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A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity 

by Julia Cameron

I. Creative ability—Problems, exercises, etc. 2. Self-actualization (Psychology)—Problems, exercises, etc. 3. Creation (Literary, artistic, etc.)

The Artist’s Way- A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity
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Book Details
 431 p
 File Size 
 1,552 KB
 File Type
 PDF format
 1992, 2002 by Julia Cameron
 The Artist’s Way is a registered
 trademark of Julia Cameron

About the Author
Julia Cameron has been an active artist for more than thirty
years. She is the author of seventeen books, fiction and
nonfiction, including The Artist’s Way, The Vein of Gold and
The Right to Write, her bestselling works on the creative
process. A novelist, playwright, songwriter, and poet, she
has multiple credits in theater, film, and television. She
divides her time between Manhattan and the high desert of
New Mexico.


ART IS A SPIRITUAL transaction.
Artists are visionaries. We routinely practice a form of
faith, seeing clearly and moving toward a creative goal that
shimmers in the distance—often visible to us, but invisible
to those around us. Difficult as it is to remember, it is our
work that creates the market, not the market that creates our
work. Art is an act of faith, and we practice practicing it.
Sometimes we are called on pilgrimages on its behalf and,
like many pilgrims, we doubt the call even as we answer it.
But answer we do.
I am writing on a black lacquer Chinese desk that looks
west across the Hudson River to America. I am on the far
western shore of Manhattan, which is a country unto itself,
and the one I am living in right now, working to cantilever
musicals from page to stage. Manhattan is where the singers
are. Not to mention Broadway. I am here because “art”
brought me here. Obedient, I came.
Per capita, Manhattan may have a higher density of artists
than anywhere else in America. In my Upper West Side
neighborhood, cellos are as frequent and as ungainly as
cows in Iowa. They are part of the landscape here. Writing
at a typewriter, looking out across the lights, I too am
something Manhattan knows very well. I write melody on a
piano ten blocks from where Richard Rodgers, a gangly
adolescent, climbed a short stoop to meet a short boy who
became his longtime partner, Larry Hart. Together they
dreamed through drought and flood.
My apartment is on Riverside Drive. At this narrow end of
the island, Broadway is a scant block behind my back as I
face west across the river, inky black now as the sun sets in
colored ribbons above it. It is a wide river, not only dark,
and on a windy day—and there are many—the water is
choppy and white-capped. Cherry-red tugboats, as
determined as beetles, push their prows into the waves,
digging their way up and down the river, pushing long
barges with their snouts. Manhattan is a seaport—and a
landing for dreams.
Manhattan teems with dreamers. All artists dream, and we
arrive here carrying those dreams. Not all of us are dressed
in black, still smoking cigarettes and drinking hard liquor,
still living out the tawdry romance of hard knocks in tiny
walk-up flats filled with hope and roaches in neighborhoods
so bad that the rats have moved on. No, just like the
roaches, the artists are everywhere here, tenements to
penthouses—my own building has not only me with my
piano and typewriter but also an opera singer who trills in
the inner canyons like a lark ascending. The neighborhood
waiters are often—not always—actors, and the particularly
pretty duck-footed neighborhood girls do dance, although
you wouldn’t imagine their grace from their web-footed walks.
I drank a cup of tea at Edgar’s Cafe this afternoon, the
cafe named for Edgar Allan Poe, who lived down here and
died farther uptown, all the way in the Bronx. I’ve looked
up into Leonard Bernstein’s ground-floor windows at the
Dakota, and gone a little numb each time I pass the arched
entryway where John Lennon was shot. In this apartment, I
am a scant block from Duke Ellington’s haunts, and there’s
a street named after him too. Manhattan is a town full of
ghosts. Creative power—and powers—course through its
vertical canyons.
It was in Manhattan that I first began teaching the Artist’s
Way. Like all artists—like all of us if we listen—I
experience inspiration. I was “called” to teach and I
answered that call somewhat grudgingly. What about my
art? I wondered. I had not yet learned that we do tend to
practice what we preach, that in unblocking others I would
unblock myself, and that, like all artists, I would thrive more
easily with some companionship, with kindred souls making
kindred leaps of faith. Called to teach, I could not imagine
the good teaching would bring to me and, through me, to others.
In 1978 I began teaching artists how to “unblock” and
“get back on their feet” after a creative injury. I shared with
them the tools I had learned through my own creative
practice. I kept it all as easy and gentle as I could.
“Remember, there is a creative energy that wants to
express itself through you”; “Don’t judge the work or
