Whales. They’re the largest creatures that ever walked (swam) this earth and also one of the most majestic. Yet every year their populations continue to dwindle as they fall victim to mass commercial hunts and habitat destruction. Their very fate is in our hands and will likely be decided in the next 50 years.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk tattoos. In recent years there’s been an explosion in popularity of whale tattoos in general. A fairly seasoned artist I had a cup of coffee with recently shared with me that he’d never had a request for a whale tattoo during his first 20 years in the industry (he’s old by the way). In the past year alone he’s done 6. When I asked him why he simply replied with a shrug.
As with any industry, styles evolve, tastes change, and fads disappear just as quickly as they came. While it’s hard to be certain, the sudden popularity of whale tattoos can probably be attributed to the information age, where the availability of endless internet inspiration has put the whale tattoo front and center. But your guess is as good as mine. Here are some of our favorite whale tattoos in a variety of different styles. Enjoy!
This watercolor whale.
A wonderfully sketched blue whale tattoo gets a welcome infusion of cosmic-esque watercolor decoration. Joice Wang is a resident artist at NYC’s star-studded Bang Bang tattoo shop.
This gorgeous dotwork design.
Here we have a brilliantly-shaded black and grey ink whale tattoo with a dotwork mandala design on it’s back.
It’s no secret that Australian tattoo artist Ben Doukakis has a proclivity for whale tattoos—which will become more evident as you read on.
This floral back piece.
Parvick Faramarz is sort of the unofficial master of the dotwork design. His swirling creations always manage to instill a certain level of awe in anyone who views his work.
These waves inside a whale.
This Sharpie-esque humpback whale.
One of the largest works on the list, this humpback whale tattoo illustrates the mammal’s trademark leaping skills so often photographed. The style of this work looks as if it’s been done in marker pen. (Photo: Ael Lim)
This playful thigh tattoo.
An elegant triangular glyph filled with winding waves that almost look as if they’re pulling the whale back into the sea. (Photo: Ishi Neve)
This large chest piece.
A beautiful blackwork chest piece by the one and only Sasha Masiuk.
This blue humpback.
Fun fact: The bumps that humpback whales so famously rock on their faces are actually exaggerated hair follicles. Inside these clusters, known as tubercles, are thick nerve cells connected to a single hair. (Photo: Rick Barnett)
This pink whale.
This ribcage work.
Another fantastic mandala-infused design by Benjamin Doukakis. Make sure to check out his Instagram page, you won’t be disappointed.