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The Body as a Canvass for Tattoos

Updated on December 31, 2019
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It is easy to see the artistic forms of tattoos all around today. Today one in five have a tattoo and no it's becoming socially acceptable.

History of Tattoos

The art of tattooing has been around for thousands and thousands of years. The art goes back as far as the Vikings, the Greeks and the Phoenicians. And the oldest to date thus far that has been found is Otzi, better known as "The Iceman".

In the decades since Otzi has been studied we now know he had some 61 tattoos on his mummified body. It is thought that because of the placement of his tattoos some may have been for medicinal purposes associated with his joint and spinal degeneration.

Tattooing is an expression of freedom, and artistic expression, perhaps even rebellion or intimidation. The history of tattoos has had many swings in the acceptance of tattoos. Once thought to be barbarous and in some cultures even sinful.

Today there is a resurgence of tattooing and even messages can be tattooed on one's body. It has now become socially acceptable and worn by athletes, royals, Hollywood stars, fashion icons, almost every single profession known.

It has been agreed among tattoo artists that there are a few areas on the body where it is considered a little more painful. The rib cage, behind the ear, top of the foot, the chest and the ankle are considered to be areas to avoid.

It is extremely important to follow the tattoo artist's instructions for the care after a tattoo. Infection and healing properly must be followed to avoid problems.

Even Mattel has started selling Barbie Dolls with a tattoo.

Tools of the Trade

Long before the invention of the tattooing machine in approximately 1891, the artist used thorns, bones, shark's teeth, and a small mallet to pound the skin, to make the cuts and then rub soot or pigment into the cut. Today a tattoo machine can do up to 3000 revolutions a minute. We can credit Samuel O'Reilly who revolutionized tattooing with colored inks, designs, and new tools. He did use Thomas Edison's idea of an automatic writing pen but O'Reilly went a bit further with the idea and even got his patent for it.

There are methods for removing a tattoo either fully or partially using non-invasive Q switched lasers. It can also be expensive but sometimes an artist can place another design on top of one to disguise one.

Oldest Tattoo on "The Iceman" called Otzi

Otzi's Tattoo
Otzi's Tattoo

The Picts of Old Scotland

the Picts people as they were called by the Romans were a Scottish group thought to be savages fighting naked with nothing but a spear and colored blue. The Romans thought they painted their bodies blue until they realized they were tattoos. The Picts were the only people that the Romans failed to conquer.

Somehow during the 10th century they disappeared from history leaving very little information about themselves.

The "Painted People"

Tattoos of the Pict People
Tattoos of the Pict People

Famous Royals With Tattoos

Here are some famous royals that got 'inked' back in the day.

King Harold of Spain- He had several tattoos and they were used to identify him after he was killed in the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

Prince Albert (later King Edward VII)- he had a Jerusalem Cross on his arm after a visit to the Holy Land

Duke of Clarence - had a dragon on his arm in 1882

Duke of York (later King George V) - had a dragon on his arm

Peter The Great

Catherine The Great

Nicholas II

And yes, even today both Duchess of York and Duchess of Cambridge sported tattoos but they were henna tattoos and disappear after 3-6 weeks.

Peter The Great and his dragon tattoo

Peter The Great
Peter The Great

Omai The Tattooed Man

Omai, known as the "Tattooed Man" traveled to England with Captain Cook in 1774 and created a sensation. A painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds was sold at auction for ten million in British Pounds.

Portrait of Omai

Portrait of Omai
Portrait of Omai

Omai the "Tattooed Man"

Omai
Omai

Native Americans and Their Tattoos

There are many reasons Native American Indians tattooed themselves. They believed in the spiritual and legends of their culture. Some of their reasons were:

Rites and passage symbolizing important events

Identification of their clan

Status and rank such as a medicine man

Distinction and honors

Power and protection

Healing powers



Mandan Medicine Man

Mandan Medicine Man
Mandan Medicine Man

Sailors and Tattoos

Here are some meanings of sailors tattoos:

pig on one foot and rooster on another was thought to protect them from drowning

full rigged sail meant they sailed around Cape Horn

anchor meant they sailed the Atlantic

dragon meant they served on a China station

shellback turtle meant they crossed the equator

'hold on one hand and 'fast on the other meant they could grip rigging better


Sailor Tattoo for Protection

Sailor Tattoo for Protection
Sailor Tattoo for Protection

Most Tattoed Couple Today

Charles Helmke has over 97.5% of his body tattooed. His partner, Charlotte Guttenberg is right behind him. They are listed in the Guinness Book as such. Charlotte did not receive her first tattoo until after the age of 50!

Chuck and Charlotte Record Holders

Chuck and Charlotte
Chuck and Charlotte

Popular Quotes for Tattoos

There are many short quotes suitable for tattoos. They seem to be widely used today and are very attractive. Here are a few pictures of more common quotes.

Tattoo Quotes

Even Angels Fall
Even Angels Fall

Tattoo Quote

Love Me For Who I Am
Love Me For Who I Am

Tattoo Quote

Don't Worry Be Happy
Don't Worry Be Happy

Requirements For License to Tattoo

There are of course license requirements to become a tattoo artist. First and foremost is a talent for drawing. Sure you can copy a design but ultimately the talent is critical to building your portfolio. Each state has its own set of requirements so you will need to check where you plan to work in tattooing. The primary requirement will be as an apprenticeship with a talented and licensed tattoo artist. In an apprentice program, you will be doing mundane jobs such as cleaning equipment, answering phones and setting appointments. You will not be paid during the apprenticeship and it usually takes one to three years to complete.

Tips For Painless Tattoos

Here are a few tips for a painless tattoo:

Always be sober

Feed yourself

Hydrate

Rest

Concentrate

Chat

Take breaks

If you feel you need something to ease you through a tattoo, there are topical anesthetic ointments to use. Most tattoo artists seem to prefer Hush for their customers.


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