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book review: Tattoo Sourcebook

Much advertised Tattoo Sourcebook by the editors at is finally here and it both impresses and slightly disappoints.

The book is definitely eye-pleasing; with a black, adorned with a dragon, cover and impressive size it looks more like a sorcery book than a tattoo source one which is probably what the editors aimed at. Hefty size, big-ish format and good quality paper are definitely bargain priced at $ 19.98 (plus $ 16 for shipping in my case).

As the editors state themselves, ‘their main goal is to help educate and inform’ their readers on the whole tattooing process, from choosing the right design to the actual procedure to healing to looking after it for many years to come. The goal is achieved both by a huge amount of the designs provided and by an introduction that covers many important questions. The introductory part of the book is addressed more to people who are about to get their first tattoos done but various bits and pieces of useful information scattered among ’10 questions to consider before you get tattooed’, ’10 hints to finding the perfect tattoo design’, ‘3 approaches to tattoo designs’ or ‘selecting a tattooist/ tattoo studio’ and, finally, a few words about mistakes and possible options to fix them can also help these who already have their first tattoo experience behind them and are ‘itching’ for more. I know I’d read this part of the book with some interest.

The main part of the book focuses on the most popular designs and motifs from American patriotic tattoos to fairies and flowers to religious and zodiac tattoos. It presents at least a few pages of possible variations of each motif, thus showing the readers what is possible. Each section (32 in total) starts with a brief note on history and symbolism of the design/ motif in question which makes for a very interesting (although also very short) read. Many a time the editors use this opportunity to urge the reader to take some time to think on symbolism behind a given design and how others may interpret their tattoo.

The last section of the book consists of the profiles of the artists who contributed to the Tattoo Sourcebook; some of them were written by the artists themselves, others were probably written by the editors. They are interesting to at least browse through as among the contributors there are not only big names (Friday Jones, Guy Aitchison, Spider Webb) but also a few foreign, non-American artists (Furmanov from Kazakhstan, Edge from Croatia, Hudson Assis from Brazil) which nicely shows how increasingly global and yet small the tattoo community becomes.

When I got to read about this book for the first time, a few months ago, I expected it to be not only ‘a picture book’ but also a compilation of interviews with the tattoo artists whose artwork is presented. That is not the case but, the editors say, the interviews can be found on the Tattoofinder website.

Even though the most popular and common motifs are well covered here, it would be good if the editors tried to discuss styles of tattooing, too. Only the bio-mech is briefly described but there is not even one word about old school, new school or Japanese tattoos (who are both amazingly beautiful and rich in history and meanings). If the goal is to inform and show what’s available out there, the reader closes the book not knowing that their chosen design can be done in more than just one way as far as the outline, shading or colors go.

All in all, however, even if the Tattoo Sourcebook didn’t teach or show me anything new, it definitely made for an interesting read up and I consider it a nice addition to my book collection on the subject.

About Ania Reeds

fit, modified, open-minded, well-read, always eager to learn. Don't judge me by your standards!

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