The Showmen of Tattooing

Another great and informative blog on the History of Tattooing.

Tattooing is rich with culture. There are so many aspects of just getting the tattoo that adds to the meaning behind the action. Without the good story to go with the experience, getting a tattoo would be like going to a dentist. One of the strongest charters strengths an artist can possess is the ability to put on a show.

The following blog from my friend Haram, highlights some of the best tattooist and showman in the culture of tattooing.


I like to think of tattooing as a time-honored tradition. Although I appreciate tattoos for its aesthetic appeal, if that was my goal as a tattoo artist I would lose my interest rather quickly because what I really enjoy is the learning aspect of it.

As I’ve mentioned in my first post, Japanese style is what drew me to tattoos. It’s so appealing to me from its long history to its appreciation for the body form, designed to perfectly fit to make it look most beautiful. I enjoy the disciplined framework, shape, and most importantly its fundamental
because I think fundamental is the beginning and the rest are simply byproducts.

So, it was very important that I gain more knowledge in the history of American tattoos to approach this career with appreciation and respect. The art of tattooing in America is something that has been passed down for hundreds of years and I’m about to share with you some videos that I found to be very helpful in understanding the lives of these old masters.

Oral histories are an important part of tattoo history and is it full of drama. I think it’s only appropriate to look through the life of Sailor Jerry to understand the history of tattoos in America because after all, this man was full of good stories and juicy gossips.

This documentary about him was very entertaining and well worth an hour of my time. Watching this made me feel like I was overhearing secrets and little gossips about people and events that would never make a Facebook news-feed. The reason behind this is, this documentary features artists who have lived through many of the stories with Sailor Jerry and also waved into the footage are old photos and other artifacts that illustrate their talks.

Another video that I enjoyed was the “Confessions of a Tattoo Artist.” It’s only about 20 mins. long so it was great to listen to while drawing. It features in depth interviews and stories told by the living legend like Lyle Tuttle, Jack Rudy, Chuck Eldridge, and many more. It was insightful to hear about what the older artists think about the modern generation of tattooing and the impact our media has in the current tattoo industry.

This video only lasts about 5 mins. but it’s nevertheless impactful. The old footage of these masters placed me in a different setting along the timeline and made me want to search for more raw footages as this one, which I ended up spending the whole day doing just that. I would love to share some of these and continue with my talk, but I’ve been spending too much of my time researching with not enough focus on drawing and practicing flash so I will be pulling an all-nighter right after I’m done with this post.

I like the idea of learning the tradition and preserving it, but not to simply preserve but to thrive and evolve. Knowledge will only give me more freedom to break away from what I’ve learned. 

On my next post, I will be showing you the timeline that I am working on that places many prominent old masters from the height of their career to the time they pass the torch on to the next aspirants.

Follow Haram’s Journey HERE

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