Most Inspirational Historical Tattoo Artists

Sailor Jerry

Probably the most widely recognized name in the Traditional Tattoo scene, Norman Keith Collins was born on January 14th, 1911 in Reno, Nevada before he moved to Northern California and spent his childhood there. When he was young he was a freight train hopper, taking them from one coast to another. He eventually met a man named "Big Mike" from Palmer, Alaska who taught him how to tattoo using the hand-poke method - literally just poking the skin with a needle. Later in the 1920's he met a man named Tatts Thomas who taught him how to use an electric machine similar to the ones used today. He honed his skills tattooing local drunks before eventually setting sail on the Pacific Ocean and finally settling in Hawaii. He spent a few years enlisted in the US Navy where he was exposed to the art of Southeast Asia which would heavily influence his style in the years to come. His contributions to the art of tattooing are abundant. He invented the pigment for the color purple which up to that point, artists only dreamed of being able to use. He was even one of the first to take hygiene more seriously inventing single use needles, and being one of the first artists to use a proper autoclave to keep his equipment sterile and safe. The reason he is such an inspiration to me is he took all of the work of the artists that came before him, and modernized them in an extensive hand painted tattoo flash collection. 

Don Ed Hardy

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The name Ed Hardy is most recognizable for the clothing brand donning his artwork. However, his contributions to the world of tattooing and art in general, go far deeper. He was born in 1945 in Costa Mesa, California where he spent most of his youth. Hardy attended school at the San Fransisco Art Institute graduating with a bachelor of fine arts degree in printmaking. He eventually met his mentor Sailor Jerry Collins who taught him about the deep history of traditional tattooing. Utilizing his mentors connections, he went to Japan in 1973 to study Japanese traditional under tattoo master Horihide. Hardy took elements from all of his inspirations to create his own unique brand of tattooing combining Americana and Japanese traditional in a way that had never been done before.