yourself. You can sort it out later”; “Let God work through
you,” I told them.
My tools were simple and my students were few. Both
tools and number of students grew steadily and hugely for
the next ten years. At the beginning and, for the most part,
always, my students were chiefly blocked or injured artists
—painters, poets, potters, writers, filmmakers, actors, and
those who simply wished to be anything more creative in
their personal lives or in any of the arts. I kept things simple
because they really were. Creativity is like crabgrass—it
springs back with the simplest bit of care. I taught people
how to bring their creative spirit the simple nutrients and
nurturance they needed to keep it fed. People responded by
making books, films, paintings, photographs, and much,
much more. Word of mouth spread and my classes were easy to fill.
In the meanwhile, I kept making my own art. I wrote
plays. I wrote novels and movies. I did feature films, TV,
and short stories. I wrote poetry, then performance art. From
doing this work, I learned more creative tools, wrote more
teaching essays, and, at the urging of my friend Mark
Bryan, I got the essays assembled into teaching notes and
then into a proper book.
Mark and I stood elbow to elbow, printing and
assembling the simple book that I could send out to people
needing help. We mailed it in this form to perhaps a
thousand people, who in turn photocopied and passed it on
to their friends. We began to hear amazing stories of
recovery: painters painting, actors acting, directors directing,
and people with no declared art who began doing the art
form they had always wished to do. We heard tales of
sudden breakthroughs and slow awakenings.
Jeremy P Tarcher, the noted creativity and human
potential publisher, read an early draft of the work and
decided to publish it. Meanwhile, I divided the book into a
twelve-week course, each section dealing with some specific
issue. This simple book was the distillate of twelve years of
teaching and twenty years of making art in many forms. At
first I called it Healing the Artist Within. Finally, after much
thought, I decided to call it The Artist’s Way. It explained
and explored creativity as a spiritual issue. I began to
witness my own miracles.
I often traveled to teach, and at book signings and public
venues people began to hand me CDs, books, videos, and
letters conveying this thought: “I used your tools and made
this, thank you so much.” My most frequent compliment
was, “Your book changed my life,” and I heard it from
artists of little fame and great fame, in backwaters and on
the international frontlines. Using the tools, painters went
from being blocked to winning large, juried exhibitions.
Writers went from not writing to winning Emmy and
Grammy awards for their work. I found myself humbled by
the power of God, the Great Creator, to restore strength,
vitality, and inspiration to individual creative paths, diverse
and divergent. One woman, a blocked writer in her midfifties,
became an award-winning playwright. A longtime
sideman conceived and executed a bravura solo album.
Long-harbored dreams bloomed everywhere the Great
Creator turned a gardening hand. I received thank-yous that
properly belonged to God. I was a spiritual conduit for the
central spiritual fact that the Great Creator loved other artists
and actively helped those who opened themselves to their creativity.
Artist to artist, hand to hand, The Artist’s Way began to
spread. I heard about groups in the Panama jungle, in the
outback, and at that other heart of darkness, The New York
Times. Druid groups, Sufi groups, and Buddhist groups all
found common ground in its simple creative precepts. The
Artist’s Way reached the Internet, forming groups or, as I
call them, “clusters” that were like large melon patches
sending feeders and tendrils out to form now a group in
England, now in Germany, now a Swiss Jungian contingent.
Like life itself, The Artist’s Way, which began to be called a
“movement,” did indeed move onward tenaciously, and
even voraciously. Artists helping other artists proliferated.
Works of art blossomed and careers took off and steadied,
surrounded by supportive friends. I was a willing witness.
A hundred thousand people bought and used the book.
Then two hundred, then a million, then more. We heard of,
and occasionally helped initiate, The Artist’s Way’s use in
hospitals, prisons, universities, human-potential centers, and
often among therapists, doctors, AIDS groups, and battered
women’s programs, not to mention fine-arts studios,
theological programs, and music conservatories, and, of
course, always passed hand to hand, mouth to mouth, heart
to heart, artist to artist, as a form of first aid and gentle
resuscitation. Like a miraculous garden, The Artist’s Way
continued to grow, grow, and grow. It is still growing. Just
this morning I received in the mail a newly published book
and a thank-you. To date, The Artist’s Way appears in nearly
twenty languages and has been taught or recommended
everywhere from The New York Times to the Smithsonian,
from Esalen to elite music studios at Juilliard. Like AA,
Artist’s Way clusters have often gathered in church
