New school tattoos are something totally unique to the individual. New school tattoos are about freestyling a bit. It is reminiscent of a hip-hop and graffiti style with jagged edges, bubble lettering, and cartoonish characteristics. With modern equipment, fresh ideas, and new techniques, new school tattooing is becoming more and more popular. The concept renders any design or image into a near caricature type of design that is heavily stylized to appear more exaggerated than the old-school style of tattooing. New school borrows the thick, defined contour lines from traditional old-school designs and transforms them with more vivid colors and interesting, unique designs.
Graffiti-style new school designs are often chosen because of how easily the convoluted lines of graffiti fonts translate into tattoos. Although these images generally utilize the brightest inks available, black and shades of grey are also appropriate because the complexity of the design does not necessitate additional detail. The idea of street art is invoked with these designs and introduced new ideas about tattooing and the public. The new school style brought more interest to the tattooing industry in the 1980s and 90s and allowed for more artists to hone their craft as tattooing practices were more openly shared. Tattoo designs began to include more forms of art, like graffiti, which provided more options for those who considered receiving body art. The graffiti style reveals a relationship with counterculture and life outside of societal norms. Graffiti questions authority but often intends to comment on social issues with artistic expression.
New school tattoos are just what the name implies, new concepts and new mediums. While some old-school tattoos may still be found on the walls of a tattoo parlor to be pointed out as a choice by the traditionalist personality. For many people the average Flash rose, heart, anchor, or flaming skull is a symbol that requires further embellishment. These traditional-style images are exaggerated with neon colors or are personified and given human, or even animalistic, qualities. New school imagery always appears animated and can satirize more serious people or events, much like political cartoons found in the newspaper. The intent is to draw attention to a situation, often in order to ridicule it. This is often done with ominous themes such as death and the grim reaper.
New school designs are often significant and meaningful to the individual as well, in spite of the cartoonish appearance. Mythological creatures can be used and designed in an animated style with bright hues but still appear dignified. A phoenix with vibrant plumage rising from licking flames represents rebirth. A gorgon with snakes instead of lock of hair is a symbol of misunderstood beauty. A dragon, taken from ancient Chinese or English myths, can represent a guarded secret or treasure. All of these can be designed with new school flare and dynamic color but still convey a powerful message.
New school tattoos can run the gambit from images of graffiti art, gang or club affiliations, to a cartoon character, or can be anything your mind can conceive. Characters taken from favorite movies are often rendered in the new school style, particularly those from animated films. Dinosaurs, animals, aliens, and other non-human creatures work well with this style as there is more opportunity to bold colors and patterns. Characters from Alice in Wonderland are often used for new school designs because of the already exaggerated animation and ridiculous themes. The Cheshire Cat with its enormous grin works well with the style as well as the Mad Hatter or Alice herself.
Large sleeves and back pieces can easily be designed in the new school style as well to create a vibrant and defined tattoo. New school opposes realism and relies on color and bold lines to define its subject. Space themes are often chosen to showcase the beautiful cool shades of swirling galaxies and celestial bodies. Bird and fish themes are also frequently used because of the opportunity for various and visually pleasing colors. Contour lines are not necessary, though can be helpful to clarify the images, and instead the variance in shades can be used to define the piece.
Jesse Smith from Loose Screw Tattoo in Richmond, VA is one of the best new school tattoo artists out there. He developed his love of art while living in Germany as a child and became interested in urban culture and graffiti while there. He then moved back to the United States and eventually picked up a tattoo gun. From there he has become one of the best in the business. His own specialized brand of new school tattooing includes the typical bold colored inks but also an incredible amount of detail and dimension not always seen with this type of design. His original ideas and unusual concepts have brought him popularity in the tattoo industry.