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Where to Find Inspiration for Tattoos

Updated on July 30, 2012
A quote from my grandmother's journal, done in her exact handwriting
A quote from my grandmother's journal, done in her exact handwriting

How many times have you thought to yourself, "I want another tattoo, but I don't know what?" I've found myself in that predicament many times since I first started getting tattoos. Everyone who has at least one knows that tattoos are an addiction; even though they are painful, you always want more--even if you don't know what to get!

I was cleaning out my grandmother's house after she passed away when I came across a journal in her nightstand. She had started keeping it in 2008, when she was first diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer, and the entries spanned the following two years until she lost her battle.

My grandmother and I had a bond that just wasn't typical, it came from such a higher, stronger place that it makes all other earthly connections pale in comparison. She saved my baby teeth, my locks of hair, my baby jewelry, my Baptismal candle; she documented my every milestone in such a detailed way you'd have thought I was her firstborn child, though obviously I wasn't. I wasn't even her first grandchild, yet somehow I was always hers. Her death was such a profound loss in my life, so it was a great comfort to find her journal and read her final thoughts. Even at the very end and in constant pain, she still said, "God is good."

Inspiration sneaks up on you like that. I knew immediately that I would get one of the quotes from her journal tattooed on me, and that I would replicate it in her handwriting. I ended up getting "Earth has no sorrow that Heaven cannot heal" on my forearm.

Handwriting Tattoos

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"Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" by Hunter S. Thompson"The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood"Ozma of Oz" by Frank L. Baum"Perks of Being a Wallflower" by Stephen Chbosky"Song of Myself", a poem by Walt Whitman"Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening", a poem by Robert Frost
"Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" by Hunter S. Thompson
"Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" by Hunter S. Thompson
"The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood
"The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood
"Ozma of Oz" by Frank L. Baum
"Ozma of Oz" by Frank L. Baum
"Perks of Being a Wallflower" by Stephen Chbosky
"Perks of Being a Wallflower" by Stephen Chbosky
"Song of Myself", a poem by Walt Whitman
"Song of Myself", a poem by Walt Whitman
"Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening", a poem by Robert Frost
"Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening", a poem by Robert Frost

Books and Poetry

Whenever I am reading a new book, I am sure to keep a pen nearby in case there are parts I want to underline. I do this so that I can go back and easily find the quotes later. I've been an avid reader since I was four-years old, so I have no shortage of favorites. I often think that I'd tattoo my entire back with literary quotes if I could. There are so many fantastic authors whose works are full of amazing quotes: Anais Nin, Jeanette Winterson, Henry Rollins, Nietzsche, Jonathan Safran Foer, Audrey Niffenegger and Nicole Krauss are just a few of my many favorites.

A literary tattoo could be in the form of a direct quote, or it could be a little more vague, such as a meaningful page number, or the logo on the dust jacket.

Poetry is another great option. Books of poems by Rumi, Leonard Cohen, Hafiz, Walt Whitman, e.e. cummings, and Robert Frost are guaranteed to inspire.

Quote Ideas for Tattoos: Books & Poems

  • Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life. - JK Rowling
  • We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are. - Anais Nin
  • There is no discovery without risk, and what you risk reveals what you value. - Jeanette Winterson
  • And the trouble is, if you don't risk anything, you risk even more. - Erica Jong
  • And I come to realise that all my small today's, the way I act, will lead into my tomorrows. - Luke Davis
  • When you are Real you don't mind being hurt. - The Velveteen Rabbit
  • The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I've got promises to keep. And miles to go before I sleep. And miles to go before I sleep. - Robert Frost

Children's Books & Illustrations

Think back to the favorite books you read as a child. What was so compelling that made you want to read and re-read a particular book? Children's books are usually meant to teach a lesson; sometimes the lesson is obvious, like Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree or Dr. Seuss' The Lorax, but other times the message is more subtle, and we don't realize what it meant until we are older. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams was a favorite of mine growing up because I loved animals (stuffed animals and real ones), and it made me very sad that the little boy had to give up his beloved toy. It wasn't until I re-read the book when I was older that I noticed the themes about feeling included, and questions about what it meant to become real.