basements and healing centers, as well as in a thatched hut
in Central America, and in a python-surrounded shack in
Australia. Did I mention that many therapists run facilitated
groups? They do. People “heal” because creativity is
healthy—and practicing it, they find their greater selves.
And we are all greater than we can conceive.
I wanted The Artist’s Way to be free and, like the twelvestep
movement, largely leaderless and self-taught, growing
through simplicity and lack of control, performing its
expansion through an easy-does-it series of natural, call it
seasonal, self-evolving checks and balances. “It will guard
and guide and fix itself from abuses,” ran my approach.
As we passed the million mark, I feared for the necessary
time and privacy to make my own art—without which
personal experience I could not continue to help others.
How could I write a teaching book if I had no fresh insights
as to what to teach? Inch by inch, I retreated to the solitude
of my personal creative laboratory—the still, quiet place
within myself where I could make art and learn from the
making of it. Every piece of art I made taught me what to
teach. Every year I worked taught me that creativity was
open-ended. There was no upper limit, although some
growth was slow. Faith was the required ingredient.
I began to write dispatches, short, pointed books aimed at
disarming the real and present dangers of trying to make a
sane and gentle creative life. I wrote The Right to Write,
Supplies, and other, more homely and gentle guides such as
The Artist’s Date Book, The Artist’s Way Morning Pages
Journal, and my prayer books aimed at creating a sense of
safety and well-being for those who tread the creative path
in this world. I wished for people good cheer and good
companions. Although art was a spiritual path, it could best
be trod with fellow pilgrims. People listened.
Meanwhile, Artist’s Way books were mandatory on
certain tour buses in the music scene, included as savvy set
decor on films, mailed off to and from grandmothers
blooming brightly in their sturdy dotage, and served as a
bridge for many successful artists to change creative habitats and genres.
As for myself, a novel, a short-story collection, and three
plays found firm footing amid my publishing seventeen
books and continuing, carefully, to both make art and teach.
My students won prizes, and so did I. Utne Reader chose
The Artist’s Way as a masterpiece, the poetry album I made
with Tim Wheater was selected for best original score, and
my teaching books continued to appear on bestseller and
editor’s choice lists throughout America and the world. Is it
any wonder I often felt dazed and confused, overwhelmed
by the velocity of people and events? It is one of the ironies
of a celebrated writer’s life that our natural inclination to sit
alone behind a desk becomes more and more difficult to
pursue. My own morning pages were an invaluable,
continuing source of guidance. I was told both to seek
solitude and to reach for the companionship of other artists
who believed, as I did, that we were always led both by the
Great Creator and by those who have gone before us,
treading their Artist’s Way and loving the same art forms we
do. Higher powers stand ready to help us if we ask. We
must remain ready to ask, open-minded enough to be led,
and willing to believe despite our bouts of disbelief.
Creativity is an act of faith, and we must be faithful to that
faith, willing to share it to help others, and to be helped in return.
Outside my window, out over the Hudson, a very large
bird is soaring. I have seen this bird for days now, sailing,
sailing on the fierce winds that are the slipstream around this
island. It is too large to be a hawk. It is not shaped like a
gull. The Hudson Valley is full of eagles, higher up. I
cannot believe this is one, but it seems to know exactly what
it is: eagle. It doesn’t tell its name. It wears it. Maybe, as
artists, we are such birds, mistaken by ourselves and others
for something else, riding the current of our dreams, hunting
in the canyons of commerce for something we have seen
from higher up. For artists, a wing and a prayer is routine
operating procedure. We must trust our process, look
beyond “results.”
Artists throughout the centuries have spoken of
“inspiration,” confiding that God spoke to them or angels
did. In our age, such notions of art as a spiritual experience
are seldom mentioned. And yet, the central experience of
creativity is mystical. Opening our souls to what must be
made, we meet our Maker.
Artists toil in cells all over Manhattan. We have a monk’s
devotion to our work—and, like monks, some of us will be
visited by visions and others will toil out our days knowing
glory only at a distance, kneeling in the chapel but never
receiving the visitation of a Tony, an Oscar, a National
Book Award. And yet the still, small voice may speak as
loud in us as in any.
So we pray. Fame will come to some. Honor will visit all
who work. As artists, we experience the fact that “God is in
the details.” Making our art, we make artful lives. Making
our art, we meet firsthand the hand of our Creator. 


