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Tattoos, like any other piece of design, are an art form all of their own. Just as drawings, sculptures, and paintings require finesse, technique, and creativity to bring to life, so do tattoos. The traditional canvas is what sets this style of design apart from its siblings though and brings a new level of appreciation but also criticism to the pieces in question.

Considered to be one of the oldest art forms, tattoos have been traced back to several female mummies dating c. 2000 B.C. and even to an Italian-Austrian “Iceman” that scientists believe to be over 5,200 years old. Traces of ink on certain body parts indicate that tattoos were not only used for aesthetic, religious, or class-signifying purposes, but potentially even with the goal of pain relief and healing. Much like amulets were worn to ward off evil spirits, tattoos were thought to have been used to protect the wearer’s body and promote health. Most Egyptian tattoos were actually found on women and in patterns suggesting they were used to promote wellness during pregnancy.

Today, tattoos mostly serve an aesthetic purpose, allowing the wearer to show off their personal style and what is important to them. The beauty of tattoo designs is that there is no one correct composition type or style- it’s all about the client’s taste and integrating it with the artist’s personal strengths and technique. 

Just like any other piece of art, there’s a lot of decisions that go into creating the right tattoo for you. Not only do you have to choose a subject, or the focus of what your tattoo will actually be, but also a style, color, size, and body placement. Will this be an entire sleeve with vivid pops of red and orange, or a delicate white flower on the inside of your ring finger? These decisions work to bolster the artistic impact of the piece but also allow the wearer to best express themselves on the most sensitive but interesting canvas we have. 

Tattoo design & composition matters
Smithsonian’s history of tattoos

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