You love fine art, and you want to immortalize that love with a tattoo of your favorite painting, but how do you do it? We’ve got you covered! We looked into what you need to know about getting a fine...

How to Design a Fine Art Tattoo

You love fine art, and you want to immortalize that love with a tattoo of your favorite painting, but how do you do it? We’ve got you covered! We looked into what you need to know about getting a fine art tattoo, so that you know exactly what to expect and what kind of experience you’re getting into. This isn’t your average tattoo experience – you aren’t creating a custom piece, you’re emulating a famous work of art, and that’s not something every tattoo artist is able to make happen. Read on to find out all you need to know about fine art tattoos.

What is Fine Art?

We’re all familiar with fine art – it’s the most classical form of visual art out there. Fine art, by definition, is described as visual art that’s created mainly for aesthetic reasons, and critiqued on its beauty and the meaning behind it, without providing a practical purpose. This is the main difference between fine art and applied arts – fine arts include paintings, drawings, sculptures, and more recently, tattoos. Applied arts would include items that provide a tangible use or are used everyday but made to look aesthetically pleasing, for example, pottery. Graphic design also falls under the category of applied arts.

When we think of fine art, we tend to think of classical pieces and paintings, but it’s becoming popular to have these works of art recreated onto the canvas of skin through tattooing. Fine art and tattoos used to be at odds with one another, each at opposite ends of the high-low brow spectrum, but that’s changed as recently as 2015, when museums like the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts began holding exhibits focusing on tattoo artistry. Previously, tattoos weren’t deemed “museum-worthy” but that mindset is slowly changing as the artform becomes more recognized among fine art audiences.

Key Elements of a Fine Art Design

The key elements of a fine art design is essentially that it’s a recreation of a famous painting onto the skin, most of which are recognizable and considerably famous. Most of the time, the tattoo is a scaled down version of the painting, so it will look like the original painting both in shape and design, but generally much smaller in size. Depending on the amount of detail in the painting, you may have to go bigger to ensure that all of the nuances in the original work can be included in your tattoo design. Very small details don’t always translate well onto skin, and tend not to age well. Italian tattoo artist Luca Fedato emphasizes this point, “…the dimension has a lot of relevance for a better duration in time, so even in this case a few more centimeters would have been useful….most likely over time the definition and details [of smaller tattoos] will become more confusing and unreadable”. If you’re in doubt about your tattoo being too small, go bigger.

Starry Night Sleeve Tattoo

Where to Start with Your Tattoo Design

Realistically, if you’re thinking of getting a fine art tattoo, you likely already have a specific painting in mind. Since this kind of tattooing isn’t usually a custom creation, it’s mostly about deciding where you want it to go, how big you want it to be, and whether you want it done in color or black and grey. Once you know the details of what you want, you’ll need to find an artist who’s experienced with tattooing fine art paintings onto skin, or one who is willing to take on the challenge.

Things to Consider with Fine Art Tattoos

Luca's Monet Inspired Fine Art Tattoo

Fine art tattoos can be daunting, and it’s not something that every tattoo artist is willing to take on. Luca was initially hesitant to take on the fine art project requested by a client, “when the customer came to me and [requested] a tattoo of Monet’s painting…at the beginning I had refused the job”. It wasn’t that he doubted his own ability, but he “considered the respect to be worn for such a famous and important artist, and that probably it would not have been right to copy his work”. After mulling it over, Luca “thought about taking this request as an exercise, and also an opportunity to practice something new that I would certainly have learned a lot from, so I accepted the job”.

Sitting for a tattoo in this style isn’t an easy feat. The Monet piece that Luca inked took roughly 7-8 hours to complete, and he figured out the proper techniques as he went “I was very concentrated and it [was] only during the processing that I have understood and refined how to obtain certain results. Many overlays with magnum needles, and again, other steps on top with smaller needles to simulate the smaller brush strokes”. Luca says that in a technical sense, figuring out how “to emulate on skin, brushstrokes and color castings made in a canvas” was the toughest part. He believes that it’s essential for artists to make sure that “these concepts [are] well understood by customers who require this type of work”, so that clients know exactly what they’re getting into when going in for a fine art tattoo.

Most Popular Fine Art Tattoo Designs

Great Wave Fine Art Tattoo

With the growing popularity of fine art tattoos, there are a few works of art that can be seen more than some other design choices. The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai is the most common work of classic art to be tattooed, because of the many possible meanings behind the piece. The Kiss by Gustav Klimt is another popular choice for fine art tattoo designs, followed closely by Van Gogh’s Starry Night. A portion of the Creation of Adam by Michelangelo is commonly chosen as a tattoo, namely the almost-touching hands. If you’re looking for a fine art tattoo that’s more original, maybe avoid these more commonly chosen paintings.

Fine art has been an important cultural element for centuries, and tattoo art is just starting to catch up in the same sense. The two art forms are meeting, and creating room for people to wear their favorites work of classic art right on their bodies, but it’s important to know that it’s a challenging endeavour, and not every tattoo artist will do it. Do research on tattoo artists who are experienced in fine art tattoos before booking your appointment.

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