Forever celebrates the current state of tattoo design by profiling some of the outstanding stars in the field. It’s available for $33 here.

Amanda Wachob, Daredevil, New York City

Wachob applies the theories of fine art to tattooing everything from leather to fruit and, yes, people. Her work, like this composition of drips and brushstrokes, can easily be mistaken for traditional ink drawings.

Duncan X, Into You, London

Duncan X channels a punk aesthetic into bold, black tattoos that "romanticize criminality."

Tomas Tomas, Into You, London

The London-based artist specializes in modern tribal motifs.

Jonas Nyberg, Göteborg Classic Tattooing, Gothenburg, Sweden

Says Nyberg about tattooing: "It’s all about collage and composition, about borrowing with respect." He draws folk-art imagery from all over the world and imbues them with rich colors.

Jonas Nyberg, Göteborg Classic Tattooing, Gothenburg, Sweden

A surreal portrait with geometric patterning.

Jonas Nyberg, Göteborg Classic Tattooing, Gothenburg, Sweden

"I make the beautiful ugly," Nyberg says.

Kim Rense, Papanatos Tattoos, The Hague, The Netherlands

Here, Rense achieves the texture of wool using a pointillism effect.

Duke Riley, East River Tattoo, Greenpoint, Brooklyn

Riley is enchanted by the deep-rooted iconography of American maritime history. He fell in love with tattoos on the working piers of New England and, after graduating from RISD, set up shop on the waterfront in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where he balances his tattoo practice with installation art.

Robert Ryan, Electric Tattoo, Bradley Beach, New Jersey

Ryan’s tattooing is grounded in bold outlines, strong shading, and solid fields of color. The above is his 2012 "Folk Bird," based on Pennsylvania Dutch Hex signs.

Robert Ryan, Electric Tattoo, Bradley Beach, New Jersey

Ryan’s 2012 "Prayer."

Scott Campbell, Saved Tattoo, Brooklyn

After tattooing Heath Ledger at Saved Tattoo, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Campbell became an overnight success. He specializes in the interplay of popular culture, collaborating with Louis Vuitton, at one moment, and penning images of Michael Jackson in another.

Yann Black, Ink Butter, Montreal

Black quit art school to start tattooing full time. Inspired by 1970s comic books and animation movies, especially Le Roi et l’Oiseau by Paul Grimault and Jacques Prévert, his work can seem haphazard in its departure from standard techniques. He takes only one client a day at his Montreal studio, Ink Butter.

Yann Black, Ink Butter, Montreal

Black says his clients are on the older end (30 to 40 years old) and typically aren’t ink addicts. "They’re usually people who are not really interested in tattoo but see my art (which is not conventional) and become intrigued."

Co.Design

9 Artists Who Stretch The Rules Of Tattoo Design

A new book from Gestalten profiles some of the best tattooists working today.

Tattoos have gone utterly mainstream. Once the mark of a rock star or an inmate, they can be found on everyone from sultry Johnny Depp to wholesome Justin Bieber. As the tattoo business has grown from niche to trend, more and more artists have entered the field, sparking a renaissance of eclectic styles and techniques (not to mention way too many reality-TV shows). A new book from Gestalten, Forever: The New Tattoo, provides a snapshot of the current state of the field by profiling some of the world’s most vibrant and skillful tattooers.

[The work of New York City’s Amanda Wachob resembles a Jackson Pollock.]

Although ink has achieved newfound prevalence, this isn’t the first time it’s achieved mass popularity. Tattoo studios began to open in major cities and ports in the United States and Western Europe in the 1870s, with artists commanding hefty sums to “tattoo the most fashionable designs on an extraordinarily wide spectrum of clients from all social classes,” Matt Lodder writes in Forever’s foreword. Stylish examples filled the pages of high-end magazines, and by 1905, chic women were sporting permanent images of motorcars as signs of their avant-garde tastes. Since then, the social acceptability of tattooing has dipped and surged, without completely shedding its reputation as weird, dangerous, and deviant.

All the while, though, many tattooists have maintained that what they do is a form of art--a contentious claim for a medium that isn’t bought and sold and ages with the bodies that bear them. Regardless of their high-brow or low-brow status, tattoos carry weight as reflections of the aesthetics and fashions of their particular moments in time.

[Yann Black’s whale tattoo, shown from all angles]

For a current sampling of tattooists, check out the slide show. The artists featured stand out for their personal styles and approaches to their craft.

Buy the book for $33 here.

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9 Comments

  • tigerstripe

    Joey, you beat me to it! Xoil is by far the most adventurous artist out there, and likely the only one that I'd give a limb and say "do what you will."

  • Travis Price

    Superb new Tattoo book!   Finally modernist are getting somewhere near the origins and living culture of body transformation.  A must read is " Ancient Marks", Chris Rainier,   a living history of real tattoo culture that has survived thousands of years and is still on going.  Chris gave a phenomenal photo lecture at National Geographic just this week.  His black and whites of the the human topography equal his mentor Ansel Adam's natural landscapes.   Travis Price