Continuing our discussion regarding tattoos, I’d like to start with the new school of tattooing. The new school pays homage to the old school by borrowing bold black outlines and large shapes and designs that are easily recognizable. That is probably where the differences end. New school is mostly characterized by exaggerated depictions of subject matter as well as wild and vivid colors.
Originating in the 70’s but exploding into popularity in the 90’s due to the rise in accessibility of mainstream media, the new school relies heavily on popular culture as its imagery. Video games, comic books, anime, graffiti and cartooning are all examples of subject matter that are popular in new school tattooing. Part of that can be attributed to the new technology in pigments and shades that were arriving on the scene around then. These colors allowed the artist to express him/herself in new ways that weren’t possible before. Loud and bold are the two terms that come to mind when I sum up the new school style of tattooing.
That brings us to the polar opposite of new school, which is blackwork. Blackwork tattoos aren’t just about the absence of color. They are about bringing a design forward by only using black ink and the negative space of the skin. Not every black ink tattoo is a blackwork tattoo. For instance, I have a cat tattoo that only uses black ink, but that doesn’t qualify it as a blackwork tattoo. What makes the style stand out are a few things: think outlines, intense shading and swaths of black ink with internal negative space. Blackwork tattoos are often large and are contoured around a specific part of the body like the chest, shoulder, bicep and leg, although it is possible to have a blackwork tattoo anywhere on the body. They also usually include geometric shapes and patterns that call back to the tribal style of tattooing.
Black and grey tattoos are often confused with blackwork tattoos, but I would consider them a whole separate genre of tattoos. Anything goes with a black and grey tattoo. Any subject matter, any placement and any way to disperse the black ink via linework or shadowing is what makes a black and grey tattoo an original work of art. It truly is amazing to see what can be done with only black ink and shadowing.
Stay tuned for episode three of tattoo styles where we will explore the tattoo styles of watercolor, realism and geometric.