Tattoo’s a silent narrative

 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.

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[images online] Available at ://www.nerdlikeyou.com/sailors-savages-spies-brief-history-tattoos/ [Accessed 30th December 2014]

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interesting paper ‘Psychodynamic Implications of Tattoo’s,’ the paper although old and a lot of the information is now outdated he acknowledged the significance of the tattoo, over time and as a emotional indicator.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)

History-Of-Tattoos-81

[images online] Available at://teulugar.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/history-of-tattoos.html[Accessed 30th December 2014]

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.

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[images online] Available at://teulugar.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/history-of-tattoos.html[Accessed 30th December 2014]

“… 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.

the_gentleman_becomes_a_hipster_

[images online] Available at ://www.mikekoubou.com/illustration.php [Accessed 30th December 2014]

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.

References

  • Grumet, G,(1983), ‘Psychodynamic Implications of Tattoos’, American Orhopsychiatric Association 53 (3) 482-492
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Challenging subjects in picturebooks.

Wolf_Erlbruch,_Duck,_Death_and_the_Tulip

[images online] Available at: http://blaine.org/sevenimpossiblethings/?p=2220 [Accessed 14th November 2014]

Picturebooks can often be viewed as books which contain stories that are light hearted, contain a moral or a lesson for the younger generation to learn. Often they do not handle the more challenging subjects, and when they do it can provoke reactions and avoidance from some.

When should children start to learn about the more challenging aspects of life, and what about those children who are already dealing with difficult and traumatic experiences on a daily basis, I wonder what it would be like for them to pick up a picturebook that spoke to them, resonated with a part of their life.

Wolf Erlbruch a German author and illustrator created the book Duck, Death and the Tulip (2007) (German title: Ente, Tod und Tulpe).

The story consists of two characters, a Duck who comes to know Death, and unbeknown to the duck death has been following her all her life.

DDT internals_Page_05

[images online] Available at :http://blaine.org/jules/DDT%20internals_Page_05.jpg [Accessed 14th November 2014]

Duck and Death become friends and talk about life, death and what happens after you die. Sitting in a tree after being diving together they wonder what would happen to Duck’s lake after she dies. The book comes to a close with the death of the Duck, and Death carries her to a river, placing her gently on the water, Death takes the tulip and places it on her,”For a long time he watched her. When she was lost to sight, he was almost a little moved.” 

DDT internals_Page_16

[images online] Available at: http://blaine.org/jules/DDT%20internals_Page_16.jpg [Accessed 14th November 2014]

I can imagine this is a controversial topic for a children’s books, but the way the illustrations depict the gentleness and the empathy of Death towards Duck it handles it with delicacy of Death in a beautiful way.

My work as a Art Psychotherapist working with children I witness children dealing with real challenges more than some adults do throughout there whole life.

I understand this can be hard to contemplate, so when picture books that are created tackling the harder subjects it does cause controversy, but what I pose is, whose need is it to avoid the challenging and hard subjects?

We can not rescue and protect forever, and I wonder is it better to give children an understanding through the use of a medium they know and understand, that can allow for questions to be answered with those who care for them, a healthy exploration into the difficult aspects of life. 

I feel Wolf Erlbruch deals with the emotion of death in a manner which invites a conversation and give permission to talk about something which so many try to avoid, just like Duck not knowing Death had been following her all her life until she turned around.

References

  • Danielson, J, (2013),“You can start having strange thoughts in trees”, Or, Curiously Good Books from Around the World’, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, 13th October 2013 [online] Available at:Available at :http://blaine.org/sevenimpossiblethings/?p=2220 [Accessed 14th November 2014]
  •  Erlbruch,W (2007), Duck Death and the Tulip,New Zealand, Geko Press.