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Rock Street, San Francisco

We have all heard the term “old school” but new school? New school tattoos are not actually that new. Indeed, they first came to light in the very late 1970s and only in the Californian region (where else?).

By the 1980s, new school tattoos came to prominence across the rest of the United States and largely into Europe too. This whacky style of tattoo art peaked around the late 1980s and into the 1990s but since those heady days it has waned somewhat.

It was absolutely an art form of its time and the style tended to be cartoon or caricature in nature. The body art tended to reflect characters like Popeye, Homer Simpson, superheroes or Top Cat. The lines were bold and the colours were vivid and at times, even garish.

Californians even experimented with science fiction characters, celebrities or sporting heroes of a favourite team. It was a comic style and the art was all about exaggeration. The style does still exist today but in a new format.

You can still find many new school tattoo artists camped out in stores and parlours around the San Francisco Bay area. Here, psychedelic cartoon characters and fearful adversaries can work their way onto the arms of many west coast hipsters.

Hip Hop Culture and New School

The style of new school tattoo designs was also popular among the followers of the hip hop culture. The sharp and jagged edges of the letters and the format where each one would look exaggerated or blown up before being coloured in with a range of bright contrasts was a popular theme. It emulated the graffiti style of the time and the subject matter and characters were always a little fantastical.

New School Art Has Evolved

The new format of this type of tattoo art is slightly evolved from the styles we saw in the 1980s. New school takes a different approach to traditional styles. Eagles and hearts are still a part of new school tattoo designs, but they would tend to be more like a cartoon bird of prey or a beating heart.

New school tattoo artwork tends to be all about having very few rules and lots of bright and vivid colours. It is art nouveau and Andy Warhol rolled into one and its popularity is very much alive and well in the ink parlours of the western world today.

This post was written by J Michael Taylor. J Michael Taylor is an artist and owner of Black Amethyst Tattoo Gallery. Black Amethyst is a tattoo shop St Petersburg Fl. They provide an art-first approach to custom tattooing in a gallery setting.

Post Author: Dorsey Rohweder