The most popular type of tattoo in Canada is the traditional art form that features black and white art on the subject’s skin. This and a few other designs are included in a new book that compiles the work of Canadian tattoo artists over the last 80 years.

The design featuring dogs is one of the more recent creations, with the motif appearing in several different forms, including a paw print, a canine silhouette and a stylized dog bone. The design’s origin is credited to Scott Black, who drew inspiration from the animal bone motifs found in his native Scotland and also the tribal designs found in Africa. 

The Rise Of Tattoo

The first modern tattoos were designed in the early part of the 20th century and used for decorative purposes, primarily on women’s faces. However, it wasn’t until the 1950s that the practice received mainstream media attention and entered the cultural realms of art and design.

During this time, celebrities, such as Elizabeth Taylor and Ava Gardner, were known to have been inked, inspiring the masses to take up the practice. A few bold souls even opted for entire-body tattooing, with Jack Nicholson and Pete Doherty among the famous faces who sported such designs.

Tattooing wasn’t just limited to celebrities though, with the practice quickly becoming popular among members of the opposite sex, as well as young people across the world. At the start of the 21st century, tattoos were considered fashionable and a status symbol, with even the most mainstream celebrity-endorsed brands, such as Chanel and Dior, offering custom-made designs for their customers.

Why Are People Inking?

While tattoos can be a fashion statement and a reflection of culture and creativity, they are also a form of body art that provides personal and often symbolic meanings to the people who wear them. In certain cultures, tattoos have been used for centuries as a form of self-expression, with meanings ranging from simple or traditional designs that hold no hidden layers of meaning to elaborate and unique pieces of art that provide a portal to the wearer’s mind.

Among the most recognizable tattoos are those featuring skulls and crossbones, which historically have been used as a sign of devil worship in Spain and Portugal. Today, those who opt for this design might wish to celebrate their love for British rock band The Smiths, known for their albums The Queen Is Dead and Meat Is Murder. The albums’ artwork features a skull with the words “Meat is Murder” written across its forehead.

Other tattoos feature traditional symbols, such as the Yin Yang symbol, which means balance and duality, the ancient Greek symbol of inspiration, φαῖστρον (Piserton), or the Native American ‘Rainbow Serpent’ symbol.

Among the more unique pieces of ink that can be found on tatoos are portraits of animals such as snakes or horses, as in the case of English poet William Blake, or scenes from World War II, as seen on the forearms of many Korean War veterans.

The Best Canadian Tattoo Books

With the evolution of ink technology and the increasing availability of custom-made designs through online marketplaces, such as Etsy and Hello Pretty, the amount of information available to potential customers has multiplied. This, coupled with the global popularity of tattoos, has inspired several publishers to compile detailed books that contain everything from historical information on the subject to galleries of stunning examples of tattoo artistry.

A–Z of Tattoos: The Definitive Illustrated Guide To Self-expression

If you’re considering getting inked but aren’t sure where to start, this is the ultimate resource for those seeking inspiration. Published by Pavilion Books, this 352-page art, fashion and history tome is an essential item for anyone interested in the subject.

Featuring over 300 stunning and eye-catching black and white photographs as well as detailed descriptions of tattoo history and culture, this guide will assist readers in finding the perfect design to suit their needs and desires.

In addition to providing an encyclopaedic list of tattoos, the book contains advice on how to go about choosing the right artist for the job, as well as tips on how to care for and maintain your new design. The last part of the book focuses on tattoo funding and financing, including information on grants and scholarships that can be used to pay for college or university education and how to set up a basic budget for maintenance and living costs.

Written by tattoo artist and historian Timeless Concepts, this isessential reference for anyone interested in the subject. In addition to providing an encyclopaedic list of tattoos, the book also provides readers with vital information on the subject’s historical evolution, as well as an essential how-to-find-the-right-artist guide. Timeless Concepts is a well-known figure in the tattoo world and a contributor to this book; he has previously designed and written for iconic British magazine Tribe and designed album art for the band Placebo.

Skulls and Crossbones: Portraits of Pain

The first English-language guide to skull tattoos, written by Spanish artist Luis Miguel Perez Berrocal, is a must-read for anyone seeking to complete their collection of this trendy design.

Published by Phaidon Books, this 224-page visual feast will appeal to fans of black metal music and culture, especially those who enjoy Aphex Twin and Diamanda Galás.

While Perez Berrocal’s earlier works were focused on depicting dragons and other fantastical creatures, the artist behind the bestselling guide Skulls and Crossbones decided to give portraits of pain a shot. Accordingly, this book is chock-full of intricate designs that feature skull imagery, as well as the more traditional crossbones, often in conjunction with skeletons, ghosts and other disturbing imagery.

Some of the more notable pieces of art featured within include a panther, a skull wearing a crown and the aforementioned dragons. In accordance with the artist’s interest in metal music and culture, many of the book’s designs feature symbols associated with such groups as Iron Maiden and Hellhammer, as well as the logos of some of their albums. Interestingly, the book contains no illustrations other than those of the designs themselves.

Visions Of War: Picturing The Beauty And Horror Of The Second World War

Another essential resource for fans of black metal music and culture is Visions Of War, an illustrated book that provides an in-depth look at the fashion and designs associated with the Second World War.

Published by Phaidon, this 360-page hardcover will be a valuable addition to any collection, especially one focused on the subject matter.

The designs found within Visions Of War are often harrowing, featuring all manner of grotesque imagery that will unsettle even the most hardened reader.

The book features over 200 black and white illustrations that span a variety of styles, from botanical art to portraits of soldiers and scenes from World War II. The designs are attributed to a number of internationally acclaimed artists, including Ross McLean, Martin Churnetsky, Stephen Oliver and George Bidwell. The piece de resistance, however, is the breathtaking and monumental piece of art that depicts the sinking of the Titanic, which was designed by Oliver and features one of his trademark sunsets, lapping at the ocean’s edge, as the titanic sinks below the waves.

An incredible feat of graphic design, this book is essential for fans of the subject matter.

The Artistry Of Canadian Tattoo Artists

Finally, let’s not forget about the incredible contributions made by Canadian tattoo artists to the world of fashion and design. This section is a must-read for anyone seeking to know more about the incredible designs created by some of the country’s most talented and creative practitioners.

This year alone, many Canadian tattoo artists have put out some wonderful pieces of work, with each offering a unique perspective on the meaning of self-expression.

To celebrate the artistry of these practitioners, let’s take a look at some of their most stunning pieces of art.

Tattooing Is Forever: A Canadian Perspective

One of the first books to explore the subject of Canadian tattoos in-depth is Tattooing Is Forever, written by artist, designer and historian Timeless Concepts. A unique perspective on the subject, this book examines the practice from a Canadian standpoint, with contributions by artists Mandy Moon, David Bishai, Jonny Wu, Jona Bechtolt and many more. This is a must-read for anyone seeking to learn more about the fascinating world of Canadian tattoos, as well as fans of the subject matter.