Friday, June 21, 2013

Booknote: Musical Ink

Jon Blacker, Musical Ink. Atglen (PA): Schiffer Publishing, 2013.

ISBN: 978-0-7643-4443-5.

Genre: Art and photography
Subgenre: tattoo art

The book is a very nice collection of black and white photographs of musicians and performers who tell a story about one of their tattoos. The artists choose which tattoo to discuss; their reasons for choosing a tattoo range from whimsical to serious and moving.

Music and tattoos have been together for a long time. We often think of metal or rock artists having tattoos, but artists in other genres from hip hop to country music to opera have tattoos as well. Blocker strives to show that diversity through the artists selected. As he writes in his introduction:

"There are as many different reasons for wearing tattoos as there are people who wear them. Everyone has a story and every one has a story; it can have a deeply moving heartfelt meaning, a really funny tale, or simply be just because" (5). 

We get to read and see some of those stories. Often, when artists become parents, like other tattoo enthusiasts, they get inked to commemorate their children. One example is Erik "Everlast" Shrody who got some ink to celebrate the birth of his daughter. In this vein, I also liked Phil Demmel's tattoo, which is a footprint of his son on his own foot, so every step he takes, his boy is with him. Loss is also remembered as other artists choose to memorialize someone dear who has passed on. Other tattoos may be done for rebellion or fun. Each tattoo here is as unique as the person wearing it, and the author has chosen an eclectic group to share their tattoos and stories with us. Their tattoos range from full arm sleeves to playful small designs to various Japanese styles.

The book includes an introduction by the author. It then features an interview with celebrity tattoo artist Kat Von D, where she talks about the connections she sees between musicians and tattoos. She provides a bit of the tattoo artist's perspective. Next, we get the portraits. The book features 62 musicians and performers. For these portraits, we get a photo of the artist and a close-up photo of the tattoo they have chosen to display for us. After the portraits, we get some short biographies of the artists. I think these biographies could have been integrated into the narrative pages rather than segregating them to the back of the book. That small detail could make the book a bit more accessible to readers who may not be as familiar with some of the artists. The book then concludes with a small explanation of the infrared (IR) technique used for the photos. 

There are some small issues with the book. One, the photos are in black and white. Now, they are not just monochrome photos. As the author explains in the book, he uses an infrared (IR) spectrum technique that "allows for a much higher contrast between the skin and the ink" (142). The tattoos look good. I mention the color issue because there are some tattoos that I wish were photographed in color; this is because the artists mention how color played a role in choosing a tattoo, designing it, or placing it on the body. So I can't fully appreciate those details in those cases. Two, some of the tattoos are not displayed to full advantage. For instance, a chest tattoo being partially covered by a pendant, which takes away from being able to fully see the art. 

Overall, I do think this can be an enjoyable book. It features a pretty diverse group of artists including folks like Dave Navarro (who many readers may recently know from his appearance as host on Spike TV's Ink Master) and Sammy Hagar. However, there are some issues that, had they been addressed, could have made for a better reading experience. Fans of music and tattoos will likely be interested in this volume.

Readers' Advisory note: Readers who like this book may also like Generation Ink, which I reviewed previously.

Disclosure note: This review copy was provided by the publisher via NetGalley as an e-book review copy in exchange for an honest review. There, we have appeased The Man once more. The book was scheduled for publication May 30, 2013, so it should be out in stores by now.

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