IN ENDING THIS BOOK, I yearned for a final flourish,
some last fillip of the imagination that would sign the book.
This was a small and harmless conceit, I felt—until I
remembered the number of times I have enjoyed a painting
and been distracted by the outsized artistic signature of its
maker. So, no final flourishes here.
The truth is that this book should probably end with an
image from another book. As I recall it, and this may be my
imagination and not my memory at work, an early edition of
Thomas Merton’s Seven Story Mountain featured a
mountain on its book jacket—the seven-story mountain, no doubt.

Maybe it did and maybe it didn’t. I read the book many
years ago, a precocious twelve-year-old. What I conjure
now is a mountain of Himalayan proportions with a path
winding upward to its height. That path, a spiral path, is how
I think of the Artist’s Way. As we pursue climbing it, we
circle back on the same views, over and over, at slightly
different altitudes. “I’ve been here before,” we think, hitting
a spell of drought. And, in a sense, we have been. The road
is never straight. Growth is a spiral process, doubling back
on itself, reassessing and regrouping. As artists, our progress
is often dogged by rough terrain or storms. A fog may
obscure the distance we have covered or the progress we
have made toward our goal. While the occasional dazzling
vista may grace us, it is really best to proceed a step at a
time, focusing on the path beneath our feet as much as the
heights still before us.

The Artist’s Way is a spiritual journey, a pilgrimage home
to the self Like all great journeys it entails dangers of the
trail, some of which I have tried to enumerate in this book.
Like all pilgrims, those of us on the Artist’s Way will often
be graced by fellow travelers and invisible companions.
What I call my marching orders others may sense in
themselves as a still, small voice or, even more simply, a
hunch. The point is that you will hear something if you
listen for it. Keep your soul cocked for guidance.
I finally discovered the source of all movement, the unity from which all
diversities of movement are born.

Creation is only the projection into form of that which already exists.

A painting is never finished—it simply stops in interesting places.

When Mark Bryan began cornering me into writing this
book, he had just seen a Chinese film about Tibet called The
Horse Thief. It was an indelible film for him, a classic of the
Beijing school, a film we have since searched for in Chinese
video stores and film archives, to no avail. Mark told me
about the film’s central image: another mountain, a
prayerful journey up that mountain, on bended knee: step,
lie prostrate, stand and straighten, another step, lie prostrate
In the film, this journey was the reparation that a thief and
his wife had to make for damaging their society by
dishonoring themselves through thievery. I have wondered,
since then, if the mountain that I see when thinking of the
Artist’s Way isn’t another mountain best climbed in the
spirit of reparation—not to others, but to ourselves.

I wish I could take language
And fold it like cool, moist rags.
I would lay words on your forehead.
I would wrap words on your wrists.
“There, there,” my words would say—
Or something better.
I would ask them to murmur,
“Hush” and “Shh, shhh, it’s all right.”
I would ask them to hold you all night.
I wish I could take language
And daub and soothe and cool
Where fever blisters and burns,
Where fever turns yourself againstyou.
I wish I could take language
And heal the words that were the wounds
You have no namesfor.

The Artist’s Way- A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity
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This book is printed on acid-free paper.

  37 Step-by-Step Demonstrations Using Watercolor Pencil and Paint
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Book Details
 604 p
 File Size 
 28,799 KB
 File Type
 PDF format
 2014 by Cathy Johnson 

About the Author
Cathy Johnson has written more than thirty-five books, many on art. She has
been a contributing editor, writer and illustrator for Watercolor Artist for over a
decade and has written regular columns for that magazine and The Artist’s
Magazine. She started the popular group blog Sketching in Nature
( She also teaches online workshops at and runs the blogs The Quicksilver Workaholic
( and Cathy Johnson Fine Art Galleries
( Johnson lives and works in Excelsior Springs,
Missouri, with her husband and cats.

For an artist, working on the spot—in nature, en plein air, whatever you want to
call it—can be a delight, a wonderful challenge, the ultimate high. And, yes, it is
a challenge—nature sees to that! The changing light alone tests our skill and
speed and our powers of observation.
Still, there are so many reasons to work outdoors: to drink in the beauty of
nature; to find fresh, evocative, inspiring and challenging subjects; to spend time
in the quiet places; to capture the liveliness of birds or the grace of a red fox; to
learn about your environment; to perfect your skill; and just to be out where it’s
achingly beautiful. Whether you take a painting vacation, a field trip led by a
naturalist/artist, or a trip to some exotic, untouched locale, or you find painting
subjects virtually in your own backyard, you will find subjects enough for a lifetime.

Of course, it isn’t necessary to complete a whole painting outdoors. You may
prefer to sketch a variety of subjects with pencil, ink, colored or watercolor
pencils, even mixed media with quick watercolor washes, then return to the
comforts of home to do a more finished piece. You can take photos, both from a
distance and close up. I’ll show you how to put these resources to work!
We’ll discuss the various mediums and try out the techniques together, and
I’ll offer some of my favorite quick tips and hints for capturing textures. We’ll
cover some of the basics, but also explore more specific and advanced techniques.

