Welcome to Water & Ash, our series showcasing the best black and grey tattoos out there. From Chicano-style payasas to terrifyingly realistic horror tattoos, the world of black and grey is immense and intriguing. Find the best of it here each week.
Much like how you wouldn't take a person's word until you have stared them straight in the eye, don't judge a tattooist's realism until you spend some time staring into an eye tattoo they have created. When working in portraiture the eyes are often the most important part of the piece since they are capable of expressing the entire range of human emotion when captured correctly.
And just like how black and white photographs take on a sense of gravity that their color brethren just can't convey, the same can be said in the world of tattoo realism. This point can be seen most convincingly when looking at tattoos of eyes, both within a portrait or when the eye serves as the main subject matter itself. The lashes, the tear ducts, the veins, the reflection of light off the pupil — every last detail needs to be treated with care. If even one is awry the entire piece will fall apart.
Eyes don't always have to be part of a portrait, they can be the entire subject unto themselves. As you can see in the tattoo by Carlos Torres above, by adding just little bit of filigree the eye becomes a symbol of elegance.
Vetoe has the eye stand in for the sun in a delightful piece of surrealism that can't help but have some religious undertones. The eye by Niki Norberg takes things in a much darker direction, one can't help but feel a sense of dread emanating from the figure within his eye.
Sometimes the most horrifying thing we can imagine is the absence of eyes. In his portrait of the Notorious BIG, Anrijs Straume whites out the eyes of the famous rapper, giving him the appearance of an undead zombie. Victor Portugal took the eyes clean out of this skull, and then threw one into its forehead, complete with lashes that feel as if they were tendrils reaching out to get you.
In these final three tattoos you can see all the diversity possible when focusing on eyes. First, you have Bob Tyrrell showing that in the face of a monster, beady eyes and missing eyes are equally terrifying. Stefano Alcantara shows us just how much personality can be found in the eyes. And Toxyc? Well, his piece shows us exactly why the best black and grey tattoos often leave us with nightmares.
Now you have seen that eyes are truly the gateway to the soul... or in some cases, the complete lack of soul. Either way, we love black and grey eye tattoos.