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Personal, Spiritual, and Traditional: Celebrating Wildlife in Tattoos

animal tattoos, traditional tattoos, irezumi tattoos, Horitomo tattoo, Rosemary Shackelford tattoo

Despite a few cold days here and there, spring is officially in full swing. Flowers are blooming and temperatures are gradually rising. The seasonal return of luscious plants also ushers in the return of animals that migrated to warmer climates during the winter. Animals are a popular subject for tattoos of all kinds. Because they have can have personal, political, or spiritual significance to people, animal imagery can be found in tattoos in all styles. For instance, indigenous tattoos frequently incorporate animal imagery for their cultural significance.

Animal tattoos run the gamut from hyperreal portraits of beloved pets, to cute cartoonish designs, to images that combine tradition and spirituality.

animal tattoos, hummingbird tattoos, bird tattoos, Rodrigo Salcedo Velarca tattoo

Light ink strokes bring this image of a hummingbird to life. Just like the hummingbird it portrays, this tattoo is small and delicate, capturing both the gentle demeanor and appearance of the bird.

animal tattoos, tiger tattoos, Dave Castro tattoo

The sharp, black lines of this tiger portrait marry various art styles. The tiger itself is reminiscent of traditional Japanese art, in which tigers are a recurring subject. The artist, Dave Castro, also looks to Japanese anime as an artistic influence, and he incorporates traditional techniques and images. Revered for their overwhelming strength along with their unique beauty, they appear frequently both in Japanese art and tattoos.

animal tattoos, okapi tattoos, Rosemary Shackelford tattoo

Tattoo artist Rosemary Shackelford has dedicated her career to colorful animal portraits that blend realism, traditional elements, and her own personal illustrative flair. Her natural designs involve bright but natural colors, and the animal focal points are typically framed by vibrant flowers or lush greens.

animal tattoos, rabbit tattoos, Aimee Bray tattoo

Pastel colors along with a blooming flower and a baby bunny combine to create a tattoo that perfectly captures the aesthetic of spring. Soft colors, fresh flowers, and pastel colors are abound in April, as people begin to spend more time outside in the warmth and reunite with their families around the Easter holiday. The festivities, like this tattoo, often celebrate new plant growth and the return of animals that had been absent during winter.

animal tattoos, cat tattoos, Irezumi tattoos, Horitomo tattoo

Animals are an important subject in tattoos across many cultures. Because they play an integral role in folklore and traditional art, they are often found in traditional tattoos. This traditional Japanese sleeve depicts a cat inked with similar Irezumi style koi fish tattoos as well as a mouse. Though animals are important in Irezumi, cats are not a typical subject. Tigers, koi, and mythical creatures are commonly found, but cats lack a similar tradition. Horitomo, the artist behind this tattoo, and a pioneer of contemporary Japanese tattoos modernized the traditional style through his introduction of an unlikely subject: tattooed cats.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the official position of PainfulPleasures.