The acceptance of the tattoo has changed, it has become a part of modern culture, adorning the bodies of old and young alike. The commonality they all hold is that beneath the ink lays a memory an experience that has been etched on their skin for life. Tattoo’s historically were viewed as antisocial and that people that chose to get them were hitting back at society. What strikes me the most is the clear indicator that it is a way of fitting in, wanting to belong, looking at the history there appear to be groups of people who got tattoos regardless of who they were in society and wanting to gain an individualistic mark, they became part of a group, a group that is inked with emotion.
Gerald Grumet, (1983) wrote a interesting paper ‘Psychodynamic Implications of Tattoo’s,’ the paper although old and a lot of the information is now outdated he acknowledged the significance of the tattoo, over time and as a emotional indicator.
Grumet starts with an overview of the history of tattooing touching on the stone age 12000 B.C stating
“in many savage tribes it was custom to accompany bereavement by slashing the body as evidence of grief and rubbish ashes into the cuts, leaving carbon deposits in the skin. ” (Grumet 1983, p.482)
Grumet acknowledges the depth and wide spread use of tattoos in many cultures spanning centuries, used to mark
“puberty ritual, religious emblem, or love charm; protection against danger; sign of mourning for the departed;identification with special qualities of a totemic animal or symbol…” (Grumet 1983, p.483)
Using tattoos in my character I wanted, to depict life experience by the sheer quantity of tattoos and how a place and experience becomes etched in you mind, body and soul, and now etched with ink, a visual for the world to see, like seaman who gained tattoos as a visual representation of the distances they have travelled and the challenges they have faced at sea.
“… a tattoo worn on the skin for many years often assumes symbolic importance becoming a reservoir of emotionally charged memories and talismanic meanings for its bearer.”(Grumet 1983, p.489)
This illustration by Mike Koubou resonates life and experience though the tattoo’s and the use of the skeletal form. The way Koubou uses a simple colour pallet and fine penmanship bring the character to life, although he is not.
I believe that tattoos are a visual map to someones life, not always to be taken literally, but if spoken about you might happen upon a story which holds deep significance for the tattoo. Used as a way to mark an experience or a significant life event, each tattoo no matter how it may appear as irrelevant is a visual mark and holds a significant narrative.
The design of the tattoo’s is paramount within the character to depict without the use of words his life experiences.
- Grumet, G,(1983), ‘Psychodynamic Implications of Tattoos’, American Orhopsychiatric Association 53 (3) 482-492