A renowned East Coast fixture for years, Kings Avenue tattoo is going back to basics with a new publishing project, launched by founder Mike Rubendall and artist Matt Beckerich. Their company, Neversleep Publishing, goes a step past their daily lives as tattooers and puts the nuances and backstories of what they do down on paper. The result is a multi-faceted, no- frills encyclopedia of tattoo imagery titled Tattooing’s Guide to Symbolism. The first book, to be released this winter, is only the first in a series of in-depth volumes that feature a equal amount of info, careful research, and top-of-the-line eye candy from some of the world’s most accomplished artists.
The layout of the guide is simple, hitting you first with a fully rendered piece and proceeding to explain it on the adjacent page. The passages are concise, trading excessive historical and circumstantial evidence for a few words about the role of the image in tattoos and what it is most often meant to represent. Each artwork is entirely original, sourced from the artist and chosen based on its contribution to the integrity of the tattoo world. It’s that same integrity that fueled this project from the start- two artists’ desire to preserve their craft in a way that’s not only tangible but accessible on so many levels.
As the tattoo industry explodes, an inevitable loss of originality and purpose comes with it, with the product often outweighing the significance and intention behind the art form. Tattooing’s Guide to Symbolism addresses not only artists but also those looking to gain an insider’s perspective on the diversity behind the ink. By understanding tattoos through the perspective of experienced artists, a reader gains a lens into a sacred community. It’s a welcoming one, but it also works hard to protect the dignity of its members and their work- whether they are creating or sporting it. This is, in all sense of the word, a guide- it will inform your first tattoo just as accurately as your last, teaching you as it goes. For those who are already well-versed in tattoo symbolism, this guide acts as a compilation of classics; a smoothly put-together album that explains things in a straightforward but human voice, singling out the most important details that do the given image justice. This first volume zeroes in on traditional themes in tattooing, covering the origins of today’s most prominent work and all the directions it has managed to brach off in.
Rubendall and Beckerich’s first book is a study in evolution as much as it is a pictorial dictionary, capturing tattooing in its initial glory and setting the scene for its future as a collective form of expression. The guide is something that holds enough of a human quality to come across as a loved object, carefully planned and engineered to give us an honest interpretation of the world’s most intimate form of art. Look out for Tattooing’s Guide to Symbolism at the end of this year, it would surely make a perfect gift for any tattoo enthusiast.