What is Contemporary Tattooing?

In modern times, the art of tattooing has become largely youth-driven, dominated by young tattooists with training in fine art and culture. Their clients are similarly young and often adorned with bold loud designs on their arms, hands, legs, and bodies as well as multiple piercing.

Contemporary tattooing first came about during the hippy 1970s when anti-establishment youths began to wear tattoos as a symbol of resistance to law-abiding, middle-class values. Coincidentally, at the same time new tattoo artists appeared equipped with different types of training.

Before, it was typical for new tattooists to apprentice with an experienced tattooist, learning the ropes the slow way. But with this slew of counter-cultural sentiments, many new and young tattooists simply ordered a machine and some basic supplies and got started on their own.

With their presence, new tattoo images began to emerge which appealed very much to this younger, rowdier audience. These tattoo designs were mostly inspired by “exotic” cultures such as Japan, Borneo, Samoa and North America rather than stemming from traditional sources like North American and European designs.

The rise of contemporary tattooing is turning unstoppable. Long unpopular and stigmatized in the West, tattooing has been given a new positive spin that is more associated with well-respected cultural traditions.

Slowly and steadily, modern tattooists and promoters of tattooing successfully reintegrated tattooing into modern Western society. Tattoos shifted from a mark of stigma used by bikers, criminals, gangsters, and the military to a mark of individual expression. A new elevated status was thus born.

Over time, contemporary tattooing brought about two lasting and significant changes in the world of tattooing. First, the general tattoo designs changed radically by moving from traditional badge-like designs that have been common for hundreds of years in the West to non-Western designs which target large swathes of skin.

Second, contemporary tattooists started to give preference to customized tattoo designs which were created by them rather than use tattoo flash or something taken off the wall of a tattoo studio. Tattoo customers are strongly encouraged to design their own tattoos with the assistance of these new-fangled tattooists.

Ironically, the transformation of our views on tattooing is possible because a tattoo’s historic position as a stigmatized sign was never really fixed, and eventually the negative status of a tattoo eroded over time, giving rise to contemporary tattooing.

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