Tattooing Post Covid

Tattooing Post Covid

the Winter of our discontent

It’s October (can you believe its October already!?) and for the first time in years Im not  gearing up for another year of conventions, guest-spots, airports, motorway services and drunken Sunday nights. Instead I’m thinking about tattooing post Covid.

Covid Changes things

There are some huge changes happening in the UK, Europe, the US and probably – by extension – the world. I think I’m like most people when I say that I, honestly, have very little idea how these changes are going to affect my world, if at all. Tattooing post covid? I’m not quite sure what that looks like just yet. It seems to me that we are at the edge of a very important time in human history. One which may very well be a turbulent and uneasy one.

But how does this affect tattooing post covid?

Part of tattooing post Covid will be documenting these dark days. Through the the artwork we put on our clients. We’ll be the ones giving life to the stories they tell us. Immortalising them forever on their skin. Human fears, loves and struggles. Just like we’ve been doing since the beginning of tattooing.

Museums and art galleries will tell the humans in the future how we wish our world was right now, not how it is. Galleries are full of images filtered through the minds of creatives. They tell the stories we all want to tell the future. From a multitude of human viewpoints. Tattoo artists too have, for ever, been involved in telling the stories that are given to them to draw. Funny, sad, hopeful, angry. Our tattoos will tell the truth about 21st humans. They are the unfiltered, honest stories of the common man…

Or, at least, they used to be.

Back in the day you didn’t have to come up with a meaning for your tattoo. It would have already had one. It would have been thought about, drawn and finished by a pro. Then it would have been sold as flash. Sheets had meaning and themes and they worked because they were stylistically flawless. Your tattooist added personal elements and their own flair to existing designs to make them yours.

In some cases they even created completely one-off designs just for a single client. Tattooing had a look that was edgy and raw. It was subculture, folk art. Sadly, just like anything natural, tattoo culture very quickly got appropriated in the late 20th century by anybody or any brand looking for a bit of instant ‘cool’.  As more and more people started to adopt it as a symbol of any kind of rebellion it started to become diluted

That’s when the trouble started.

Brands jumped on the ‘tattoo look’ stealing everything from LA gangs hand lettering styles to traditional Japanese tattoo artwork. Along with the hipsters and the influx of ‘basket weaver’ art & crafts tattooers they made tattooing ‘inclusive’. An art form for everyone. Along the way they diluted the true power of tattoo.

These days your tattoo could be nothing more than a meme that you saw. Or, one of those ‘internet popular’ designs you found on google.  You’ll convince yourself that you are ‘a guiding light’ so that you can shoehorn a lighthouse or a compass into your tattoo. That’ll sound arty and brainy down the pub wont it? How about a clever quote on your ribs from Pinterest? Or one of those a foxhead/woman face combos? or a love of Nandos themed sleeve?

Groundhog Day.

If you want to find an exciting artist that is doing anything even slightly groundbreaking don’t bother looking in magazines or on any of the ‘share’ sites or apps out there. They don’t show anything even slightly new or challenging. The current zeitgeist would appear to be ‘let’s just all agree that these are the artists we like and the designs that everyone wants. And let’s just keep churning them out until someone cottons on’.

I want to be an individual, just like everyone else.

At a time when tattooing could be telling the stories of the problems that face 21st century humans what is it doing? It’s doing nothing more than X-Factor style, race to the bottom, who’s the most average, everybody’s the same, everybody’s award winning, everybody’s famous, vanilla flavoured, magnolia coloured nothing. Actually nothing is an insult to some of the hopelessly unoriginal regurgitated crap that you’ll see.

These days saying nothing would actually be saying something interesting.In an attempt to understand because – honestly – I don’t think it’s all the fault of clients or tattooists. I tried to figure out why we have decided to become less individual when we all love an art form that is ALL ABOUT individuals.

Why does everyone want the same tattoos and why do we as an industry only show, publish or ‘share’ a select set of designs and motifs from an ‘approved’ set of artists that are exactly the same as every other portfolio, publication & tattoo website? Are we really brainwashed unoriginal clones? Are the lizard people secretly in charge of tattooing? Or the Illuminati?

The superstate is under the control of the privileged elite of the Inner Party, a party and government that persecutes individualism and independent thinking as “thoughtcrime”. The Party "seeks power entirely for its own sake. It is not interested in the good of others. it is interested solely in power." - 1984

black sheep

The Nail That Sticks out gets hammered

I believe that the combination of the internet, celebrity culture and hype culture are to blame. We are living in a time where standing out and being different is the last thing that anyone wants to do. We’re so scared of the future that we are becoming what Orwell predicted in 1984. By picking the same design as others over and over we’re  signalling our compliance. Saying ‘I’m just trying to be the same’ Safety in numbers?

Lack or original thought or 21st century paranoia?

Honestly I’m not sure. All I see is people getting covered in the same old, safe, mass-approved, mass-appeal, Ikea-style tattoos. When they could be getting something incredibl! We’re all living though some very dark days at the moment. Next summer seems a long way off and ‘normal life’ is almost forgotten.

But one thing that I do know for sure  is that tattooing post covid has never been healthier. It’s more artistic, more professional and more incredibly creative than it’s ever been. Tattoo fans can, with a little effort, can see the kind of stuff I see all the time. The stuff that makes me incredibly proud to be a part of this amazing art form.

So seek out greatness and scratch below the surface. Get off that diet of high fructose corn tats the internet is shoving down your throat. Go out and get a great tattoo today! Stay safe and watch out for the ThoughtPolice…

anchors do sink

We All Want to Fit In

The need for acceptance is a basic human instinct – although some value it more than others. We all want to fit in, to belong. In order to achieve that, we often present slightly different versions of who we are, depending on the environment and whose company we are in. We might have numerous ‘editions’ of ourselves – for work, or at home, or even online. All tweaked and modified in order to be accepted in that particular situation (of course, the question is, are we being accepted for who we truly are, or merely for the version we choose to present of ourselves?)

We Are Mirrors

On the playground, we first begin to notice the differences between ourselves and other children, and we start to mirror the behavior of a dominant group in order to be accepted by them. This mimicry continues into adulthood, and we often unintentionally alter our speech patterns, our expressions and even the tone of our voice, depending on who we’re talking to. Familiarity is the social glue that bonds people together, and we deliberately seek out the similar and the recognizable in order to feel secure. If we’re doing the same as everyone else, we must be doing it right, and finding a reflection of ourselves in those around us is a form of validation.


In this entertaining and thought-provoking book, based on the most up-to-date scientific research, Daniel and Jason Freeman highlight just how prominent paranoia is today. One in four of us have regular paranoid thoughts. The authors analyse the causes of paranoia, identifying the social and cultural factors that seem to be skewing the way we think and feel about the world around us. And they explain why paranoia may be on the rise and, crucially, what we can do to tackle it.

Witty, clear, and compelling, Paranoia takes us beyond the tabloid headlines to pinpoint the real menace at the heart of twenty-first century culture.

Tattooing Post Covid