Realism is one of the most challenging and time consuming art forms in the realm of tattooing. Besides needing thousands of hours of technical training, the artist must also have exceptional patience, an excellent sense of perspective, proportions, light, shadows and profound knowledge in anatomy, both human and otherwise. Realism tattoos are renowned for their attention to detail and picture-perfect likeness to the subject being tattooed. Only the most talented of artists are able to portray a 3D object onto a 2D surface, such as paper or, in this case, skin.
Hyper realistic tattoos are heavily inspired by the realism movement, which was particularly popular in 1850’s France and evolved with the introduction of Pop Art in the 1960s and 1970s. The root of the techniques involved in realism tattooing derived from this innovative art style and progressed further from there on.
Realism tattoos are very different from the American or Neo traditional art forms, as it lacks solid, bold outlines. Instead, this style of tattooing mainly focuses on mapping shadows and many layers of shading to create a picturesque and 3-dimensional quality to the art. The use of a stark white ink against the many layers of shading, gives the image a strong, bright contrast. Like a topographic map, the stencil of a realistic tattoo outlines the areas that need heavy shading and contouring, as well as the outlines of where highlights need to be placed to make the image pop. Realism can be done in a variety of colors, shades and styles and each artist will have their own spin on the subject. Even if a particular artist states they specialize in realism, they might do black and grey work exclusively and decline requests to do full color pieces. It is important to do your research and observe the artist’s portfolio before committing to them.
The fact that these images are so meticulous creates a double-edged sword type of situation. The art is beautiful but, due to the lack of outlines and shear amount of details, the tattoos are known to fade and age at an accelerated rate. The layers of shading will become grey and softer whereas the whites and fine details will blur and blend with its surroundings. Unlike a piece of paper, skin is a living organism, which sheds and replenishes itself. Although this style of tattooing does not stand the test of time in comparison to the bold and saturated American traditional, there is a lived-in, soft quality to aged realism that many customers respect and admire. You can avoid rapid aging by finding an artist who specializes in this type of work and knows how to layer the shades and colors properly. Besides that, the quality of ink, the way you heal it and the care you put into avoiding harsh UV rays by applying sunscreen, will aid in preserving your artwork.
Realism tattoos are both extremely technical and astonishingly beautiful pieces to wear on your body and are an excellent choice when deciding your next piece!