How Online Images are Transforming the Tattoo Process

Marissa Bothwell’s grip tightens as a fine tip needle moves its way toward her ribs. Her eyelids clench, making the pain seem almost blinding.

Twenty-year-old Marissa is one of the 45 million Americans willing to put themselves under the needle in hopes of being tatted to perfection.

“I had a difficult time clarifying my vision because there were so many options and images to sift through online,” said Marissa, “I didn’t feel comfortable taking the plunge until I found the perfect design.”

After countless pins on Pinterest and Instagram screenshots, Marissa had finally landed a design for her first tattoo.

Evolution of Ink 

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Photo by Stefanie Pollitz

Holding the promise of permanence, many can relate to Marissa’s struggle in curating an idea to ink.

However, since the advent of the internet, the endless library of online images has forever transformed the traditional process, according to Jeane Jane, a tattoos artist for Traditional Tattoo in San Luis Obispo, California.

Specifically, clients are wanting exact replicas of online images as oppose to communicating with her to organically personalize a design.

Jane believes that our access to online images serves as a double-edged sword.

She acknowledges its practicality for helping the artist visualize a clients vision. Additionally, clients are no longer confined by images in tattoo magazines or on the wall of a tattoo parlor, to spark ideas.

However, a plethora of options would expectedly catalyze creativity, in turn, promote original thought. Instead Jane notices the opposite, saying tattoos are becoming less individualized.

Like everything else, tattoos are becoming a tribe culture. This is unfitting because they used to be an embodiment of the individual. Now, people are just trying to build a story around something that is not theirs, — Jeane Jane

Contemporary Clientele

Today 3 in 10 U.S. adults have at least one tattoo, according to a poll conducted in 2015.

Furthermore, nearly half of millennials report to having at least one tattoo as well.

Ink is said to have bled its way into the younger generations because, “millenials, often fueled by social networks, are quickest to join these tribes,” said The Holmes Report.

Similarly, Jane believes the generation’s reliance on “mass liking” has influenced clients’ designs, specifically the risks they are willing to take with them.

In other words, because online images have been pre-approved by internet audiences, many millennials deem these designs worthy.

Yet design aside, tattoos will always be body art for the human canvas. From flowers to phrases, every ounce of ink serves as an empowering extension of self.

And although each tattoo may be driven by a different motive, these visual statement pieces all serve as wearable poetry.

So whether your sleeve of choice is tattoos or lace, keep wearing your poetry.

-Wearable Poetry

Photos by Stefanie Pollitz


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