Tattoo themes

I’m taking an art class this semester, and yesterday I wore my TATTOOS ARE MY WAY OF INVESTING IN ART t-shirt to class.

This led to an interesting discussion with one of my classmates, who has several tattoos herself.   She said that all her tattoos have a common theme, something very spiritually meaningful to her.   Like me, her ink is usually covered by clothing, but she described some of her tattoos and explained why they fit her theme.

I obviously never had a “theme” in choosing my tattoos, but all of them have deep personal meaning to me, so in that sense they go together even though visually and stylistically they don’t match in any way.   But the idea of planning each tattoo with one central theme in mind intrigued me.   I wonder how common that approach to body art must be?

Obviously, the people who get whole-body Japanese tattoos are following that kind of philosophy.   But is a gangbanger whose ink reflects gang sensibilities even though not coming together in one unified design doing the same?   What about a person whose tattoos relate to the same general principle (religious art, for example) but are all done in varying styles or by different artists and present a mish-mosh of visual effects when seen as a whole?

What happens if a person starts out with one theme in mind and then goes off in a different direction?   Can the original ink be altered to match the new theme?   Should it be?   I’m reminded of the tattooed lady in Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land who starts off as a standard-issue sideshow performer and then has her tattoos transformed into a religious work of art by her husband, the tattoo artist.

And what if some of the art is done by one artist and some of it is done by another artist with an entirely different style?

I guess what I’m asking is whether having a theme results in a “unified field” of body art or not.   :)

Do you have a theme?   Do you know anyone who planned their ink in advance?   I’d be interested to hear what others think about this.
Creative Commons License photo credit: rasseon

I hope you'll submit my posts to your favorite social media sites. Just don't "submit" them to your own site pretending to be yours. Thanks!


  1. I think maybe people don’t start off thinking this way, as in strategically about their tattoos but if they get one and love it and decide to do more, that is when a theme might come into it – it is a good way to plan I think, you want your ink to be aestheitcally pleasing right?

  2. I love tattoos because yyou can personalize them. I think that a theme may work for some people like me. I guess im a little ocd. I like things to be neat and organized and in order, so I would like a symmetrical and even similar style and look to my tattoos. This doesn’t work for other people, and thats fine because thats what tattoos are about. Individual personalities and beliefs. I love that we can express ourselves through this artform. Thanks for your article.

  3. What is an example of a theme? Flowers? Colours? Japanese? I’m trying to imagine what kind of themes people go for. I like the idea of having a theme in one section while having a different theme on another section of the body. Contrasting themes make it more interesting.

  4. Tattoos are one of the many ways of expressing your opinion, beliesf and like-dislikes. At the same time it can make you unconventional beacuse you are doing something that is not very common. This is what I love about tattoos. These tattoos are really interesting, at least for me.

  5. I know a few people that planned a theme with theirs, although not necessary it does add something to it. As far as having multiple artists involved, as long as one or all of them aren’t crappy artists that muck the entire flow of the tattoo up it can be looked at as a collection of art. similar to having multiple paintings in your house by different painters.

Leave a Reply