Abstract is defined a few different ways, but these definitions combined may explain the complexity that is you, and this in turn can be expressed artistically through the art of tattoo. Abstract as an adjective can mean “existing in thought or as an idea but not having a physical or concrete existence”, which describes the image in your mind as you conceive the image you wish to portray. Abstract is also defined as verb as “something theoretical or separate from something else,” which could describe a unique individual, separate from the mainstream, expressed in the design of skin art. Abstract can also be defined as a noun, as in a “summary of the contents of a book, article, or formal speech.” Finally, abstract is defined as “a work of art which often requires an in-depth analysis to understand the complexity of the work.” All of these things combined complete the full story; an abstract tattoo is a work of art that is an outward expression of the inner complexity and uniqueness that is you.
The idea of abstract has been found in art and art culture for hundreds of years. Abstraction is a variance on a standard perspective and was used by countless artists in both Eastern and Western art works. This abstraction became especially popular in the late 19th century and early 20th century when artists were seeking a new way of expressing themselves that greatly differed from what was being done. Artists like Turner who used loose brushstrokes to differ from the popular realistic portraits and landscapes to Monet and impressionism to Kandinsky’s vibrant, bold color. These artists and many more are taken into consideration when creating abstract tattoo designs.
There are numerous styles of abstract tattoos one of the most popular of which is abstract line work that can take on any number of themes. A Picasso-style abstract tattoo that uses shapes and lines to create a human form that varies from the typical composure. Patterns and blocks of color may be added as well to create a modern tribute to the fundamentals of modern abstract shaped by Picasso. Examples of this have been made popular by Expanded Eye Tattoo in the UK who specialize in their own unmatched style of abstract.
Ink splatters are another type of abstract tattoo that may or may not include contour lines to form a concrete shape. The splashes of ink, made to look like splatters of paint, are used to accent the figure. Streaks of dripping ink are included to create a fresh look, representing an artist or a creative soul. This type of design mimics a watercolor painting and can be paired with any simple image or figure. Flowers are often used with the watercolor style to produce a colorful and feminine tattoo while images like skulls or pirate ships can be used with ink splatter to produce a more masculine design. Wildlife, landscape or cityscape designs work well with this style as well.
Negative space is often used with abstract tattoo designs. The desired shape or image is created by the background color or pattern forming around it, leaving the blank space to compose the image. This works best with less complicated designs so that the shape is conveyed clearly. The use of negative space can suggest something that the individual is lacking or missing, or simply be utilized because of its aesthetic appeal.
Portrait tattoos are another type of tattoo design that works well with an abstract theme because a portrait is rooted in art history. Abstract concepts are able to highlight certain features of a portrait or introduce images into the portrait that help to tell a story about the subject. Musician portraits may have instruments, lyrics, or themes worked into the piece or juxtaposed over the portrait in an attractive way. A portrait may also serve as a template for other images that replace the face or features completely. In these designs, the images that cover the face or head may serve as a description of the person or subject or be chosen ironically to contrast the subject.
Abstract tattoo designs convey a movement away from the norm to capture an alternate perspective on any given subject. Abstract is unlimited and allows for many different themes and concepts so that the individual is able to express themselves in a unique and new way. Abstract designs reveal a surrealistic and artistic quality about the people who receive this type of design. The meanings associated with the abstract tattoo is as abstract as the design and often requires more than a glance to decipher.