The Official Blog for Tattoo Artist Magazine

Ollie XXX: Too Much Style

By Ollie XXX
Style over substance in tattooing… it’s gone from a small problem to a downright epidemic. People who haven’t even been tattooing for five years picking and choosing what tattoos are their style. Not that I’m some groundbreaking tattooer, but style is about the last thing on my mind. People need to understand that being able to draw or tattoo things in their rudimentary form, is the basis for being able to stylize it.

Over and over I see people disguising poorly done traditional tattoos with a red halo, colored in cursive letters and geometric flowers. The depressing thing is that they are stealing the impact from the guys who come up with it initially. After you’ve seen that stuff decorating bad tattoos a few times, even the real thing just doesn’t seem to have the visual power it had when it was first done…

As if that isn’t enough, you have newbies running around deciding that ‘Coleman style traditional’ is the only way tattoos should be done… All-the-while using the color blue in them. I know a couple of guys who could tell them what’s wrong with that, not to mention are also able to do a smooth black and grey tattoo or anything else that comes their way. The reason these people are able to go back and do those tattoos so well, is that they’ve served their time tattooing and have decided to revert to something they find strong and aesthetically pleasing.

I’m sure there are people who agree with me on this, and I’m sure there are people (more than likely the ones I’m criticizing) who are wondering what makes me, with only over a decade under my belt, such an expert… I’m not, but I’ve been through this phase already, some people grow out of it, some people don’t.

When I was still pretty new to tattooing, I went down to Pennsylvania to work with Scott Bramble. One of the first days I was there, I walked in while he was tattooing an elephant head on a girl’s back. There was nothing fancy in it, no tricks, no flourishes, no nothing… But it was the cleanest, black and grey elephant tattoo I’ve ever seen. I had gone down there thinking I was really something, what with my flashy flourishes, crossbones under everything, and crazy light effects, and that simple little elephant tattoo made me realize that I was just hiding remedial tattoos with stolen tricks and a style that didn’t really benefit my tattoo, or my client.

People keep talking about how fast tattooing has progressed over the past couple of years thanks to the Internet and availability of decent equipment. Just imagine what we could do for tattooing if we all sat down a couple of days a week, and instead of drawing things we saw in the Smith Street Flash Book, or colored in flash from 50 years ago, worked on a style or subject matter that we had difficulty with. You know, made ourselves better tattoo artists…

(Ollie XXX  is a tattooer and contributing blogger for Tattoo Artist Magazine. Ollie can be found at: www.goodoldfashiontattoos.com.)

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