Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Hello Sailor!

Myself and international burlesque performer, the beautiful Beatrix Von Bourbon

As I metioned last week, I have been researching vintage nautical tattoos, as seen on many a burly sailor since the 1940's and 50's. But as you can see from the photo above this classical style of tattoo is still very much in favour among burlesque and rockabilly lovers today!

The reason for the research? My next series of paintings is going to be inspired by the artwork of the vintage sailor tattoo, using the pin-up girl as the main character, with each painting taking influence from different nautical sayings still in use today.

Have you ever called someone a son of a gun? how about hanging on until the bitter end? or even found yourself looking for some dutch courage? Cue some fab potential for some new paintings featuring traditional pin-up girls and sailor gear!
I'm going to illustrate everyday sayings that began as true to life nautical phrases!

I've always liked the pin-up girls that featured it these classic tattoos. They are an echo of that other famous pin-up girl, Betty Grable. In fact Grable's famous rearview pose, hands on hips, is still an iconic template used for tattoos across the world.

But the pin-up girl that sat on a sailors arm were more than just a hot chick to keep morale high, they were also symbolic of the travels and places the individual had seen. For instance a hula girl meant that the sailor had reached Honolulu or Hawaii.
There is also symbolism to other well known designs; Anchors signified the sailor's crossing of the Atlantic whereas a swallow was for luck and loyalty as they always return home each year, sailors being a highly superstitious lot!

Images taken from www.sailorjerry.com

I've been working on some designs for my new paintings and as I've studied the styles and use of line and colour I've come to realise that this isn't like any other form of drawing. I've almost had to re-teach myself how to look at things. Dismiss my knowledge of proportion and perspective and think only in terms of what will work as a tattoo, as I want my paintings to look as authentic as possible. That isn't to say I want to carbon copy the orignal work of others, but for my work to be an obvious nod to the artists of yesteryear.
Here's my first design for the saying 'Rack and Ruin', meaning for a ship to become wrecked, as mentioned earlier, it's the pin-up girl who is telling the story;

Image copyright of Gemma Parker, www.gemma-parker.blogspot.com

In all my research I couldn't go without mentioning THE man who epitomises the classic vintage tattoo, Sailor Jerry! An artist who many see as the father of old school tattoo, who became a sailor himself at the age of 19, travelled the world and began his life long affair with tattoos. He studied the art of southeast Asia which became a huge influence on his style, opening his first tattoo shop in Honolulu's Chinatown which according to his official website was;

'ground zero for swaggering sailors, drunken soldiers and whoever else wasn't afraid to hang around volatile levels of testosterone.'

These rowdy sailors appreciated a bold impressive design that they could show off 'back home' and Sailor Jerry's signiture style became iconic in tattoo art acroos the world.

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