The style and History of Neotraditional Tattoos
Searching for a stylish and simultaneously classic tattoo idea? The best of both worlds where old school aesthetic meets modern techniques can be found in Neo-Traditional tattoos. As a relatively new style, it has been greatly influenced by historic Japanese Ukiyo-e woodblock prints, Art Nouveau, and Art Deco Movements These aesthetics, combined with American Traditional Tattoo art create a uniquely recognizable style. It is a traditional approach to art with the helping hand of modern technology. Color palettes and patterns are noticeably informed by Eastern style. Art Nouveau delivers the timeless look of rich colors, intricate highlights, and opulent use of lace, pearls, and golden filigree. Art Deco lends itself to the geometric ornamentation, lavish detail, and appreciation for symmetrical patterns seen subtly in these tattoos. All of these important movements and aesthetics inform the style we love and know today as Neo-Traditional!
Torch by Lucky Malony
Cardinal by Jake Tong
Anchor by Dev
Somewhat less obviously prevalent in neo-traditional styling is the relevance of the Art Deco movement. Much less excessive in ornamentation as its Victorian counterparts, Art Deco captured the imagination as society strove for innovation. Gently flowing lines gave way to linework that is streamlined to be more modern, straightforward even. Excitingly dynamic, this is often referred to as the aesthetic of “a new age.” On the cutting edge of machine technology, sleek geometric designs were all the rage. Although not quite to the extent which Art Nouveau correlates to neo-traditionalism, Art Deco is represented by the symmetry, slick design, and glamor. As founding movements for Neo-Traditionalism, Art Nouveau and Art Deco form an alliance that makes for such a memorable tattoo style!
Luna Moth and Poppies by Tomma
In order to fully appreciate Neo-Traditional tattoos, it’s best to begin by taking a peek at the history of the Art Nouveau movement. Widely in use from 1890 through 1910, Art Nouveau was itself inspired by Japanese aesthetics. Much of the Eastern artwork on show in Europe during this period can be clearly seen to influence Art Nouveau’s bold linework and color combinations. Moving beyond solely visual art, it encompassed everything from architecture, interior design, and fashion to furniture. Some key markers of this refined style are sweeping “whiplash” curves, luscious botanical patterns, elegant filigree or gold leaf detailing, and the natural forms of portraits and florals. Neo-Traditional tattooing translates the Art Nouveau movement through gracefully organic shapes, into ink on skin.
Snake Tattoo by Lucky Malony
Ganesha by Anne Morando
DeathHead Hawkmoth by Anna C
We’ve assembled some great examples from our talented artist’s portfolios that demonstrate Neo-Traditional tattoos. Portraits of beautiful women with long lashes and wavy curls are a classic example of neo trad. Plants and animals, marine life, insects, and nature are all heavily drawn on for inspiration as well. No matter the main focus of this style, several key elements set Neo-Traditional apart to guarantee a unique piece.
Gomez and Morticia by Victoria
Cactus by Jake Tong
Whale by Anne Morando
Hearted Hand by Dev
Fuck Off by Dev
Songbird by Anna Clarke
Some of the techniques consistently used to create Neo Trad include thick black outlines, with varying line width within the piece. There is a clear main focus, typically on a figure or symbol, oftentimes framed ornately. It is illustrative and gently creates the illusion of depth, the execution of this dimensionality creates a soft, romantic art style. Nature, organic shapes, figures and florals flowing together are all common subject matter. In today’s world, much of the symbolism has been dismissed in lieu of personal connection to classic pieces. Another important aspect of this style is the bold use of colors. Oftentimes majestic hues of purple, gold, velvety greens, and ochre yellows appear throughout. Reminiscent of art nouveau’s muted color palette, neo-traditional plays subtly with hue, the exception being the modern introduction of vibrant pigments. Although some pieces feature saturated colors, it should be noted that this style of tattoo also translates easily into black and grey. Shading is subtle and blends all the way out to the edges of black outlines.
Goldilocks by Lucky Malony
Trash Devil by Victoria
Death Tarot by Momma Tomma
Whether you’re drawn to the meaning behind the art, or simply the timeless aesthetic, we think Neo-Traditional looks fantastic on anyone!
Written and researched by Joy Payne 2022