For the first time, Canadian tattoo artist Phil Berge has created stop motion tattoos. Other people have called them “flip-book” tattoos, and they work by stringing together a number of slightly modified images, in the same way the flip-books of our youth strung together a book of images to create an animation when the pages are rapidly flipped. These are slightly different, because there are no pages that are being flipped. Phil is taking tattoos to a new level of storytelling. He takes pictures of individual designs he has tattooed on different people, and then creates a video from those pictures. One of my favorites is a 19 image video of Bart Simpson doing a kickflip on a skateboard.
Phil’s work has been garnering tons of online interest and has driven thousands of people to his Instagram page and onward to his YouTube videos which show his stop motion work. The 29 year old artist working out of the Tattoo Shack in Quebec City, Canada started doing stop motion videos as a kid using his parents camera. His interest in this art form seems to have survived into adulthood, and now he gets to continue honing his craft with slightly higher stakes. People have really taken to this idea of being part of a larger story, a story in which they are only one small but vital piece, and together, they form a whole. It’s an interesting take on Gestalt philosophy.
In my mind, there are a couple of downsides to participating in a stop motion tattoo. For one, you may get stuck with one of the middle images that is tattooed at a weird angle, or just doesn’t look right on its own and out of context. For example, there is one video (which you can watch here) that shows a panther’s head turning in a complete 360 degree turn, which transforms into a heart, and then back into the panther head. The only issue with the 360 degree spin is that someone got a tattoo of the back of a panther’s head, which is certainly unique, but not all that cool or aesthetically pleasing as a singular tattoo outside the context of the stop motion video. But to each their own, someone signed up to get it, so clearly there is something interesting about it.
From beginning to end, creating a four second stop motion video of tattoos can can take up to 4 months, and it works like this: first, Phil creates a post for his Instagram page of a classic animation that he would like to replicate. Then after getting messages from people who want to get the tattoo, he schedules them for an appointment. After completing a couple dozen tattoos and taking pictures of each one, he creates a video reminiscent of the beloved flipbooks of our youths. His process is quite interesting, because you can visit his instagram page and see an image with a caption that may read “I’ll be in Montreal this Sunday and I have these 2 bikers left to tattoo. DM me if you want one.” Each image he posts is numbered to keep the sequencing aspect simple. The two bikers currently featured on his instagram page are numbered 9 and 11.
I love the idea of people getting tattoos that are smaller parts of a larger whole. It is a project that spans across different cities, and a wide array of people. How cool would it be to run into someone who has image 3 of a piece while you’re sporting image 18? It is a unique way to connect people who don’t even know each other, and that is one of the best things about art. I’m looking forward to seeing the projects Phil embarks on next.