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Updated: May 30, 2018

By: Evan Jackson

Art is a tough concept to nail down. With so many avenues of creation in today’s world, both natural and manmade, art, as an idea, is an incredibly wide spectrum. From a beautiful painting hanging high on a museum wall to a face-melting guitar riff, the idea of art is an elusive one and takes on many forms.

During my relatively short time living in Southern California, I have noticed that many people here have tattoos; some covering most of their bodies. These inked-up locals range from the laid back surfers at Huntington Beach to the soccer moms picking up their kids after school.

It certainly seems that tattoos have found a comfortable, and tan, home within this culture.

I tend to gravitate toward people with tattoos because they often symbolize something very meaningful to the person sporting them. Their tattoos are a part of who they are, representing a part of their story without words.

Tattoo’s are not only an amazing form of self expression, but a way to illustrate art. Humans are visual creatures, allowing tattoos to speak a powerful visual language that can portray a message to someone overtly.

Just like how a mural doesn’t miraculously appear on the side of a building, this creative process of the tattoo unfolds along three active participants; the person or thing inspiring the tattoo, the person getting the tattoo and the artist giving the tattoo. There is a special dynamic here between the artist, the one creating the art, and the canvas. I love this collaborative process and find it to be an incredibly spiritual and bonding experience.

The initial step in bringing a tattoo to life is the idea. This can come from any number of sources; a loved one passing away, a favorite animal or symbol, plus any number of concepts or life experiences that lead a person to want that piece forever. Once this tattoo is inked onto their body it becomes a part of their past, present and future both in the mental and the physical realm.

The second step is finding the right artist to bring this piece of you to life. One must research tattoo artists, meet with them, and eventually build a relationship where both can reach an agreement on how to bring this idea to fruition.

Tattoo artists are not machines - they are human artists who practice for years to shape their craft- developing their skill and their individual style.

I know with my own recent experience of getting a traditional Japanese half-sleeve tattoo, I spent hours researching artists work trying to find the one whose style matched with my ideas. While it is very important that you get your message across to the artist about how you'd like the piece to look, it is equally important to allow the artist to practice his craft freely and add his or her personal style to the tattoo. This is why the research is so important in the process; the key is finding an artist whose style harmonizes with your preconceived ideas about the piece. When these two forces can come together, the finished product will leave both parties happy and satisfied.

There really is no better feeling than going through the pain of receiving a tattoo, making it through the pain, and seeing the finished product. All the planning, all the anxiety and all the worry fades away to pure relief and appreciation of the artwork now displayed on your body.

So, what is art? Much of it is perception and intention. If the tattoo artist see’s it as art, then it is art. Same goes for the person being tattooed. It's all relative to taste. And in this case, tattoo’s are by far one of my favorite expressions of art.



  1. the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power

2. “The various branches of creative activity, such as painting, music, literature, and dance”.

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