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Growing up, I always thought of tattoos as something worn by the unwashed, motorcycle riding crew. Every piece of skin stained with ink was either a drunken mistake or a symbol of their tough and trashy lifestyle. I am now surrounded by a generation where everyone, from business buffs to computer techies, are investing their big bucks to sport the best work of art on their bare bodies. Sheltered and judgmental, I assumed tattoos were a craft that any irresponsible person could do with a Bic pen. After interviewing many accomplished tattoo artists, my mindset has done a complete 180. Every second on the job is met with pressure. The tiniest mistake will lead to lifelong regret.


Radu Rusu is the talented artist that created the unreal photographic tattoo. It’s no surprise that under his belt is a background in photography and life drawing painting. This tattoo of The Clash smashing a guitar [below, left picture] looks like a photograph and is right at home on the shoulder of a devoted fan. Making a painting look like a photograph is hard for any artist to achieve, but to bring an image to life on one’s body is a whole other league. The artist has to consider the shape of the body part as well as the aging process that will occur over time. Having your phone background as a photo of your dog is neither cool nor original. Rusu elegantly tattooed this beloved canine on a trendy and devoted owner’s calf. Rusu is constantly improving his craft by dedicating his time to researching images and traveling to Europe to meet new artists and learn about their techniques. People may not realize the commitment these artists make to create great work.

Photographic tattoos by Radu Rusu

Will Sheldon, a tattoo artist in the NYC area, has said, “some people probably think it’s a ridiculous hobby that people do between stints on jail time.” Sheldon spends a great amount of energy looking through old fine art books and says he likes to try “to revive elements in them” that he hasn’t seen in a while. He feels most people don’t know the history of tattooing and if they did, it would change their understanding for why someone would want to get a tattoo.

Simon Ban, a Pratt alum and young artist, had an interest in tattoos as a teenager. Far from a Mohawk-wearing, skipping class, rebellious teen, Simon was a dedicated student whose passion for art went from paint and canvas to ink and skin. His local butcher shop supplied the pigskin and Simon spent his free time practicing the art of tattooing. Now Simon is the go-to tattoo guru of his friends. Before taking his charcoal sketches to a permanent home, he spends hours crafting the perfect image and measuring the body part for exceptional placement.

We all know fashions change. Just as how hair could never be too big and shoulder pads never too wide, a tattoo can never be too artistic. Only time will tell if the trend becomes another leg warmer embarrassment. As for now the new generation of tattoo “wearers” is embracing the unimaginable amount of talent and time that go into a lifelong marker. This generation of tattoo artists has changed the game.

– Article by Lexi Joondeph-Breidbart for The Untitled Magazine

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