The number of people searching for “Bird Tattoos” on the internet is curiously high. The seeming increase of social acceptance of tattoos has created a large audience that is interested in getting tattooed but doesn’t really know where to start. The internet of course is just as good a place to start as any. Or so most people seem to think.
Unfortunately, if you try Google-ing “Bird Tattoos” you’re likely to get some mixed results. From the beautiful to the questionable, typing “bird tattoos” into Google generates a broad swath of quality, but a surprisingly limited amount of creativity. But why waste your time sifting through hundreds of images online? Take a minute and check out the incredible and creative bird tattoos being done by local Richmond tattoo artists .
Bird Tattoos By Richmond Tattoo Artists
If you dig around online for bird tattoos, odds are you’re going to see a lot of traditional style swallows and doves, maybe the occasional traditional or “old school” style hawk…and odds are good that of those tattoos, most will be pretty good–but they won’t be especially unique. When we searched we were rather dismayed to find an overwhelming number of dandelions dissolving into birds and Nicholas Sparks quotes (It’s probably safe to assume the latter group doesn’t even know that they should feel bad about having anything he’s done If traditional is what you’re going for, then you might as well stop now. If you’re looking for some inspiration that’s a little outside of the norm, then you’ve come to the right place. We’re going to showcase some of the best bird tattoos we’ve seen around Richmond.
The Modern Approach to Bird Tattoos
Just ‘Cause It’s A Bird Don’t Mean It Has To Fly
Why not separate yourself from the pack? Jess Versus from 212 Tattoo did a killer job on this flightless bird. Nothing says, “I don’t fit in” like a Kiwi. Well, unless you’re a New Zealander–in which case it could just be a point of national pride. Either way, they’re about as non-standard as bird tattoos get while still being elegant and attractive. If you Google “Kiwi tattoo” you get a bizarre combination of people with fruit tattoos and kiwi bird shaped tribals–which is maybe one of the last things I’d expect.
This tattoo has some very fine detail ranging from really impressive line work to some incredibly delicate shading and color gradients. It’s an absolutely fantastic bird tattoo that seems to span the gap between an illustration style and a true-to-life portrait of a kiwi.
Rep yo Hood–Er, State?
Birds often have a strong symbolic relationship to a geographic location. For example, each state has a state bird.
This was the inspiration for a Katie Davis piece featuring the state bird and flower of Virginia (A Cardinal and a Dogwood) and the state bird and flower of New Jersey (An Eastern Goldfinch and violets). This piece is a foot tattoo which is a really cool placement (Maybe the wearer has one foot in each state?).
Katie does a lot or bird tattoos, but this is perhaps one of her best. The color is bold, as are the lines–which is important when you’re doing a foot tattoo. The shading is subtle but the color gradients are a bit more dramatic, giving it a very illustration-like feel that is reminiscent of one of those bird watcher’s field guides.
More Creative Classics: Traditional Style with a Twist
Bird in Black
When you think about tattoos of birds, you most likely think of the classic swallow tattoos with their V-shaped tails, diving from the sky (perhaps with a banner in their beak that says something clever or motivational).
If you’re looking for something that stands out a bit more do what this person did in this piece by Daryl Rodriguez from Hold It Down Tattoo: Make it thought provoking. The birds head is bandaged and the scroll reads “Pretty Bird”. Did this pigeon get a nose job? Is beauty only skin deep? Honestly, who cares? This piece is sweet and that’s all that matters to us.
Something a Little Tougher
There’s a fair chance you might be tired of these colorful little birds. Maybe you’re in the market for something, I dunno… a little tougher. That’s cool. We got you covered.
Everyone’s got their flavor. If that’s what you’re looking for dig this piece (also from Hold It Down) by Mike Adams. It’s a HAWK. How much tougher can you get? This is a really clean tattoo done in a traditional style, but with a little bit of a modern edge. The hawk is holding a hibiscus flower, which adds a bit of interest to the piece. It’s clean and simple, but it’s a bit edgier (is that a thing?) than kiwis and cardinals.
