Wednesday, August 05, 2009


I would never ever, ever, get a tattoo for the simple reason that no artist is likely to come up with a design that can rival the mystery and profundity of unadorned human skin. Even so, I can't help but have opinions about it. You have to admit they are kind of interesting.

The best tattoos are the ones from cultures that have been tattooing themselves for hundreds of years like the South Sea islanders. That's a Maori tattoo in the picture above.

You could use muted pastel colors instead of black, as in the blue and white sketch above. I don't think you'd get you much respect from people like The Hell's Angels, but other artists would appreciate it.

Here's (above) a design inspired by 50s album cover artist, James Flora. Flora's art has a graphic look that seems to fit tattoo design.

Here's the same design with color.

According to the Flora blog, that's where I got these pictures, the tattoo artist was asked to combine the Pete Jolly album cover above, with the one of "Mambo for Cats" below. Interesting choice.

The problem with pictures like this (above) is that they contain so much line work that you'd need a large area of skin to make them read. Maybe the wearer should have chosen a detail rather than the whole picture.

Holy Mackerel...a Ren & Stimpy tattoo! Nice, but the color's a bit intense.

I like tattoos that are close to the natural skin color. That way you see the wearer first, take in his personality, then see the tattoo...which after all, is just an embellishment.

John Kricfalusi would be a much sought-after tattoo designer if he ever decided to try it. The subdued color on this fan drawing from a John original (above) would look great on skin.

Here's another Flora deign. If it were shorter and a little longer I could see it as a band around the wrist, like a watchband.

More Flora (above) tattoos. Some type of dog like this would be great for girls. I'd use details from the bottom picture, not the whole thing.

I work in the TV industry so if I were getting a tattoo maybe a Flora TV wouldn't be out of line. I'd just have to remember to avoid the biker bars.

Two Flora designs (above) for a small-size tattoo, the bottom one for a girl. The problem is that Flora's designs benefit from a clean, sharp line, and that's probably hard to draw on rubbery human skin. Maybe these Flora designs are harder to reproduce than they look.

Thinking about this makes me wonder how tattoo artists practice. Do they tattoo supermarket chickens?

This sax player would make a good tattoo, maybe at the size it's reproduced here. But what if the artist goofs up? What if he hiccups? There's no eraser on the tattoo needle, no undo button. Thinking about this gives me new resolve to reserve my own arm for pimples and ugly scars like the Good Lord intended.

P.S. Two commenters said I gave the short shrift to cartoon character tattoos...or tattoos inspired by cartoons. I have to admit that a black and white cartoony battleship like the one Popeye had on his chest could look pretty good.

One commenter said he was thinking of doing Albert the Alligator smoking a cigar...another good choice. But, come to think of it, Albert was drawn by Walt Kelly who was a master of the thick and thin line. You're not likely to find a tattoo artist who can match that.


Ben said...

Tattoo artists practice on trotters, i.e. pigs feet/ankles. It apparently has a texture really similar to human skin. On an art forum I used to read there were a couple folks learning to be tattoo artists, and they posted pictures of prettied-up pig feet as they practiced.


If you lived on the island of beatnik bongo tribesmen, it'd make sense to get a Jim Flora tattoo... or if you're a Maori, get some of that swirly shit, but Eddie... cartoonists need cartoonist tattoos. A heart with an arrow through it like Hefty Smurf. An anchor on either forearm like Popeye. A battleship on your chest like Bluto. Pick out some flash from a Sailor Jerry book or some classic sailor crap if you're an American.

Niki said...

One of my friends wants me to get my ears pierced and get tattooed. I think sure for the pierce but I'd be hard pressed thinking of a tattoo design. She also wants me to design her next tattoo as well, for her...

Anonymous said...

I really liked the 50's aesthetic to those tatoos. You should realize that tribal tattoos are very common among douchebags today however.

Hans_Hellhoff said...

I know a guy who had both his arms tattooed with anchors. It looks good, but I think a lot of it has to do with the person who has it and his personality. If it were anyone else, it wouldn't be the same.

Although if I ever got a tattoo, I'd like one of Albert Alligator smoking a cigar or something.

Irwin Chusid said...

Unless I missed a link in the above post, the Flora blog is here. Thanks for posting all these images. Also check out

Anonymous said...

A true douchenozzle would have a bidet tattooed on each arm, like a French Bluto.

Charles H. said...

I sure made a big stink when my best friend said she wanted a tattoo and I ended up telling her that it should be something subtle and out of sight. Later I realised she was just teasing me to see my reaction.

By the way, here's a nifty little chart showing what tattoos really mean according to location-
(mild language)

Joel Brinkerhoff said...

Ignatz tossing a brick on one arm. Krazy catching a brick to the head on the other.

buzz said...

Each year the San Diego Comic Con has an official theme and an unofficial theme.

For 2009, the unofficial theme was "The Year The Tattoos Started To Run".

Jenny Lerew said...

Check this woman out:
Also, tattooing isn't anything like freehand drawing or even our type of brush inking, so I think an excellent artist would be able to duplicate Walt Kelly's "thick & thin" and all his other lines spot on (so to speak). It's a great idea for a tattoo. Much better than your average 20 millionth 'Tweety'.

I really didn't need to see the pubic tattoo!

Jenny Lerew said...

Wildly off topic but----

Look! I just got this email from UCLA--Eddie you have to tell Mike about it:

Friday, August 7 – Saturday, August 22
his entertaining series focuses on the work of four cinematic philosophers whose work in film draws a wide variety of unsentimental conclusions about the human animal: W.C. Fields, Preston Sturges, Ben Hecht and Billy Wilder. Films will include Nothing Sacred (1937), It's A Gift (1934), Double Indemnity (1944), Ace in the Hole (1951) and The Bank Dick (1940).

It's as if he programmed it himself!

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Ben: Ahh...pigs' feet! I should have known!

Sean, Hans: Good point! But good cartoon tattoos require a good artist on the needle.

Anon: Interesting idea for a blog. The guys didn't impress me as especially stupid or ugly, just beer-soaked.

Irwin: Thanks for the links and many, many, many thanks for the great Flora posts and the must-have books.

Charles: Haw!!!!!!!!

Jenny: The picture was taken down by the photographer by the time I looked for it!

Thanks for the UCLA info! I'll tell Mike!

Lower Back Tattoo Art said...

Great tribal tattooes.

David Germain said...

I got a tattoo myself about a month ago. I took a screen grab directly from Robin Hood Daffy, printed it out and brought it in. I now have a tattoo of Daffy Duck as Robin Hood on my upper right shoulder. I went in knowing it was going to hurt. But, shortly before I had some teeth removed. So, I figured that the pain of a tattoo would be nothing compared to that experience. I was right.

I'm proud of my tattoo. My mother doesn't like it though, but I kind of expected that.

Hryma said...

Nice post. I spent a couple of weeks hanging out in a tattoo parlour, on the verge of becoming a tattooist. Then I got offered another job so I took that.
I asked about practicing on pigs skin, they recommended on yourself or very trusting friends.
Some dolls are made out of a soft plastic than can also work.

Tribal tattoos should only be for people in tribes.
Aslo anything written in another language that is not in your heritage.

A local (AUS) tattoist and artist
Karl Kaufmann
does great thick and thin line work.

Anonymous said...

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tattoos designs said...

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