Sailor Jerry at work
It’s undisputed that Norman Collins, better known as Sailor Jerry, was a pioneer within the tattoo culture of Western society. As tattoos became popular amongst the servicemen of the Allies during World War II, Sailor Jerry found himself opening a tattoo shop in Honolulu, HI. The island was a strategic location for the maritime operations in the Pacific, but it also became a landmark in tattoo history.
Sailor Jerry at the Sailor Jerry’s Hotel Street
Sailor Jerry’s Hotel St. parlor was a place where fresh seamen came to receive their first ink. And since the Hawaiian Islands served as a gateway to Asia, that allowed Sailor Jerry to begin studying the craft and style of Irezumi, the traditional Japanese tattoo style. Some estimates suggests that this eastern tradition dates back to the 5th Century BCE, whereas others suggest it dates back to the Jōmon period, which began in the year 10,000 BCE.
Irezumi tattoo in progress
Throughout his career, Sailor Jerry carefully examined the elements of the Japanese tattoo styles, and blended them with elements of his own. This legacy can be seen in his flash tattoos, and the influence his artwork has had on the traditional style of American tattoos.
Pin-up girls by Sailor Jerry
As time has passed, the tattoo styles of the West have evolved. What used to be a culture that featured stand alone sketches of pin-up girls, anchors, and knives, has expanded to one that places value on elegant, time-consuming designs. Newer trends include blackout and UV tattoos. However, some artists prefer the style of flash sketches. Their ability to infuse their ideas, imagination, and stories into the traditions and styles of the past, has created a new, increasingly popular, counterculture of tattoos.
Sean from Texas is a Texas transplant, and a tattoo artist on Los Angeles’ famous Sunset Boulevard Strip. Sean’s tattoos are often monochromatic stories, featuring his signature handwriting, nihilistic expressions, and often grim illustrations. Despite their obscurity, his tattoo’s sincerity and satire are unique and refreshing. This past January, Sean from Texas showcased some of his work in an art exhibit titled “Space and Time,” at the Stone Malone Gallery in Los Angeles.
Jon Donaghy is an Atlanta-based illustrator who also runs a clothing company in his free time. His brand, Well Fed, has become very popular within the street-wear culture due to its graphic tees featuring Donaghy’s punk-esque artwork and quotes. Though his illustrations are not made as tattoos, Donaghy’s sketches have been repurposed as such on numerous occasions. A quick glance at his skull collection will prompt impulses to take a trip to your favorite tattoo artists.
Duncan X has been tattooing in London for the past 20 years. He says that his black and white flash illustrations and tattoos are inspired by the old photographs that he saw of sailors and their ink. X’s work is graphic, detailed and strong, a perfect representation of the cultural renaissance of contemporary tattoos. X’s work ranges in size, from full upper body pieces to smaller, personal emblems.
Scott Campbell is a celebrity tattoo artist who is based in New York City. He has tattooed the likes of fashion kingpin Marc Jacobs, the late Heath Ledger, actress Penelope Cruz, and a long list of others. Despite his celebrity reputation, Campbell’s not totally a fan of the effects commercialization has had on his cherished art form. Campbell’s a fan of its roots, and the rebellious spirit that can still be found in some sectors. In fact, a couple years ago Campbell spent several weeks as a visitor in a Mexican prison, documenting — and secretly participating in — the prison’s tattoo system. Campbell blends traditional tattoo styles with geometric, detailed elements in order to create an extremely diverse portfolio. He’s also known for carving insane sculptures out of stacks of US Dollars.
Stephanie Tamez is another artists from NYC. She previously worked at the Adorned Tattoo Parlor, but now she is the owner of Saved Tattoo. As someone who previously worked in graphic design, Tamez is keen on detail and placement, as shown in her bold portfolio. Tamez’s coloring and detail is reminiscent of traditional tattoo styles, but her large body pieces make her stand out.
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