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All right, time for me to do a little bit of griping. I know that you probably don’t come here to read a bunch of stuff in which I’m complaining about stuff, but some days I look around and see things that I just need to have a wee vent about.
In this particular case, it just happens to do with the perception of tattooists in the media and general mainstream. Yes, this entire art form has come a really long way since the days when Captain James Cook returned home to England with a Polynesian tattoo and blew a bunch of people’s minds. What bothers me though is not how popular tattoo has actually become, but this pig-headed notion that tattooists are tattooists and not really artists.
Today I was reading this article about tattooist Randy Herring, a man who has been tattooing for 25 years and who owns and runs Skin Art Tattoo in Gastonia, North Carolina. Now 53-years-old, Herring began painting abstract works of art in his spare time three years ago. Since then he’s painted steadily and from now through February 26th, Herring’s art will be on display in the Gaston County Museum Depot, in Dallas.
I think that’s just great that Herring is working in another medium and that he’s finding success and happiness within it. What really bugs me is the manner in which the media acts all surprised and bemused about a tattooist’s ability to – GASP! – paint. I mean, wow, what a novel idea that an artist would be able to transfer their skills into another artistic medium. For me, this shows that despite the fame and notoriety that tattoo has gained over the last few years, the fact that a tattooist is an artist still seems to be taking its time setting in amongst the general public.
So how and when will this change? When a painter decides to switch to sculpture for a while or to pencil sketches, does that make the news? Are people stunned by that? No. While I like to see tattooists get their share of media coverage and I love to see the art form celebrated in the media and amongst the public, what the mainstream still needs to abandon is this idea that tattooists are these gruff specialists who can put an inky needle into your flesh and leave you with a picture of something. What the mainstream needs to understand is that these people are artists and whether it’s a tattoo or a painting or a sculpture, they have the ability to create and impress with the work that they do.