shitty racist designs.) although flash can look dated or clichéd, there are reasons certain designs (the rose, the sailboat, the swallows) have endured. even if it’s not your favorite style, you have to appreciate a really well done flash piece.
- and those butterflies are SICK. even though i’m not a huge fan of butterflies i just… this piece is awesome. i can’t see the picture TOO well, but it’s obvious that the colors are really nice, the outlines are clean, the design of the butterflies themselves is interesting. there really is not a WHOLE lot to say since it’s flash, but it’s just really nice and very clean and awesome looking. obviously not the pinnacle of originality or anything, but it’s still a solid tattoo.
- now let’s talk about the text piece.
- text, unaccompanied by an image, seems to be a recent trend in tattooing. (i know there are certain…indigenous?… styles that incorporate a lot of text. eg., one of my friends here in thailand just got a “sak yant” tattoo of a whole poem, sort of like this) but in modern, “mainstream” tattooing (is that an oxymoron?), it’s always been all about the images. now i’m not saying that all new trends/developments are bad, of course. i love what xoil and amanda wachob are doing, for example. but not all trends are good trends. tiny designs in a sea of space? straight lines of text on a curvy human body? getting a whole sentence tattooed when you could have a beautiful image (or at least a beautiful image with some accompanying text that doesn’t look like shit)? using fonts designed for a computer screen/print than on skin? all of these very bad ideas have become popular in recent years. i don’t know why, exactly, except possibly the advent of social media allowing trends to spread more quickly?
- anyway, the photo isn’t even that far away and it’s still really hard to read. and that’s on a photograph with good lighting. it just looks like a scribble. if you’re getting a text tattoo, at least make sure people can read it. (inb4 “but my tattoo is just for me! i don’t want other people to read it!” just stop. first, if you just want the personal message for you, write it down and put it in your wallet or something. why would you get a tattoo if you don’t want other people looking at it? and second, re: “well i don’t care who sees it, but this tattoo is really just for me so who cares?” would you wear a shirt with a backwards design so you can see it in the mirror? would you get an upside down chest piece, sleeve, or whatever else so you can see it better? tattoos are art and art is meant to be seen and appreciated.)
- i will never understand why people get text tattoos that are not designed for the part of the body they are on (eg. straight lines down the side) and/or multiple lines left or right justified. IT JUST MAKES YOU LOOK LIKE THIS. and this is not me saying “lol women are pigs” or “comparing people to animals” or anything. but if you get long text tattoos in straight lines across your body, WHICH IS NOT A PIECE OF PAPER AND AS SUCH LOOKS RIDICULOUS WITH LONG, STRAIGHT LINES OF TEXT ON IT, that’s what you look like. i mean, straight lines can be fine in tattoos (check out mxm’s work) but you have to consider the change in medium from paper to skin. (and that is a different post altogether, really.)
- text tattoos like that just aren’t very interesting. once you stare at it (or ask the person to read it for you, which they have probably been asked a million times) and figure out what it says, there isn’t really anything to say about it. “simple like a mountain is simple.” … okay.
- even if you absolutely had to have these words on your body, why not put them with an image? like of a mountain, maybe? or whatever else you wanted it to represent? tattoos with text in them (or even just text, if it’s done well and doesn’t look like you stuck your arm in a printer) can be really cool and text can add just as much to an image as image can add to text. (although it’s super awkward looking if you have a beautiful image and scratcher-shit level text. those just look so sad. text isn’t the end-all-be-all of tattoos but it has to be done nicely.)
- also so many people have sentences and phrases tattooed on them which were really powerful in their original context but lose all meaning just floating on skin. for instance. in the book, when you read “simple like a mountain is simple,” it represents the nature of complexity, how things are not always as simple as they seem, etc. it’s pretty interesting. and then when it’s taken completely out of context and tattooed on someone, if you just see it, it means nothing.
- not to mention that they used so much of their arm for a relatively short bit of text— an unfortunate waste since that space is prime real estate for a tattoo.
all of that being said, i hope this person is happy with their tattoo. art can’t move forward without criticism and i just saw an opportunity to talk about some of the things that bother me about current fads and whatnot. i also know that reading tattoo criticism helped me learn a lot and since i have learned so much i wanted to “pass it on” so to speak.