Art From Code: Tattoos From Code

“Snake in a Vase” – Figure 1

This series encompasses works inspired from a variety of currently active tattoo artists. However, these artists all use traditional methods of creating art. Tattoo artists often create an image on paper before transferring it to skin. In this case, I have used processing to code images intended for use as tattoos. I focused on blackwork tattoos, which are tattoos that are rendered in solid planes of black ink, usually composed of patterns, geometric shapes, and occasionally recognizable forms and objects. I wanted to create a style that could be easily transferable and had an advantage over traditional art.

When I started this project, I created “Snake in a Vase” pictured in Figure 1. This specific work was inspired by the artist Francis Khuu, a tattoo artist with a decent following based in Virginia and Philadelphia. He focuses on blackwork tattoos of nature, specifically animals and floral objects. However, Khuu works in traditional art forms, using pen and paper. His style has natural line work rather than mechanical line work. I chose to create a piece that utilized processing’s ability to create crisp, symmetrical lines. I created a recognizable form of a snake, slithering out of a vase. This was rather time consuming, because instead of having a set symmetrical image or set of shapes in processing, the shapes had to be created using a collection of vertexes. Even though this took some time, the outcome was what I had intended, a snake using mechanical lines and pieces of symmetry that would be difficult to draw by hand.

As I researched further into styles of tattoos, I discovered simple geometric tattoos. In the first of these simple geometric tattoos, “Geometric Diamond Tattoo” in Figure 2, I utilized processing’s ability of creating loops to form a textured background for the image. To create a somewhat natural texture, rather than a grid, I randomized the size of the figures within the loop. I also layered diamond shapes to create dimension in the piece.

“Geometric Diamond Tattoo” – Figure 2

Using code to create these images has a great advantage over traditional methods of creating art. I have found that the three major advantages code has are stochastic processes, sizing, and placement. In Figure 2, the use of a stochastic process in the loop that creates the background would be difficult to recreate by hand. The true randomness can only come from code. The sizing of figures in the artwork is also an advantage that art from code has over traditional art. I created “Mountain”, shown in Figure 3, with this concept of sizing in mind. In traditional art, it is difficult to rework the size of a figure in the image unless the artist starts over again. With code, the size can be changed by rewriting a line of code. When I created “Mountain”, I changed the sizing of the figure many times before I was satisfied with the outcome. If I had chose to create this image with traditional art, it would be nearly impossible to get perfect, symmetrical lines on a black background that needed to be changed slightly over and over again to get a final image.

“Mountain” – Figure 3

The placement of figures in code is much more flexible than the placement of figures in traditional art. Similar to the sizing of figures, rewriting a line of code can easily change the placement of objects as many times as needed. In “Night Sky”, shown in Figure 4, I utilized all three advantages in simple code I found. The background uses a similar loop to the one used in “Geometric Diamond Tattoo” in Figure 2. The loop creates figures of randomized sizes to be etched out in the background, layered over an initial ellipse. Placement and sizing of the moon, the white ellipse in the upper right of the image, were both changed many times before finalized. The line created to form the mountain skyline is a collection of vertexes. In this project, I focused on creating simple blackwork tattoos. However, if color was utilized in these figures, processes in coding also make that an advantage over traditional art. The same way sizing and placement are used, color can be very easily changed, while that is not the case in traditional art.┬áThese processes, along with the ability to layer objects, all are practical uses for creating these simple geometric tattoos.

“Night Sky” – Figure 4