Tattoos can be dope. A work of art drawn well across the skin can be evocative, inviting, mysterious, thought-provoking, or sensual. After years of watching friends get black panthers on their calves, flocks of ravens along the back of their shoulder blades, stacks of books, fluttering hummingbirds, and flying toasters (true story) on their ankles and forearms and backs, I’ve long toyed with idea of getting a tattoo of my own. But after years of spotting old folks whose once vibrant I Heart Mom sentiments were sagging and barely legible on the no longer taut skin of their biceps, I haven’t been able to work up the nerve to pull the trigger.

In the past two decades, tattooing has experienced a major renaissance in the black community. A new documentary exploring that resurgence, and the role of black tattoo artists within body art culture, is now available on DVD.  Color Outside the Lines is the brainchild of Atlanta-based tattoo artist and shop owner Miya Bailey. It looks at the particular significance of tattooing in black culture and interviews a series of black tattoo artists who have had to fight stereotypes (some black tattoo artists are considered synonymous with “scratchers,” amateur/unlicensed prison tattoo-ers) in order to gain respect in the business.

Shadow and Act has more information on  Color Outside the Lines and how it can be purchased. Clips of the artist interviews are available on YouTube. This one featuring veteran tattoo artist Jacci Gresham, who’s been working in body art since 1976, is particularly interesting:

We at  Clutch would love to hear your tattoo stories. Are you inked? When did you get your first tattoo? How many do you have or want? How did you decide on a shop? Was race a factor? Did you choose a black tattoo artist (or do you wish that you had)? Do you regret getting inked? What’s the best or most memorable tattoo you’ve ever seen? What’s the worst?

Tags: ,
Like Us On Facebook Follow Us On Twitter
  • AltheaGarden

    I got my first one in 2007 and I got my most recent one this past January. All of my tattoo ideas are original (I drew them up myself or gave the artist my ideas and approved their final design). I plan to get my entire left thigh done. Race wasn’t a factor, I live in a white majority city so I can’t be picky. However, gender was the deciding factor for me. Due to the location of my last tattoo, I was more comfortable with a female artist. I do not regret my ink, I’m already putting together ideas for my next. I’m not sure about the best tattoo that I’ve seen, but the worst was a woman’s arm covered in several little flying male genitalia with wings.

  • nina

    Tattoos arent for everyone – just like weaves,acrylics,eyelash extensions and designer lables arent for everyone.

  • Really

    The question is, why do you care? In your mind if they look dumb why even concern yourself about it? Why even waste brain power trying to figure out why they did what they did?

    And if a person is grown who cares what there mom thinks? Who cares if they have a a job? That was their decision. Some people are smarter than you realize, like starting a business, using concealer to cover up visible tattoos.
    When you concentrate on other people you miss out on your own development. Worry about you boo. :) That is all.