Tough to go wrong with a classic! I made this snake and skull tattoo loosely based on an old Ralph Johnson design for Sarah. Traditional designs like this seem to bring out very strong opinions in one direction or another on “meaning” in tattoos. Those with carefully curated designs dotted with symbols of people, places and symbols in their lives jump to dismiss a traditional design, while many with traditional tattoos laugh off the idea that a tattoo should even have meaning. When I hear opinions like these in the shop I encourage people to broaden their definition of meaning, both are valid options and can make for great tattoos! Here’s one of my favorite tattooers and writers on the matter:

“Tattoos generally function as psychic armor. Often a marker of a state of mind or events, meaning is accrued with time; the bearer explains the mark’s significance and the story of how and where it was acquired. Much of the symbolism or meaning cannot be articulated and is private to the wearer, as is any artwork to its creator or collector. By willing it to be placed on the body the tattoo collector literally becomes one with the work of art. While the art may arguably have a more profound or long-term effect than a painting or sculpture, which can be put away or sold, daily exposure over a lifetime erodes awareness. In the end, the tattoo functions as a social barometer, revealing far more about the viewer than the person wearing it. Ultimately no one else’s business, the projections, intrusions, judgments, or appreciations it triggers are indications of the viewer’s perceptions and received social notions. Tattooing will continue to provide rich fodder for the dissecting tables of academia, but at core its power defies absolute classification. At best, it fulfills the enduring role of all art: to emphatically affirm the irrational and celebrate life itself.” -Don Ed Hardy