Art By Tattooists
Title: Art by Tattooists: Beyond Flash
Foreword by: Jesse Lee Denning
Cover Artwork by: Gillian Goldstein
Design by: Olly at On Studio
Publication date: 21st September 2009
Published by: Laurence King Publishing
UK Price: £12.95
In September 2009 my third book for Laurence King Publishing was released: ‘Art by Tattooists: Beyond Flash’. The idea was to include artwork from the personal portfolios of international tattooists, to give a genuine insight into the artwork produced by tattooists outside of the tattoo studio. That might be work of an overtly ‘tattooey’ nature, or it might have a subtler relationship to their work as tattooists. This is the first book to showcase personal artwork by tattooists in this format. The book features 26 international tattooists and artists, and a diverse array of artwork and mediums.
I was very saddened to learn that contributing artist Sumo (otherwise known as Che Baldwin) had passed away aged only 30 after a motorbike crash. As you’ll see from the book and his myspace page www.myspace.com/tattoosumo1 he was a very talented artist and his artwork was a very welcome and impressive addition to this book. There is a Facebook tribute group for him HERE. I would like to dedicate the book to his memory.
The term Flash is the name given to the sheets of tattoo designs found in tattoo studios, or a design drawn up for the purposes of tattooing multiple times. As I said, the idea for the book was to show examples of personal artwork by tattooists who are also practicing/professional artists in their own right and to show how their work reaches beyond the tattoo studio. Many of the artists included are inspired by classic tattoo designs or classic tattoo flash (Western & Eastern), and incorporate this iconic imagery into their personal artwork, so their artwork is ‘tattoo-ey’ in nature and may look like designs for a tattoo, but it isn’t, it’s a piece of their personal artwork. Just because the artwork resembles tattoo designs or features tattoo imagery, it doesn’t mean the artist has produced pieces of flash for the book. Any design or image can be made into a piece of flash for tattooing purposes, and many of the artists here do actually reproduce their personal artwork as tattoos for people, so their personal artwork could become or be made into a piece of flash - so the line between personal artwork and flash can blur - but in this book (with the exception of a couple of pieces of work) all artworks were created solely as personal pieces of artwork and were not intended at the point of creation, as tattoo designs for people (and those that are, or have become actual tattoos are one-off custom pieces and therefore still not technically flash) - therefore, if the artwork is not intended for actual tattooing purposes they are not pieces of ‘flash’ - whatever the subject matter - so there are no pieces of flash in this book.
The title is meant to simply, and as succinctly as possible, differentiate the artwork in the book from designs/artwork intended for tattooing, and to set it apart from other tattoo related books out there which do feature actual tattoo designs. I needed to be able to explain from the title alone that the artwork in the book is specifically personal portfolio artwork by tattooists and not ‘tattoo designs’ as such. It was also a deliberate decision not to include any actual tattoos by the artists in the book to keep the focus purely on their personal artwork.
The size of the book is small and affordable on purpose. I could have made a much larger hardback, ‘proper’ coffee table tome that could have been much more in depth but would have quadrupled the price. The intention was to make an affordable book that would serve as an introduction to these artists’ work and the concept of tattooists as artists in their own right, which would work in conjunction with the internet as a resource for further reading as artists’ websites are supplied. All the artists have websites and/or myspace pages where you can see photos of their actual tattoo work, or a photo of them as well as more photos of their artwork or work in progress. The text was also deliberately kept short and to the point (I was also bound by what each artist provided me in terms of text and images to work from, some provided more detail than others) and the idea again was not to fill up pages with text when the space was limited - myself and the artists preferred to use the space for more images rather than more text. If I’d had produced full pages of text it would mean that there would have only been room for a couple of images. The book was also written so that it could be picked up and understood/appreciated by those already interested and familiar with tattoo art and artists, and by those without any prior knowledge.
The artwork in the book is varied and diverse in terms of the way each artist handles their chosen subject matter, themes as well as media. As with any art book, it’s very subjective and personal in terms of what pieces you warm to and what pieces aren’t for you. I also think that there is a balance between darker subject matter/imagery and lighter work. Again it’s all very subjective and personal, and also depends on what other artwork you’ve been exposed to as to how dark you find certain images. I also think there is a balance between what people may have expected to find in artwork by tattooists (i.e. identifiable tattoo imagery) and what they may not have expected: more abstract or fine art pieces that do not make any immediate visual reference to tattoo imagery.
Guy Aitchison, Daniel Albrigo, Mandie Barber, Erik Von Bartholomaus, Chris Bourke, Clifton Carter, Dalmiro, Nate Diaz, Lola Garcia, Gillian Goldstein, Regino Gonzales, Angelique Houtkamp, Matt Hunt, Chance Isbell, Jondix, Jason d. Leisge, Carnie Marnie, Cody Meyer, Derek Noble, Lucy Pryor, Robert Ryan, Lina Stigsson, Sumo, Steve Whittenberger, James ‘Woody’ Woodford, Michele Wortman.