Nothing Says “Come Get Some” Like a Rooster Tattoo
Oh look, it’s another piece from Hold It Down. God. These guys are all over this bird tattoo thing, aren’t they? This one is a really huge rooster tattoo in color done by Josh Stephens. And speaking of color, look at that sweet almost-sepia tone that really adds to this tattoo’s classic feel.
Rooster tattoos tend to go one of two ways in terms of meaning or symbolism. The first is that they represent luck. In the Chinese tradition, roosters are considered to be bringers of good luck. In the European and early American tradition, the image calls to mind cock-fighting (c’mon, knock it off) and can be viewed as a symbol of readiness for a fight, fierceness, or aggression. Your pick.
GET WEIRD: Bird Tattoos off the Beaten Path
Bird Wizard Tattoo
This one is pretty out there, but totally awesome. It’s a bird wizard! Wrap your meaty little head around that! Look into its soulless eyes as it summons spirits from beyond using its righteous staff and crystal ball. CAW!
This looks a bit like an illustration from a children’s book if the illustrator had been dropping acid and listening to Dio. The black ink only feels like a good call. While this piece might look great in color, it just feels like its supposed to be in all black. You can blame this weirdness on Ish over at Heroes and Ghosts in Carytown. Ish only does black tats, so it’s no surprise that he’s so skilled at it. This photo doesn’t do it justice–the light is washing it out a bit.
Bird Tattoos Go New School
We’re pretty limited in terms of New School tattoo artists here in Richmond. Most of that talent is concentrated over at Loose Screw Tattoo in Carytown. Loose Screw saw a bump in popularity due to Jesse Smith’s appearance on the Spike TV show Ink Master not too long ago, but this piece was done by Jason Stephan.
Jason Stephan absolutely kills it when it comes to new school and his color is bold and concentrated that it almost looks like you’re looking at a painting. This piece belongs to one die-hard Richmonder. Yeah, that’s the Main St. Station clock tower and a cardinal. The only way this tattoo gets more Richmond is if you throw in a few crust punks, PBRs, and the river.
Not 100% sure what the lightning is about–maybe it’s just there for dramatic effect? Either way, this is definitely some outside-the-box thinking as far as bird tattoos go.
Loose Screw is Hot on the Bird Tattoos
Naturally, we gotta give some props to Jesse Smith too. If you want a standout bird tattoo, then his name is probably near the top of your list. We did a little digging and found this one. A canary and a bomb–cause why the hell not?
While his partner Jason Stephan’s piece above is pretty intense and serious, this bird tattoo is more signature Jesse Smith. It’s cartoonish and a little tongue-in-cheek (peep that peace sign on the bomb). Jesse is known for using a lot of cartoon animals in his work and he’s absolutely killer at it. This piece is no exception.
Regal and Magic Bird Tattoo
This was a late edition, but we’re really glad Max Wetzel was kind enough to share this with us. How do you feel about his magic bird? The crow body and the crown give it a sort of coat-of-arms, old money, regal feel. The three jeweled eyes and the sparking/ sparkling/ obviously magical and powerful talon it’s holding up says “don’t tussle with this bird”.
The color on this tattoo is great. It’s really dense and vivid and the shading and fading on the head feathers is perfect. The green, red, and gold tones liven it up a lot and keep it the piece from being overwhelmed by that glowing orb of sinister-looking magic.
Richmond is the Spot for Unique Tattoos
When it comes to tattoos, we see a lot of the same things–Patrons asking their tattoo artists for what have become tropes in the tattoo world. Don’t run with mob, stand out and get a unique piece from a talented artist. We think we’ve proven that no matter how trite the trope, Richmond tattoo artists have the skill to make your work truly special.
Don’t stop at bird tattoos though. Read up on some of these other designs and consider getting some new and interesting art of your own.
RVA Instagram Tattoos Guide: The comprehensive list of who to follow in Richmond for baller tats on the regular.
American Traditional Tattoos: History and Meaning