Nature was man’s first muse, and nothing illustrates this eternal truth better than the countless landscapes that artists, tattooists included, have created throughout the centuries. Though this artistic tradition of capturing the likeness of nature is thousands of years old, it wasn’t until the last hundred years or so that landscapes were imported into body art, and now they are represented in nearly every style. Mike Stout is one of the tattooists out there making blackwork landscapes. His portfolio, like the world we live in, is full of mountains, seas, rivers, forests, and even places that existed long before mankind.
The love of nature that eventually lead Stout to start making these blackwork vistas has been a lifelong affair. “Since I was a little kid, I’ve always been fascinated with nature and how complex and beautiful it is. I feel that we have become too detached from our natural roots and that the human race prioritizes the advancement of technology over the preservation of our natural environment,” said Stout in an interview with Don't Panic. “Why on earth would we as a species not see our own habitat and home as something worth protecting?”
Stout’s pieces reflect his concern for the environment. Most of them contain subtle ecological undertones. He frequently depicts various living organisms inhabiting the places depicted in his tattoos. By rendering a solitary deer next to a mountaintop lake, he authentically captures the ecosystem of such scenery, illustrating the symbiotic relationship between creatures and the habitats in which they thrive.
Given man’s negative impact on the planet, his landscapes become even more complex when he adds humans into the mix. Even his tiny tattoo of a mountain with a road leading up to its peak demonstrates how we alter the world around us for our own convenience, regardless of the consequences. In other pieces, he shows how we erect structures in what should probably be wildlife reserves. Each one of his scenes featuring people are sublime, but not in the Romantic sense; his landscapes capture the majesty of nature just like a painting by Caspar David Friedrich, but instead of the environment posing a threat to man, in Stout’s work, it is man who threatens the environment.
A number of Stout’s compositions are expressive of a desire for an alternate reality, in which humans haven’t tarnished the natural world. These pieces have the power to take the viewer on a trip back to the age when dinosaurs roamed the earth, or to fantasy realms where magic exists, while others shoot you to the moon, leaving you staring down at stippled and crosshatched version of our beautiful, dying planet.