As the years go by, tattooing has become an increasingly popular way to express yourself. In 2012, a poll found that 21% of adults had at least one tattoo. For people that are between the ages of 18 to 29, that number is closer to 40%. This form of body art is more than a passing fad, and as a result, tattooists and clients alike are getting really creative with their techniques and imagery.
From watercolor-style paintings to graceful abstract structures to cubist-inspired portraits, the range of tattoos in 2015 was stunning and it’s thanks to the incredible tattooists that have emerged, sharing their stunning work through social media. If this year was any indication, we’re sure 2016 will be just as inspiring.
Check out some of the most creative breakout tattoo artists of 2015, below.
Continuous Line Portrait by Mo Ganji
Tattoo artist Mo Ganji makes a strong visual impact with a relatively simple drawing style. Opting for bold lines and stippled dots, the Berlin-based creative produces a single, elegant image that gracefully flows across the skin. He does this with a single line that you can trace from the beginning of the drawing to its end.
Vintage-Inspired Animal Portraits by Pony Reinhardt
Pony Reinhardt’s naturalistic tattoos are rich in detail and visual texture, incorporating elements of the natural world that are reminiscent of vintage engravings. Although they recall times past, Reinhardt adds a modern twist to her imagery with creative mashups of animal portraits, woodsy scenes, and strawberry patches.
Watercolor Tiger by Jason Adelinia
Artist Jason Adelinia creates colorful tattoos that celebrate nature and wildlife. Completed in a watercolor style, this tiger portrait recalls the carefree fluidity of work produced with a paintbrush rather than tattoo machine. Pigment appears in drips and splotches rather than rigid lines, adding elements of abstraction to an otherwise realistic rendering.
Architectural Diptych by Thieves of Tower
Thieves of Tower is an artistic collaboration between tattooist Houston Patton and creative director Dagny Fox. Together, they crafted this intricate landscape scene that spans the back of a client’s’ legs. The visual style references Medieval woodcuts and engraving, and it’s intended to take us “back to a time of darkened beauty.”
Cross Stitch Portraits by Eva Krbdk
Turkish tattooer Eva Krbdk combines craft and body art with a unique blend of “cross stitch” tattoos. The intricate designs are composed of small, x-shaped “stitches” that together, produce three pop culture-inspired portraits. This goes against traditional tattooing practices that favor dark, solid outlines, and instead uses color and a repeated shape to imply form.
Glitch Hedgehog by Lesha Lauz
Russian artist Lesha Lauz, aka Alexey, produces unique tattoos that will strike a chord with anyone who has ever used a computer. Here, he depicts a colorful hedgehog and obscures part of its portrait with tiny squares, effectively creating a “glitch.” The otherwise clear image has “loaded” incorrectly–typically a frustrating experience. With this tattoo, however, it reads as an adorable and play nod to the digital phenomena.
Exquisite Scientific Tattoo by Luciano Del Fabro
Luciano Del Fabro employs a minimalist aesthetic to depict the subtle beauty of the natural world. This carefully-etched tree was completed using black ink and countless stippled dots, which gives it a three-dimensional feel. The delicate marks, coupled with an incredible attention to detail, evoke the feeling of old engravings or scientific drawings.
Look-Alike Cat Portrait by Sol Tattoo
Meaningful tattoos come in all shapes and sizes. Sol Tattoo in Seoul, South Korea permanently adorned their client’s skin with a portrait of their cat, recreating its defining markings and features. This look-alike tattoo is small in size, which allows the wearer to discreetly take their furry friend wherever they go.
Radiating Ornamental Design by Jessica Kinzer
Jessica Kinzer has a gift for producing beautiful tattoos. Although she has only been practicing since 2014, she shows an incredible talent for etching elegant, meticulous designs that are reminiscent of mandalas. This half-sleeve piece also features flourishes and fine dotwork that diverges from a central point. Here, the result is artwork that’s as bold as it is complex.
Channeling Pablo Picasso by Peter Aurisch
Tattooist Peter Aurisch translates Pablo Picasso’s iconic cubist style into colorful body art. Like the famed artistic movement, Aurisch dissembles shapes and reassembles them into an abstracted composition, representing multiple viewpoints at the same time. These designs are further distorted by the body, as the image wraps around the arm and wrist. This is not an issue for the Aurisch, however–his work is strikingly clear with bold lines and bright pigment, making it instantly readable and eye catching.
Surreal Nature Fused with Geometry by Okan Ukun
Istanbul-based artist Okan Ukun fuses bold geometric shapes with naturalistic subjects, crafted in a minimalist style that favors symbolism rather than literal scenes. Using a combination of flat and realistic styles, Ukun’s tattoos are open-ended and perfect for personal interpretation.
Flowing Linear Design by Chaim Machlev
Tattoos by Chaim Machlev flow from one end of the body to the other. The Berlin-based artist uses intricate, crisscrossing lines to form twisted, structural designs that are both elegant and mesmerizing. This incredible piece wouldn’t have been possible had Machlev not followed his passion–in 2012, he quit his job in IT to be a tattoo artist and hasn’t looked back since.
Floral Tattoos on a Breast Cancer Survivor by David Allen
Artist David Allen works with a special kind of client to perform an unusual type of tattooing request–he works with women who have survived breast cancer and covers their scars with blooming floral pieces. Through this unique tattoo, he turned a painful, life-altering situation into something permanently beautiful.