Review: Geek Ink by Emanuele Pagani

Monday, March 5, 2018
Title: Geek Ink: The World's Smartest Tattoos for Rebels, Nerds, Scientists, and Intellectuals
Author: Emanuele Pagani
Genre: Art and Photography
Pages: 224
Published: Expected March 20, 2018
Source: publisher
Rating: 3.5/5
Exhibiting cutting-edge designs from the most sought-after and acclaimed contemporary tattoo artists worldwide, Geek Ink presents magnificent ideas for tattoos on themes from science fiction and fantasy, as well as a wide range of topics across science, mathematics, literature, and philosophy.

With commentary from creators of the Inkstinct project--which connects people with the finest tattoo art from 380,000 studios worldwide and has an Instagram fan base of more than 1 million--as well as interviews with world-renowned masters like Eva Krbdk (460K followers), David Cote (232K followers), and Thomas Eckeard (169K followers), this is the definitive tattoo inspiration sourcebook for hipsters, bookworms, scientists, academics, engineers, and, of course, geeks!
I've never reviewed an art book on APR before, but when I was offered an ARC of Geek Ink, I was over the moon. Geek tattoos are something very close to me and mine. The artist of my Bradbury piece also did a full geek sleeve for my sister, featuring Warhammer 40k, Psychonauts, Phantom of the Opera, Legend of Zelda, and Supernatual. (She also has separate Repo the Genetic Opera and a Fatal Frame pieces.) The seventh wedding anniversary gift is traditionally copper, so I sent my husband to a very nice sadist to stab a Terry Pratchett inspired "copper" badge into his arm.

The book is set up in two sections. The first is a brief profile of 25 artists from around the globe. These feature a one paragraph bio, links to their instagram and inkstinct pages, a quote from them about their art, and 8-10 samples from their portfolios. The layout and photography are high quality and do a wonderful job framing the tattoos as art.  The only problem with the samples chosen is many of the pieces are featured in the book twice, both here and either in one of collages at the beginning and end of each section or in the gallery itself.

Standouts for me were Frank Carrilho's Nikola Telsa, David Cote's Neon Vader, (the color work to make something actually appear made of neon tubing, I'm in awe,) literally every single piece by Inez Janiak, Andrea Morales' Killer Robot and The Golden Snitch and Hogwarts, PisSaro's Bejeweled Elephant, and Hugo Tatooer's entire aesthetic.

I have good taste. Morales and Carrilho appear on the cover and Cote appeared on the previous version.

The gallery was less successful. Its table of contents consists of animals, anime, astronomy, biology, botany, conceptual, cult classics, fantasy, geography, geometry, literature, psychology, science fiction, surrealism, technology, and television. Large sections like animals and botany are further divided, though not in the table of contents so you have to flip to the first page and then scan through. Animals are split into vertebrates and invertebrates, and then vertebrates are split into classes: aves, cetacea, proboscidae, reptilia, mammalia, then order: carnivora, and finally family: canidae, felidae. All this seems like an artificial way to make animal tattoos, the most popular tattoo type, seem geeky. All sciences, zoology included, are pretty geeky, but a lot of the included tattoos look like someone's pet.

The classifications are arbitrary and made it harder to look up the subjects. For example, Rob Carvalho's Fox and Rose (inspired by The Little Prince) is on page 170, Cult Classics. Meanwhile, Nora Lyasko's The Little Prince piece, The Fox and the Prince is on page 190, Literature. (Page numbers from the PDF ARC and may be changed in the final printing, of course.) A replica of Starry Night is in Surrealism, of all places. Wolverine's in Cult Classics, but Darth Vader's in Sci-Fi.

It also feels like a lot of geek culture is missing. There are only six TV tattoos, none of which are the big hitters I'd expect. No Doctor Who or Star Trek. There is an X Files, but again it's back in Cult Classics.  There are no games, video, board, or tabletop represented. Not even anything that really says hard sciences, except one representation of a caffeine molecule, (in biology, next to a skull and two stylized hearts.) There are a few under the featured artists, but if you're using the gallery to browse for ideas, you're going to have a hard time.

It's a beautiful coffee table book, but I don't know if you'll find your new ink in it.

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