​​How Did Skin Become a Canvas? 


Why people tattoo their skin and how it all started

Art is the creation of something from nothing. It might be a drawing, a painting, a sculpture, a wooden carving, a cooked meal, a manufactured product, a written song, or a tattoo. Human beings have been creating things on Earth since the beginning of time.

We’ve become increasingly creative over the years, improving upon our chosen craft every day.

What separates us from other species is our ability to simulate, predict, calculate, and envision our ideas. As art evolves, so does our choice of medium – paper, computer screens, walls, buildings, streets, deep in the sand or up in the sky.

The skin isn’t a new art medium, in fact, it’s been around for generations! Skin tattoos let us express ourselves through chosen art that we get to sport around town every single day. And most of us tattoo enthusiasts would probably agree there’s nothing like that feeling of fresh ink.

The Internet and Tattoo Skin Art

In the past, tattoos and using the skin as our own personal canvas have received a bad rap – very taboo!

This point of view was formed by many for occupational, religious, and personal reasons, and even though it still exists today, tattooing is now more widely accepted than ever before.

Much of this change in perception can be attributed to the internet. Online, it is remarkably easy to discover incredible tattoo art talent and even purchase your own designs or find your chosen tattoo artist.

We’re all for it! Just make sure the work is quality and you always seek the services of a professional to tattoo your skin.

Why Skin is Such a Unique Art Medium

Unlike every other art medium, the skin is extremely distinct and dynamic. Here’s how:

●   It’s organic, making the artistic process highly complex

●   It’s a living organ, increasing the risk of application and potential side effects

●   It’s part of our bodies, making it greatly valued as an art medium

●   It’s limited and exclusive – there is only so much space for us to display tattoo art on our skin

●   It’s mobile – as people move around, artists’ work is seen by many

●   It’s complex, requiring very specialized skills

Canvas History – Let’s Go Back in Time

As humans have evolved through the ages, so too has our understanding of fine art and what is most appealing to the eye. In the early days, tools were primitive and our cognitive state as human beings wasn’t nearly as sophisticated as it is today.

So, what is the history of tattoos and how did they come to be a part of our society?

The very first art canvases would be considered the cave drawings which date back some 65,000 years, made with soot or other naturally coloured substances, such as berries. It is said that drawings on walls were a form of communication, given the fact that language was not yet established in any significant way.

From 700 to 480 BC during Ancient Greece times, cultures around the world would paint on clay vases to illustrate their epic sagas and tell tremendous stories of their heroic battles.

In the hot desert of Ancient Egypt in 3100 BC, Egyptians would carve or edge hieroglyphs to tell their tales and display their holy worship to the Gods.

Beginning around 1644, the Chinese painted watercolor on silk canvases to pass down their lineage and create beautiful scenic paintings.

Dating back to the 1500s on remote Polynesian Islands, tribes would tattoo members to indicate rank and achievement. This was their art form, and it was a social display of status.

How Did Skin Tattoos on the Human Body Begin?

The history of tattoos is fascinating. The oldest known human to have tattoos on his skin is the Bronze-Age man referred to as “Otzi the Iceman” in about 3300 BCE. His skin was mummified upon his death, and he was later found with 57 tattoos in a glacier of the Otztal Alps, close to the border of Austria and Italy.

Skin tattoos in Ancient Egypt can be traced back to the Middle Kingdom period, and in the early Greek and Roman times, tattooing was associated with barbarians.

The Big Breakthrough

On December 8, 1891, O’Reilly created the very first machine that could rotate an attached needle dipped in ink. The capabilities of this repetitive motion took us from our traditional ‘stick and poke’ tattoo methods to tattoo application with a surgical-like incision tool. The potential for cutting-edge tattoo art was vast, but so was the potential to cause serious harm. This was a powerful tool, not to be underestimated.  

The industry grew far and wide. In the 1980s and ’90s, sailors would embark on their voyages and return with a new style of skin art, which we refer to as traditional tattoos, usually consisting of illustrative art forms of designs such as pinup girls, eagles, anchors, and more.

Prior to the invention of this machine, tattoo artists were limited – mostly to simple ink creations and tribal designs. But now those days were over and artists had the ability to push their creativity to new levels.

Why Do People Tattoo Their Skin?

People tattoo their skin for a number of reasons. In the past, tattoos were used as a means to indicate status, demonstrate tribe connections, honor cultures, and pursue known rituals and traditions.

Today, it is often a personal choice, an aesthetic preference, or a way to express oneself and even rebel against the norm.

It gives people the ability to “wear their art,” sometimes to cover up cosmetic imperfections or to bring deeper meaning to their lives.

Tattoos Today

Artists create photo-realistic tattoos. They use bold and vibrant colors. There are traditional styles and even three-dimensional tattoos that act as an illusion, depending on which angle you’re looking from.

The skin canvas has become a limitless medium on which we continually innovate. People walk proudly and wear their tattoos with confidence for all to see and gain a sense of who they are.  

Tattoos are a rite of passage. There is no way around the pain, and it is a crucial part of the process. As we say:

No Pain, No Ink.

Tattoos must be earned and they’re not for everyone. The ritualistic nature of the process performed is deliberate and meaningful, at the end of which a temporary permanence is created in this world.

The skin canvas has evolved into a medium that carries more than just the visual appeal of a great design but also history, stories, power, love, and a certain remembrance behind the ink. It is a canvas you can carry with you wherever you go, and hold it tightly as you travel the journey of life.

Your tattoo art stays with you through the dark and the light, the good and the bad. It serves as a passionate reminder of the things and people you love, and it has the power to give you confidence in the skin you wear.

Your skin is a temple.

Give it the consideration it deserves.

Irrational, compulsive, and hasty tattoos never make the best art.

Treat your canvas well…you only get one shot at it!

For more information on tattoos, tattoo-related topics, or just overall good tattoo content – check us out on Instagram, email us at info@northyorkink.com, or call us at (647) 501 8222!

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Welcome to North York Ink! A local tattoo & piercing studio providing the community of North York with quality tattoos and piercings close to home. When hard work and devotion merge with passion and creativity, the possibilities are endless.