Choosing a tattoo can be a deeply personal decision; something unique to reflect you, your personality, and your dreams. Or at least, that’s the idea.
In a new video on the Inked channel, a line-up of experienced tattoo artists discuss some of the most popular (and deeply unoriginal) artwork that gets requested by their clients. And it soon becomes clear that there’s a fine line between “classic” and “common.”
For Sabrina Sawyer, her pet peeve is the infinity symbol. “These people are always the one with the ‘bigger meaning,'” she says, “and they always want the small, Pinterest, everybody tattoo.” Compasses and/or pocket watches surrounded by roses are another popular choice (and are so pervasive that tattooists have been rolling their eyes at them for years now). “You see a lot of the same, repetitive elements,” says tattoo artist Andy Pho.
And the recurring patterns aren’t exclusive to clock faces and flowers. “Animals! The same fucking lion head” Says Chrystal. Another variation of this they’re all totally over is the depiction of a woman’s face, topped with a bear or lion headdress. And as Anam points out, it’s not like she can go into a zoo to take her own close-up photos for reference, meaning artwork tends to get recycled.
“A lot of times, the best reference photos are the ones that have already been used so many times, and so this is what gets annoying,” she says. “Even for us, we always try and choose the best reference photo obviously, when we can’t take it ourselves, and that being said, when you’ve done that same theme so many times, you’re like ‘I took the best picture that first time, now what the hell’s going to happen? You’re kind of scrounging and settling for photos that might work, but you know inside it’s not as cool.”
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It’s also entirely possible for a design’s popularity to lead to its eventual falling out of fashion, says Carl Grace, who spent a decade or more doing tribal tattoos: “When more people have it than not, is when people stop enjoying or appreciating that particular kind of artwork.”
Philip Ellis is a freelance writer and journalist from the United Kingdom covering pop culture, relationships and LGBTQ+ issues.
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