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?