Comparing my Tattoo Art with the Work of Norman "Sailor Jerry" Collins

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The artist that I compare my work with the most is Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins. For many years, I have studied his work and the style of the old school tattoo as I have always planned on becoming a tattoo artist myself. Now that I have finally begun my tattoo apprenticeship, I truly appreciate the similarities and differences that Collins and myself share. The first similarity that comes to mind is the general visual structure of our art. I tend to use a limited palette of colors in my tattoo art with emphasis on shading and shadows to create depth. In the early days of tattooing there were only a limited number of tattoo ink colors for the artist to choose from but they were able to make all shades of gray by diluting black ink. This made careful shading of the tattoo very important to convey depth and make the tattoo stand out more than a flattened design. Another visual continuity is the use of black outlines in the designs. The majority of tattoos in the Old School style contain bold black outlines. This made them easy to reproduce as stencils, which would be put on to the skin with an acetate stencil and outlined in black ink before being colored and shaded (Hellenbrand, 2002). Many of my current designs hold true to this format, but it is also where I plan on changing. The visual aspects of tattoos have changed and evolved enormously since the days of Sailor Jerry, and it is one of the things that excites me the most. There are so many more styles now that it would be impossible to just do Old School tattoos. This means that I will be learning many more styles of the art form and hopefully creating a few of my own. Visually, anything that can be put on paper can now be put into skin. While I am not tattooing yet, w... ... middle of paper ... ...o artists, or “scratchers” as he called them, and very few quality artists (Hardy, 2005). Being a quality artist allowed him to continue his career long after the scratchers moved on and I believe the same thing is happening today. There are many tattoo artists but few truly great ones, and soon people will recognize great tattoo art and will not settle for anything but the best. The social atmosphere surrounding tattoos has changed drastically since the 1960’s when Collins was tattooing sailors and roughnecks in his backstreet tattoo shop. Tattoos in general have become more socially acceptable with the old saying of “everyone from soccer moms to doctors has tattoos.” While they still have a ways to go before being completely accepted in the public’s eye, I feel privileged to live in a time when becoming a tattoo artist doesn’t automatically make me an outsider.

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