Tattooing has come a long way. What started as a tribal, religious and ceremonial art form has become a popular trend. Much like geek culture, tattoo culture has reached a state of acceptance and I believe that the two cultures have also met at a very cool intersection.
To test my belief I decided to go to the Great British Tattoo Show that took place a few months ago. My thinking was that since both cultures are now “accepted” there must be an increase in geek tattoos, like superheroes. Once I arrived I was stunned. Just a few minutes into the show and I had already met with two artists that were doing geeky stuff. It only got better — after going through the show I found another four artists that had covered their booths with geeky images (Stormtroopers being the most common).
Another conference. “Great.”
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It makes complete sense. Geeks are proud and want to show what they are crazy about. If they love Marvel, they are not going to secretly read a comic book — they will have a sleeve (a whole-arm tattoo) of Marvel heroes. Where others find comfort in printed t-shirts, geeks with tattoos mark their bodies with what they are passionate about. Tattooing is also more than that. Each one marks a point in time of a person’s history. It’s the most permanent way of saving a memory on one’s body — our brains can always fail.
With all this research gathered, I decided to put together a look at the kind of geeky tattoos out there and what’s happening at the moment.
One of the first artists I met at the show was James Bradbury. What drew me initially to his booth was not his art on the walls but three boxes of comic books that he had put up for sale. Instantly, I felt comfortable.
James is first and foremost a comic geek; first came his love of comics (which has grown to a whopping 40,000 comic book collection) and then his love for tattoos. The tattoos that he is most proud of are, of course, a Batman sleeve and Marvel sleeve.
He even gets customers asking for comic hero tattoos without having read a single comic book. As I mentioned in my geek chic article, the huge success of comic book heroes (like Batman and Spiderman) in movie theaters has made geek culture much more open and acceptable.
My next encounter with a comic and sci-fi hero was with Andy Walker (the Ironman tattoo in the picture above was done by him during the show). For him these are some of the most enjoyable pieces and his business is benefiting from it.
Although superhero tattoos are inherently geeky, the fact they’ve become a trend makes me think that they have lost some of that geekiness.
Video game characters
One of the things I didn’t expect to see at the show was an artist with a portfolio of video game heroes. Sass Obuhov was proudly showcasing his portfolio that included Yoshi (pictured above), Sonic and other characters like an owl with thick rim glasses and R2D2.
He finds this kind of work much more enjoyable and he believes that his art brings a fun element. These tattoos are hitting a sweet spot. A person that just plays video games casually wouldn’t get a tattoo of Sonic on their arm — to get one you need to be a true video game geek.
There is a new trend in tattoos and I find it to be very geeky. That trend is geometrical tattoos. In the picture above is Stephen Turner, an artist that is devoted to geometrical designs (and he surely proves it). His focus on geometry and putting shapes together took me back to my high school days where I had my first lessons in technical drawing.
Although most of the artists that do geometrical tattoos are inspired by ancient philosophies, I think there is something very geeky about them. I can’t stop thinking how you can create interesting designs by using algorithms and equations. Maybe Mathematica could be the next drawing tool for aspiring tattoo artists.
Just plain geeky
I was a bit let down that through all the portfolios I went through I didn’t find any truly geeky stuff things like a tattoo of </head> and <body> on someone’s neck or at least a printed circuit on someone’s arm. Regardless, people all over the web are showing their awesome tattoo geekiness. These are the kind of tattoos that only true geeks are able to pull off.
One of my favourite styles since I got into tattooing has been biomechanical tattoos. Since we are still a long way from seeing (or maybe being?) androids, artists have taken their creative freedom to show what we could look like. Pieces of flesh are usually “virtually” torn to show the inner workings of the droid’s body. The only problem is that if you reach an age where sentient droids are around, wouldn’t this be a bit controversial?
Technology and tattoos
When you think of tattoos you probably can’t think of them working with technology, but creative artists beg to differ. A few days ago I came across the first animated tattoo. Okay, the technology used might not be something special (it’s just a QR code redirecting to a YouTube video) but it shows the potential. Augmented reality could have a perfect marriage with tattoos and create living art on our bodies.
Tattooing is an art form to express our personalities and tell our stories. For geeks, this is an opportunity to share our passions, our beliefs and inner desires. Coupled with technology we can start experiencing art in new forms.
Do you have any geeky tattoos that you are proud of? Let me know in the comments.