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interesting paper ‘Psychodynamic Implications of Tattoo’s,’ the paper although old and a lot of the information is now outdated he acknowledged the significance of the tattoo, over time and as a emotional indicator.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

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[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.

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[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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Empathy with Images and Narrative

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[images online] Available at://blogs.crikey.com.au/literaryminded/2010/12/14/guest-review-gerard-elson-on-tim-burtons-the-melancholy-death-of-oyster-boy-and-other-stories/)[Accessed 15th December 2014]

Tim Burton, a man who tells stories which come with a dark shadow. The shadow that intrigues and shows a darker side to tales and fiction, and not ones that have fairytale endings.

In 1997 Burton created ‘The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories’ a collection of twenty-three illustrated short stories. The stories comprise of a set of characters, all of which are disfigured and seen as not normal. The children come with names, like Roy, the Toxic Boy,  Stain Boy and Oyster Boy. The names alone set of the imagination and create images of children that are seen as outcasts.

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[images online] Available at://www.joblo.com/newsimages1/burtonart6-big.jpg [Accessed 15th December 2014]

Gerard Elson spoke about the characters

“…never complain, nor seem embittered, nor seek to settle the score. If they teach us anything, it’s that though life often sucks and other people can be jerks, there’s dignity in not allowing the injustice of it all to corrode your spirit or compromise your character.”

(Elson 2014)

This book explores the harder realities of life, and how if different you can become an outcast, subjected to a lonely life, yet the book gives permission that you may not be alone and that others out there can empathise with how you are feeling.

Returning to thoughts spoken in other posts about who’s need is it to avoid these darker aspects of life, and holding in mind my aim for the course, I returned to the work of Shaun McNiff, an Art Therapist who states

“To those questioning the therapeutic wisdom of welcoming disturbing figures, I can say I have never encountered an image in artwork or dream that came to harm the person experiencing it. A student once said to me “It may come to show me where I hurt, but it doesn’t want to hurt me.”

(Mc Niff, 2004 p.97)

This encompasses the ideal of creating images that do challenge and evoke emotions, and  as Tim Burton’s work clearly shows, it does not need to be explicit, but to resonate with the viewer to have a dual commonalty that the reader can empathise with.

References

  • Meyer, A, (2010) ‘Guest review: Gerard Elson on Tim Burton’s The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories'[online] Available at http://blogs.crikey.com.au/literaryminded/2010/12/14/guest-review-gerard-elson-on-tim-burtons-the-melancholy-death-of-oyster-boy-and-other-stories/) [Accessed December 15th 2014]
  • McNiff, S,(2004) ‘Art Heals, How Creativity Cures the Soul’, Shambhala, London

Childhood favourite

As I enter in into FAT2, I wanted to think about where my relationship with picturebooks started.For me as a child I was intrigued and my imagination was captured by the creation of Beatrix Potters characters and stories. Jeremy Fisher, Jemima Puddle Duck, Peter Rabbit and Mrs Tiggy Winkle, to name just a few. The tales of there mishaps and predicaments, that always ended well.

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[images online] Available at ;http://illustrationwatercooler.wordpress.com/2009/11/15/helen-beatrix-potter/jeremy-fisher/ jeremy [Accessed 28th December 2014]

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[images online] Available at:http://www.gutenberg.org/files/15137/15137-h/15137-h.htm Tiggy Winkle[Accessed30th December 2014]

As I sit and think about what drew me to the tales, I know it was the thought of talking animals, the familiarity of Beatrix Potters surroundings that I could relate to, the characters which were brimming over with personality, the way a simple animal could tell such a story. As a small child it captured my imagination and allowed me to escape into a different land full of adventure, and things to see. This for me is the most important part, the escapism, the space for the imagination to expand, the space created by Beatrix Potter for the reader to adjust the story so it felt like each rabbit I saw could be part of peter rabbits family, and the grumpy farmer in the village was Mr McGregor.

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[images online] Available at https://www.gutenberg.org/files/14838/14838-h/14838-h.htm Peter rabbit [Accessed 30th December 2014]

Clements (2013) talks about the relationship between text and image as internaimation and stated

“…inter animation engages the reader’s visual imagination to make connections and provide a shape to what is seen optically on the individual page, pair of pages, entire book; it is, in essence, what invites the redaer to co-create the story.” (p.57)

Holding Clement’s thoughts in mind and my reflections of how the scenes depicted by Beatrix Potter were similar to my surroundings, brings me to think about when working how to create stories where the reader can take it to a place of familiarity for them, they to can “co create” the story and gain a interpersonal relationship with the narrative.

References

Challenging subjects in picturebooks.

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[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.