Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Exercise - Tattoos

I must admit when I read the brief for this exercise I instantly cringed. I’ve always been pretty squeamish and the thought of having a tattoo permanently on your skin really freaks me out so I had to limit the amount of images I looked at!

The word “tattoo” apparently comes from the Tahitian word which means to ‘to mark something’ and is a form of body modification which involves inserting indelible ink into the dermis layer of the skin to change the pigment.

Tattooing has been practiced for centuries in many cultures, particularly in Asia, and spread throughout the world. Tattooing was widespread among Polynesians and among certain tribal groups in Africa, Borneo, Cambodia, Europe, Japan, the Mentawai Islands, MesoAmerica, New Zealand, North America and South America, the Philippines, and Taiwan Despite some taboos surrounding tattooing, the practice continues to be popular in many parts of the world.

Modern tattooing in the Western world has its origins in sixteenth through eighteenth century maritime expeditions, which promoted contact between explorers and the american tribes and Polynesians they encountered. The Polynesian practice, especially, became popular among European sailors, who took the Samoan word tatau to describe the actual tattoo. As sailors traveled abroad and returned home with tattoos inscribed on their bodies, tattoos began to appear in mainstream European, and eventually America.

Online image Accessed via 4th January 2012

The exercise was to work on a Mum tattoo which could also be translated to a greetings card. The “I Love Mum” tattoo is quite iconic and it conjures up images of the bright red heart with a banner with the word “Mum” or "Mom". This type of tattoo became popular during WWII when sailors got tattoos to show achievements and the “mother” or “mom” tattoo were a reminder of home, Remy 2000.

Tattoos in many cultures show rites of passage, status and rank and can be used to show religious and spiritual beliefs. People choose to be tattooed for artistic, cosmetic, and religious reasons, and to symbolize their belonging to or identification with particular groups.

Today tattoos are a part of global and western fashion common amongst a variety of age groups, economic classes and with both men and women and are seen as an acceptable form of expression. According to one survey, a fifth of all British adults have now been inked (as contemporary usage has it). Among 16- to 44-year-olds, both men and women, the figure rises to 29%. Only 9% of over 60s have one, according to a survey of 1,000 adults by the Ask Jeeves website, but 16% of people aged between 30 and 44 have two. Likwise all sorts of unlikely people including teachers and politicians have been tattooed.

The rise of celebrity culture has aided the popularity of tattooing with celebrities including David Beckham and Angelina Jolie being well known for their tattoos.

Tattoos are increasingly diverse but popular themes include old style fine line ink work, tribal and ethnic designs, and Japanese and Asian inspired designs. 

Tribal tattoos

Online image Accessed via 4th January 2012

Angelina Jolie - Tattoos with latitude and longitude of the birthplaces of her adopted children.

A few weeks back I had began to look more at typography and Typographical illustrations including the work of Sarah Coleman and Kate Forrester. I also really like the work of Johanna Basford and Marian Baynes and for this exercise thought it would be appropriate to take influence from some of their styles in a “Mum” tattoo.

Marian Baynes

Online image accessed Accessed 4th January 2013.
Example of Sarah Coleman's work 

Online image accessed - Accessed 4th January 2012

I began in my sketchbook playing with different variations of the letters into different shapes. The most obvious shapes were hearts and flowers which I thought reinforced the role of a mum. I used pen, paint and ink to experiment and decided early on that my tattoo would be limited in colour or use only black and white as I much prefer this and wanted something relatively simple yet appealing.

Example of tattoos 

Although I like some of the highly decorative typographic work of the illustrators above I was aware I didn't want to over complicate my design. I then began some more experiments on paper trying different calligraphy styles of writing and designs.

I liked some of the heart style designs incorporating the letters but wasn't totally satisfied having the final design as a heart. I tried various experiments of this in Photoshop repeating the heart to make a flower design. Whilst I thought this would work as a design on a card I wasn't certain that it would be the best to be a final tattoo and thought might be a bit complex especially given the size.

At this point I asked my mum her opinion on some of the designs. She is very anti - tattoos but said if she was to have one she would prefer it to be recognisable as saying mum rather than a subliminal features of a design.
I then went back and tried some more calligraphic writing styles and scanned to Photoshop.
Working with black ink I wasn't sure that the letters were strong enough once scanned and thought that perhaps the text could be stronger. I went back and tried to tighten up my calligraphy and was able to slightly refine the lettering making it stronger. I also decided to add some red to the heart design.

I then did a bit of Photoshop clean up and produced some samples of it as a greetings card using different pattern overlay effects. I photoshopped the tattoo onto a picture of my mum to see how it would look as a tattoo and think it would work. I know that the illustration is fairly basic and based on the word quite literally but I think that this works best in this instance as some of my other designs I felt were a bit predictable and fussy although I guess this is subjective.

Overall I think this was a useful exercise for me as its made me think I'd really like to experiment more with typographic style illustrations and calligraphy incorporating words and image.
The process for this exercise involved a bit of reappraisal of ideas along the way as I initially was trying to create a more abstract MUM design but couldn't quite get something which I was happy enough with so opted for a more traditional take on the exercise. I think in this instance it would be good to talk to the client/person setting the brief and offer them some alternatives and get some pointers on what they would prefer.

Bibliography - Accessed 4th January 2012
Henley, J (July 2012)  The Rise and rise of the tattoo Accessed 4th January 2012

Remy Melina, (May 2010)  Life's Little Mysteries Staff Writer - Accessed 4th January 2012

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