Tattoo as an Artform

Tattooing has a long and varied tradition, dating back 1,000 years. During the early 19th century, the art of tattooing was brought from Polynesia to Europe by sailors, and was mainly the domain of men. In the present day, however, tattooing has become ubiquitous, with both men and women adorning their bodies with tattoos, often as a fashion statement. In fact, in America today, one in five people have tattoos, and 36% of people aged 18-29 have tattoos.

In this Discussion, you will select a specific image of a tattoo, then post a 500-750 word analysis in which you explain the primary purpose or function represented in the tattoo. You will base your analysis on the concepts from the reading and videos, as well as your own ideas and insights.

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Before you begin, review the reading and study guides for pages 20-34 of Artforms. Also, be sure to watch the Video Lecture: The Purposes and Functions of Art.

Approach this discussion as you would if you were writing a college paper. In other words, don’t just start writing in the discussion board without having a plan. I recommend that you open a Word document and write a polished 550-750 word paper, then copy and paste this into your discussion post.

  • Outline – Start with an outline and organize your analysis into separate topical paragraphs that begin with topic sentences (see below). It may be helpful to use headings.
  • First Paragraph – In your first paragraph, introduce and describe the tattoo you chose and clearly state the primary purpose or function represented in the tattoo. You will explain more in the subsequent paragraphs.
  • Subsequent Paragraphs – Support your choice of purpose or function in each of the subsequent paragraphs. Use reasoning that demonstrates a clear understanding of key concepts from the reading and videos.
  • Topic Sentences – At the beginning of each of the subsequent paragraphs, write a concise topic sentence that clearly states the key point you plan to make in that paragraph. This approach will make it easier for your reader follow your key points and how they support your choice of purpose or function.
  • Stay focused on the tattoo you are writing about and don’t wander off-topic. Support your key points with clear descriptions and observations of the image you selected.

First, you must search online for a clear image of an actual tattoo. You will post this image in Step Two and use it as the basis for your discussion. If you like, you may share images of your own tattoos. In either case, please only select images that are appropriate within the standards of this institution – NO nudity or anything too graphic, and please post images that are clear and easy to discern. High resolution images are preferred.

Helpful tip: Think out of the box. As you search for an image, don’t limit yourself to only traditional tattoos. There are so many complex, original and beautiful contemporary tattoos, out there. Select a design that is really interesting to you.

First, post the image you found in Step One. Follow these instructions that explain How to embed an Image in a Discussion Reply as a Student (Links to an external site.)

Next, in 500-750 words, explain how the tattoo you chose is an example of one of the Purposes and Functions listed below. Please note that the tattoo might be an example of a few different purposes and functions. However, you must select only one purpose or function, the one that best applies to the tattoo you chose, then cogently explain and justify your choice based on concepts from the reading and videos.

Please note that because of the personal nature of tattooing one’s body, all tattoos might be viewed as Art as Self-Expression. As such, please do not write about the tattoo as Art as Self-Expression unless the tattoo truly expresses something unique and autobiographical about the person wearing the tattoo.

Helpful tip: Before you write your post, take some time to apply what you know about each of the purposes and functions to the tattoo you chose. Write down the characteristics that would qualify the tattoo as being Art as Commentary, Art for Worship and Ritual, Art for Commemoration, etc. Do this for each purpose and function listed below. This process will help you identify the purpose and function that best applies to the tattoo you chose.

Purposes and Functions of Art

  • Art as Commentary
  • Art in Worship and Ritual
  • Art for Commemoration
  • Art for Persuasion
  • Art as Self-Expression (unique and autobiographical)

To help you think about your post, consider the following:

(You are not required to answer each of these questions. This list is included to help get you thinking.)

  • What are the main features of the tattoo? Describe them.
  • What makes it unique compared to other tattoos you’ve seen. Explain.
  • What is the level of skill or training required to execute the tattoo?
  • Is there a tradition behind the design? Describe it.
  • Is the tattoo a symbol of a group? If so, tell us about that group and why they use this style of tattoo.
  • What type of statement is being made by the person wearing the tattoo?

You are welcome to do more research about the tattoo, but it is not required. I’m mostly interested in your original thought and how well you apply concepts from the reading and videos. Remember to cite your sources and do not plagiarize or cut and paste information from the internet!

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