Here we go again friends and freaks of Speakeasy Tattoo Los Angeles. Over these past months these blog entries have proven to take more and more of my time. And looking back I realize that I tend to get a little bit long-winded. I went to college for criminal law so writing research papers is in my blood and I tend to revert back to that old method of I’m running on and on about a subject. For this reason, this week will be a little shorter. I am in the process of taking some of the older blog posts and consolidating them into a more easily researchable singular post namely the references for Irezumi, or traditional Japanese iconography. Further, some of the source material for those older ones was a little too source heavy. In the future I’m going to try and make it a little more reader friendly. and here I am rambling again.
So this week I just want to touch on a subject that is a bit of a controversy? I don’t know if that’s the right word but let’s go with it. I recently saw a meme, yes I’m referencing Memes, on a tattoo meme page on Instagram. It was basically mocking the idea of tattoo artists getting angry when someone copies a piece of flash that they themselves essentially copied from another copy from another copy. The concept of stolen art and plagiarism In the tattoo world is a minefield. Tattoo copycats are abundant and the dishonest artists typically outnumber the honest ones. But when it comes to traditional tattooing this is certainly a gray area. I have touched on this in the past when talking about flash art but what is the line? Can you truly sell a piece of flash art because you changed three lines on a Sailor Jerry wolf? What if a customer really wants some thing they saw on Pinterest and they don’t know the original source material? Do you execute that tattoo and give the customer what they want? Do you turn them down knowing that they will most likely just go to some other artist with the same artwork who will simply copy exactly what they want? Do you to try to push them in a direction of your own and doing your own interpretation of said work? How much does one need to change in order for it not to be plagiarism? These are all subjects and topics that we must grapple with as working artists. Is searching clipart for photo references fair game? How many versions of the same Rose or snake wrapping around a dagger have you seen? The line between tradition honoring the history and stealing is a muddy confusing realm. There's always someone somewhere with a big nose who knows, who will trip you up and laugh when you fall.....
So where am I going with this other than getting distracted with Smiths lyrics? Honestly, I’m not even sure myself. Personally nothing brings me greater joy than to do my own variations of classic invert grim flash. But, at the same time it is far more satisfying to create your own imagery and see people come flocking to that and want it permanently etched on their body. For more on flash, read here. So ultimately I feel that it is incumbent upon both the customer and the artist to not only know the sources of imagery, but know the history and traditions around them. Naturally what is and what is not acceptable is up to interpretation and open to the debate. Personally, I feel if the motives and intentions are pure on both ends, and what respect and credit is due is paid then an artist can genuinely and honestly re-interpret classic flash and iconography. Direct plagiarism and stealing from contemporary artists and original designs is a whole ‘nother story. Check out this instagram page to see how rampant it truly is.
That’s it for this week. As I said, a brief one. Hopefully next week I will have a concise and easily searchable breakdown of traditional Japanese demons ghosts and imagery.
Until then, enjoy some Phantom of the Opera flash from none other than ME!