A tattoo inspired by a children's doesn't necessarily have to be a direct quote from the text the way it is with novels and poetry. In fact, a more fun idea would be to get an illustration from a children's book.

"One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish" by Dr. Seuss
"One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish" by Dr. Seuss
"Horton Hears a Who" by Dr. Seuss
"Horton Hears a Who" by Dr. Seuss
"Invention" by Shel Silverstein
"Invention" by Shel Silverstein
"The Little Prince" by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
"The Little Prince" by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Truffula tree from "The Lorax" by Dr. Seuss
Truffula tree from "The Lorax" by Dr. Seuss
"Where the Wild Things Are" by Maurice Sendak
"Where the Wild Things Are" by Maurice Sendak
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The Persistence of Memory by Salvador DaliThe Last Supper by Leonardo da VinciRaphael's Angels by RaphaelThe Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh
The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali
The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali
The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci
The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci
Raphael's Angels by Raphael
Raphael's Angels by Raphael
The Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh
The Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh

Paintings, Scultpures & Other Works of Art

I've loved Salvador Dali's surrealistic artwork since I was a teenager. I've always thought about how cool it would be to get his melting clocks (as seen in his painting The Persistence of Memory) dripping off the side of my forearms, or to get a half-sleeve featuring his long-legged elephants from The Temptation of St. Anthony and the butterflies from his (Untitled) Landscape with Butterflies. I've seen beautiful back piece tattoos of The Starry Night, done by post-impressionist artist Vincent Van Gogh as he stared out the window of his sanitorium in France.

If religion is important to you, there is no shortage of tattoo ideas to be found in great works of art based on biblical stories. The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci, the Sistine Chapel ceiling by Michelangelo, and Raphael's Angels by Raphael are all paintings that have been replicated in tattoo form time and time again.

Where did the inspiration for your tattoo come from?

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Movies

My best friend and I saw "Aimee & Jaguar" in the theater in 2000 and were so struck by it (it's an amazing film) that we knew we wanted to get a quote from it tattooed. We wanted to share the tattoo somehow, and we both loved the final scene where Felice says, "[I want] you. All of you. Everything! But I'd be satisfied with one single moment, so perfect, it would last a lifetime. For example, this one. This one here is great. I don't want forever. I want now. Now! Now! Now! I want loads of 'nows' and I want them til I turn old and grey." And so my best friend got I don't want forever on her upper back, and I got I only want now on my lower back.

"A Clockwork Orange"
"A Clockwork Orange"
"Edward Scissorhands"
"Edward Scissorhands"
"Garden State"
"Garden State"
"Pulp Fiction"
"Pulp Fiction"
"Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope"
"Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope"
"The Notebook"
"The Notebook"
"Fight Club"
"Fight Club"

Inspiration can be gleaned from just about anything if you open your eyes to the beauty around you. So often we hurry through life, mistakenly thinking the destination is the reward, when really it's the appreciation of the journey that brings the most joy.

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    • angel115707 profile image

      Angel Ward 4 years ago from Galveston, TX

      one of the best hubs I have seen in a while!!! I have 2 tattoos, and holding off due to the "addictive" qualities, I do want more. Still today it seems a little taboo, I mean people see tattoos as often sloppy artwork or rebellious streaks, but you brought up so many classy & respectful tattoo ideas.... now I really want another one! A quote tattoo sounds so awesome!!

    • Cristale profile image

      Cristale 4 years ago from Florida

      I like the pics and info provided! Great hub!

    • becauseilive profile image
      Author

      becauseilive 4 years ago from N.J.

      @angel115707 - Thank you so much! I could easily get tattoos ALL the time, lol, but I'm glad that I stop to think about it before rushing in and doing so. Before I got my recent tattoo in honor of my grandmother, it had been five years since I'd gotten anything at all. I'm glad I waited until I was able to get something really meaningful. But, of course, now that I got this one I'm already thinking about what to get next!

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