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When most people hear the word “fairy” they also think of wizards, unicorns and flying horses. Often found alongside those images, as well as those of dragons, big guys with swords and scantily-clad maidens, fairies have been a popular part of Western tattoo culture since the 1970s.
Most often, fairy tattoos are based on illustration art. The world of science fiction and fantasy has several artists noted especially for their fairy designs and paintings. Sometimes the tattoo client will want a reproduction of a favorite image, other times the original artwork is used to inform and inspire an original piece of art that is meant to represent the visual style of the original illustrator.
There is so much variety in the fairy world, you can pretty much have your fairy custom-designed to your specifications. One of the key elements to nearly every fairy image is the wings of the fairy. Almost universally, fairies are depicted as winged creatures. Sometimes they appear very human after that, other times the faces and features are more fantastical or animalistic. Hair styles, skin coloring, eyes, and teeth are all variable. Is your fairy benevolent or malevolent? Some fairies are helpful and friendly, others are more like little tricksters. Does your fairy have wings like a butterfly, or more like a bat?
Fairy tattoos can be tiny little designs, hidden on an hip or on a shoulder. Or they can be large images, rendered as a singular design, or your fairy can be part of a larger scene, possibly with the aforementioned unicorn or peeking out from behind a flowering branch. Often the wings allow the design to be fitted well to the shape of the upper arm or lower leg.
Two artists particularly stand out for their fairy designs. One is Brian Froud. He is the illustrator behind a wide range of art books depicting fairies, dragons, elves, gnomes. He’s also worked collaboratively, handling creature design for the movie THE DARK CRYSTAL, and working with Monty Python-alumnus Terry Jones on a series authored by the ficticious Lady Cottington. This character, written by Jones, shows her collection of “pressed” faeries, illustrated by Froud, as though they were quickly caught as the pages of the young girl's diary journal were slammed shut on them.
Illustrator Amy Brown has virtually made a career of painting fairies. Her fairy images span the range from playful sprites to bold-winged goddesses. Most often her images are named after a season, spirit or energy, so be sure to check the names of images that you like or don’t like to see what the artist was expressing in the illustration. You might like to have your tattooist combine parts of different fairies to make the expressesion exactly what you want.
If you're looking for tattoo designs or ideas, you might like
500 Tattoo Designs
by Henry Ferguson
The Sketchbook: 80 Unique Designs by the World's Finest Tattoo Artists
by Nancy Heimburger and Marco Bratt
Content copyright © 2013 by Rae Schwarz. All rights reserved.
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