What is freehand and why is it so fascinating?

I have been working on-and-off in freehand for a number of years, and this year I have been doing it a lot. From tiny to huge pieces, I have just had the right work in that suits this process. It can be intimidating from a client’s perspective, so, enthused and inspired by my recent creations, I thought it time to share some thoughts on it with you.

So, what is freehand tattooing? The term freehand denotes the specific part of the design process- the design is sketched directly onto the skin, rather than being pre-prepared on a stencil that is applied to the skin. 

Freehand is an advanced technique that takes years of skill and confidence building to execute. 

It can, when used in the right context, be an advantageous design tool. Why? Stencils are an excellent tool for certain jobs, but freehand is a more organic technique. It allows the artist to scale and structure your tattoo to fit the body perfectly. A well composed piece is the foundation for success in executing a beautiful tattoo. The body is a 3-D canvas, and so deserves to be considered and treated as such. It can be difficult for an artist to relay their vision correctly using only 2-D media. Undoubtedly, traditional and digital art techniques are useful for concept development, but actually quite limiting in their own way. We as tattooists work with the subtleties of the human form, and these are only present in our living, breathing canvasses. Each person is so unique, we strive to capture their individuality in the pieces we craft for them. 

When an artist is at a point in their career where they have studied and tattooed enough to know that they can faithfully bring their ideas to life every time, then freehand can be the way forward. 

A tattoo does not just exist in a single moment (despite what the static visions we constantly see online would have us believe). It is a process that is seeded in our life experiences, and continues until shortly after we expire.

The finished tattoo

As a creator, often the raw connection to the ‘in the moment’ creative process is the crux of the outcome. When painting, drawing, designing or tattooing, an experienced creator will have accumulated years of knowledge. I call it a ‘tool kit’. We fill this tool kit over the years with information, tips and tricks, understanding of form and medium; an indescribable amount of useful tools. When we start to lay down a piece, we take the brief, we make it a vision. From this vision, the creative process flows from our minds, through the hands, and ultimately on to your body. We draw practical knowledge from our own unique toolkit, and we use these tools to create an {immediate}vision. From messy sketch lines grows a piece of art which truly represents the wearer in that moment. The symbiosis of your body and the artist’s mind, reflected in a unique tattoo. A true thing of beauty. 

I am not saying that every tattoo must be made freehand, merely exercising a discourse about the various ways in which we create and achieve results.

If you work with an artist whom you trust, whose work moves and inspires you, you may find that the freehand technique is the one. Listen to your creator, they will always select the tools, both literally and metaphorically, that will work best for your tattoo. 

Communicating well together about the concept is the first step, and from there, you may find that letting go of the reins and flowing with their vision is an exciting, beautiful and fulfilling experience.

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