In Vintage Tattoo Flash: Volume 2, Jonathan Shaw unearths more gems from his extensive and world-renowned collection of traditional American tattoo art. Comprised entirely of previously unseen and unpublished work, Volume 2 picks up where the first volume left off—contributing a new and important body of work to the historical record of this outsider art form.
Electric tattooing as we know it today was invented in New York City at the turn of the 20th century. In the first days of American tattooing, tattoos were primarily worn by sailors and soldiers, outlaws and outsiders. The visual language of what came to be known as “traditional tattooing” was developed in those early days on the Bowery and catered to the interests of the clientele. Common imagery that soon became canon included sailing ships, women, hearts, roses, daggers, eagles, dragons, wolves, panthers, skulls, crosses, and popular cartoon characters of the era. The first tattooists also figured out that using bold outlines, complimented by solid color and smooth shading, was the proper technique for creating art on a body that would stand the test of time. In the over 100 years since then, techniques and styles have evolved, and the customer base has expanded, but the core subject matter and philosophy developed at the dawn of electric tattooing has persisted as perennial favorites through the modern era.
While most tattoos are inherently ephemeral, transported on skin until the death of the collector, a visual record exists in the form of tattoo flash: the hand-painted sheets of designs posted in tattoo shops for customers to select from. Vintage Tattoo Flash: Volume 2 represents a selection of over 100 pieces of flash from one of the largest private collections in existence and spans the first roughly 75 years of American tattooing from the 1900s Bowery, to 50s Texas, through the Pike in the 60s and the development of the first black and grey, single-needle tattooing in LA in the 70s. The book lovingly reproduces entirely unpublished sheets of original flash from the likes of Bob Shaw, Zeke Owen, Tex Rowe, Ted Inman, Ace Harlyn, Ed Smith, Paul Rogers, the Moskowitz brothers, and many, many others relatively known and unknown.
“…this one is really, really good. The thoughtful inclusion of so many unknowns, the representation for The Bowery, The Pike and LA, it works. And it tells a story in a way only another historian can really read. A fine, keen contribution to the legacy of the art itself. …if you buy any collections at all, this one is for you. It’s not only different, it’s in a class of its own. VTF2 has the best possible stuff, from the super sweet and rare…I’ve ever seen. …Beautiful. Go buy this book.” –Jeff Johnson, author of Tattoo Machine: Tall Tales, True Stories, and My Life in Ink