Tattoos are cool. Especially good tattoos. And great tattoos? The coolest. But do you know what else is cool? The history of tattooing and the artists that continue to celebrate and expand this fascinating medium.
I throw a lot of opinions around here on The Tattoo Tourist. Am I an expert? No. But I AM a devoted fan of tattoo culture. One of the best ways I know of to learn about new artists, top artists, new techniques, tattoo legends and the history of tattoos around the world is by checking out the ever growing catalog of serious tattoo books out there.
Here is a list of ten books about various aspects of Tattooing, Tattoo Artists and Tattoo Culture that I personally feel are worth a look (there I go with my opinions again!)
10 Great Tattoo Books
I know – that’s TWO books. However if finding the latest up and coming artists – the ones who are pushing envelopes, boundaries and techniques is your thing – these two books are unmatched. The photographs are incredible and the books are top quality.Think of them like a shopping list for the next 10 or 20 artists you want to work with.
2. Bodies of Subversion – A Secret History of Women and Tattoo
“Bodies of Subversion was the first history of women’s tattoo art when it was released in 1997, providing a fascinating excursion to a subculture that dates back to the nineteenth-century and including many never-before-seen photos of tattooed women from the last century. It is the only book to chronicle the history of both tattooed women and women tattooists. ” everything from the tattooed circus ladies to some of the best modern female tattoo artists – this book covers a wide and interesting range.
3. Tattoo World
This is a great book compiled by Michael B. Kaplan and Marisa Kakoulas (of www.needlesandsins.com fame). A serious book for serious enthusiasts, Tattoo World has “more than 1,000 illustrations from 125 of the most important artists working today and is a comprehensive survey of tattooing. Included are designs from around the globe, spanning a broad range of styles, including Japanese and East Asian iconography, classic Americana, and photorealism, among others.”
“The Tattoo History Source Book is an exhaustively thorough, lavishly illustrated collection of historical records of tattooing throughout the world, from ancient times to the present. Collected together in one place, for the first time, are texts by explorers, journalists, physicians, psychiatrists, anthropologists, scholars, novelists, criminologists, and tattoo artists. ” If you are fascinated by the history of tattooing around the globe this one is a must have.
Here is one for all you salty dogs. A well-organized and researched catalog of the classic sailor flash with a slew of great stories and descriptions to go with them. “This book chronicles vintage motifs in thematic chapters interspersed with profiles of influential tattoo artists and their distinctive designs: Sailor Jerry Collins, Don Ed Hardy (“the Godfather of Tattoos”), Mike “Rollo Banks” Malone, Bert Grimm, Japan’s Horiyoshi III, and Shanghai’s Pinky Yun.”
“An immense, opulently illustrated volume about the high art of tattooing in Japan. This book contains works by many of the finest and most prestigious master tattooists, in a spectrum ranging from old school to neo-traditional and contemporary styles. “
This is a sumptuous book with absolutely stunning photographs. Heavy and substantial it is an impressive representation of the glory that is Japanese Tattooing. If this style of tattooing is your thing this pricey but beautiful book is worth every penny.
“This gorgeous book delves into the elusive world of traditional Japanese tattooing. The Samurai spirit, Bushido, is an integral component of Japanese tattooing that is traced through the imagery and interpersonal dynamics of this veiled subculture. The eloquent text is based largely on Takahiro Kitamuras experiences as client and student of the famed Japanese tattoo master, Horiyoshi III.” There any many different books on Japanese tattooing – this is a great one!
“Between 1940 and 1973, Norman Sailor Jerry Collins became known as the greatest practitioner of classic American tattooing. His masterful designs, featuring ships and beautiful girls, eagles, hearts, roses, and other now-familiar motifs, were widely imitated but rarely matched for boldness, elegance, and clarity. This generously sized book is indispensable for any tattoo shop, tattoo fan, or person interested in a great American art tradition.” This book gives you an intimate peek into an American tattoo legends life – very interesting.
9. Wear Your Dreams: My Life in Tattoos by Don Ed Hardy
“In Wear Your Dreams, Ed Hardy recounts his genesis as a tattoo artist and leader in the movement to recognize tattooing as a valid and rich art form, through to the ultimate transformation of his career into a multi-billion dollar branding empire. From giving colored pencil tattoos to neighborhood kids at age ten to working with legendary artists like Sailor Jerry to learning at the feet of the masters in Japan, the book explains how this Godfather of Tattoos fomented the explosion of tattoo art…” This insightful memoir takes you beyond the t-shirts and swag to the living legend and his fascinating story.
” Modern Primitives was the first book to investigate not only the “how” but also the “why” of body modification practices. It reaches far back into history to multiform cultural traditions to illuminate one of today’s most wide-spread youth culture visual signifiers. Heavily illustrated with detailed, contemporary photographs, as well as archival anthropological images and drawings of ancient tattoo traditions, Modern Primitives was ground-zero for today’s body-modification trends.”
This is just a small sample of the wide variety of tattoo books out there for you to explore. Don’t want to buy them on Amazon?Try your local bookstore or even the library!
What is YOUR favorite Tattoo Book?