I’ve been pondering on plans for a new tattoo of late, and I found inspiration in the most unlikely place; in the mass-produced artwork on the cover of my Android tablet.
While I tried to resist it at first, the more I looked at it, the more I felt that my new tattoo really needed to be along these lines (although obviously, not the same, because “mass produced tablet cover”) and so I started looking into the origins of this type of skull design in more detail, and was intrigued with what I found.
The image used above is a variant of a design known commonly as a sugar skull, calavera (Spanish for “skull”) or “Calavera Catrina,” and is connected to the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. Things are looking up!
Day of the Dead is celebrated in Mexico (and some other countries) around Halloween time, and involves visiting cemeteries and building small alters to invite the deceased to come back for a visit. The artwork involved in the various different designs for the holiday’s calaveras are all loaded with meaning, right down to the flowers around the crown of the skulls, which are traditionally depicted as Mexican marigolds, a common flower for offering to the spirts.
The Calavera Catrina itself is also known as the elegant skull or dapper skeleton, and is a symbol of great cultural significance in Mexico. The image was designed by Jose Guadalupe Posada in the early 20th century, and depicted the skeleton of a woman dressed in upper class European finery, with a large hat. The design was intended as a satirical representation of the trend at the time for native Mexicans to emulate European fashion and traditions, despite that continent’s history of repression of the Mexican people, leading up to the Mexican revolution of 1910.
I love everything about the Calavera Catrina history and imagery, and I particularly love the fact that death and the Day of the Dead in Mexico is a colourful, joyful event rather than something morose and spooky, and the designs, colours and imagery associated with it all are both dark and twisty, and yet also celebratory and uplifting.
So I have yet to decide upon my ultimate tattoo idea; some of my favourite designs that I will likely dump wholesale on my tattooist’s desk to work from include this deliciously colourful design,
and this contrasting black and white image.
This additional image isn’t strictly what I’m after from my future tattoo, and yet I am very drawn to it nonetheless!