SESSIONS: Mike Reed Tattoos a Traditional Take on Erotic Imagery

SESSIONS: Mike Reed Tattoos a Traditional Take on Erotic Imagery

Reed's American traditional style tattoos are clean, simple, and bold — just like they should be.

“You can make out that tattoo from across the street.” This is the single greatest compliment that you can give to a traditional tattooer, and Mike Reed’s work lives up to that ideal, even when he is working with subject matter that might be a little controversial.


In the video below, Reed, tattooing at the Philadelphia Tattoo Arts Convention via Florida’s Control Tattoo, tattoos a loving tribute to kink with a strong, traditional design.

Reed's style is clean, simple, and bold — everything a good traditional tattoo has to be. Foregoing the bells and whistles showcases the innate strength in the American traditional tattoo style and reminds us that simplicity is strength.


The simplicity of his style makes such a sexually charged piece like this a little easier to handle; it’s playful whereas a photorealistic tattoo may come across as simply pornographic. Of course, sexually suggestive tattoos are almost as old as the art itself. Pin-up tattoos were a staple in the Sailor Jerry days, so artists like Reed, Onnie O’Leary and Tamara Santibanez are essentially taking the popular motif and updating it for our more risqué modern sensibilities.


We hate dealing in platitudes, but "bold will hold" is indisputable fact. When combined with the excellent mechanical ability that Reed possess in his laser-sharp linework and penchant for whip-shading, these are tattoos that are timeless and built to last.

Check out more of Mike Reed's impeccable traditional work on his Instagram. You can see plenty of other tattooers hard at work in our SESSIONS series, including Shanghai Kate Hellenbrand, Nene, Adam Guy Hays, Phil Hatchet-Yau and Guy Waisman.

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