What does the word “artist” mean when a person calls themselves a tattoo artist? Does it mean they’re only an artist in the world of tattoo art, or does it mean they’re an artist who makes tattoo art?

More often than not the best tattoo artists will consider themselves an artist first and tattooing being one of their mediums. They were most likely making art from a young age before even being aware of tattoos, and in some cases it might not even be their favourite medium just simply the one that pays the bills.

Good tattoo artists are constantly creating, even when they’re not tattooing or designing for tattoos, some draw, some paint, some sculpt, some do everything. The desire to create extends beyond tattoo art alone, they are driven to express themselves as individuals.

Working in other mediums allows the tattoo artist the freedom to explore their creativity without being guided by someone else in one way or another. They can create art that is truly theirs and not a collaboration of sorts. This exploration of other styles and techniques can then in turn influence the way they approach tattooing, resulting in unique unmistakable tattoo art.

‘13 Liners’ is an exhibition highlighting the work of 13 of the finest local tattoo artists. This year is the 4th Edition of the group show, previous editions have featured silkscreened works on paper, screen printed works on wood, and original works of the artists, respectively. In this edition the 3D realm has been explored for the first time.

Each artist was given an identical set of 3D printed “praying hands” based on the classic religious tattoo image. The hands were painted a flat grey and came with the simple brief to create an artwork using the hands in whichever way they chose. The artists were also asked to submit an A2 artwork to accompany the hands.

No overall theme was set so as to allow for complete creative freedom and the result clearly demonstrates the individuality of all the artists. Thirteen tattoo artists all with the same starting point and the outcome is 13 sets of completely unique works.