Drawn This Way is our ongoing series where we explore the various latest illustrative tattoos out there.
We’ve all laid eyes on a traditional mermaid tattoo. Sailor Jerry’s work is full of them, the best traditional tattooers out there each have their own spin on them. The mermaid is its own internationally renowned mythical creature, really — the first known stories including mermaids date back as far as 1000 BC, during the Assyrian Mesopotamic Empire. There’s some debate, still, and perhaps because of their long history, about the actual origins of the mermaid myth. Did Christopher Columbus really see manatees and think they were swimming half-fish damsels? I mean, he’s not the most reliable historical source.
Most famously, there’s Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid, written in 1836, and popularized and bastardized by Disney in 1989. Those are, certainly, some of the most famous western depictions of mermaids, but the folklore goes even deeper in other cultures. Mermaids are depicted in Arabian Nights, otherwise known as One Thousand and One Nights; they feature prominently in various texts advising English kings, and act as warnings throughout Irish folktales. They feature prominently as a Slavic siren in Russian stories, and weep tears that become pearls in China. A mythological creature with such a long, long history and deep roots is bound to have wonderful multiple interpretations across cultures, but one thing is always the same — mermaids are always half human, half sea creature.
Illustrative takes on mermaids are another twist on the theme. There’s the classic siren-style, of course, but also weird tattooed maidens, half-eaten babes, anglerfish inverted mermaids, and bizarro animal hybrids. Mermaids lend themselves to all tattoo styles, really, but there’s something fun and playful about the illustrative ones — artists like Robson Carvalho and Valeria Minaci, who specialize in bringing some pizazz to their ladies, take their mermaid interpretations to the next level.
Or if you want to read more about the history, designs, and artists of Illustrative Tattoos, go check out our guide right here.