This book is organized by habitat. Each chapter includes the variety of things
you will find in that specific habitat and hints on how best to capture these
elements in your sketches and watercolors. The forest habitat chapter, for
instance, will show you how to capture individual tree shapes, bark patterns and
leaves as well as forests from a distance and in their varied seasons. You’ll also
learn to paint the wildflowers that bloom in the spring and the birds, insects and
animals that frequent these places.

There is a bit of the naturalist in most of us. Painting and drawing this
marvelous place we inhabit allows us to slow down and learn with our own eyes,
to notice, to pay attention. The child within is still curious about that big moth or
the tiny, brightly colored mushroom that grows along a fallen log. How better to
explore than to observe and draw or paint?
Perhaps Baba Ram Dass was not thinking of artists when he said, “Be here,
now,” but that injunction certainly applies to painting in nature. We look, we
see, we pay attention, we learn … and we delight in it!

Whether you love an aromatic, crackling campfire, a mountain stream, the
robust wildflowers of summer or the calligraphy of tracks in the snow; whether
you find time for canoeing, fishing in the early morning, watching the birds that
frequent your locale or stealing silently almost within touching distance of a deer
and her fawn, you will find magic in this natural world. As an artist, getting it
down in concrete form is to capture those moments forever, golden as a fly in
amber. Your paintings and sketches will have the power to return you to that
moment in time. No matter how busy and frenetic your everyday life, these
tangible evidences of time in nature will transport you back to those magical moments.

Table of Contents
Special Offers
Choosing the Right Watercolor Pencils
Learning How Your Watercolor Pencils Behave
Choosing the Right Brushes for Watercolor Pencil
Choosing the Right Paper
Working With Colored Papers
Prepping for Mixed Media
Working on the spot—Tools for Travel

Getting Familiar With Opacity
Using Saturated Colors
Working Light Over Dark in Watercolor Pencil
Varying Watercolor Pencil Application
Applying Basic Pencil Techniques With Water
Playing With Pencil Pigment
Working Dry-Into-Wet in Watercolor Pencil
Dealing With Shadows
Keeping It Clean
Retaining Whites in Watercolor Pencil Paintings
Watercolor Washes
Creating Flat Tones in Watercolor Pencil
Creating a Graded Wash in Watercolor Pencil
Layering in Watercolor Pencil
Painting With Color Lifted From Your Watercolor Pencil
Using Linear Effects in Watercolor Pencil
Incorporating Elements of Design

How to Get Started
Creating a Field Journal
Learning From Your Own Art
Asking the Right Questions
Bird Watching With Journal in Hand
Travel Journal
Doing What You Have to Do
Field Journal

Tracking the Seasons
Leaves and Tree Bark
Painting Tree Bark
Foliage Colors and Shapes
Painting Foliage
Painting Tree Shapes
Weston Bend
Using Trees in Your Landscapes
Trees From a Distance
Painting Morning Light
Denizens of the Forest—Plants and Creatures
Painting Plants Up Close
Painting Fur and Hair
Painting an Animal’s Eye

Still Water—Lakes, Ponds, Coves, Marshes
Reflections and Wave Patterns
Painting Reflections
Maine Coast Morning
Creating Reflections in Rivers and Streams
Painting Lakes and Ponds
Fast-Moving Water—Rivers and Streams
Painting Rivers and Streams in Perspective
Painting Waterfalls
Promised Land
Ocean Habitat—Tidal Zones and the Seashore
Painting the Sea
Painting the Light of Sunrise and Sunset
Cliff House
Natural History Sketches—Plants and Wildlife
Painting Feathers
Painting Flocks of Birds
Creating a Bird’s Portrait
Painting Different Types of Clouds
Painting Snow
Painting Rain
Painting Rain Clouds

Trees That Follow the Watershed
Painting Flowers in the Distance
Mammals of the Grasslands
Birds of the Grasslands
Painting Weeds and Grass
Painting Grass
Cultivated Fields
Painting Aerial Perspective
Limestone Fence Posts and Windmills
Painting Night
Painting Intimate Landscapes

Trees of the Eastern and Western Mountains
Mountain Wildflowers
Birds of the Mountains
Mountain Wildlife
Mountain Sheep
Mountain Painting
Painting Rocks and Boulders
Using Rocks in Landscapes

Desert Wildlife
Ground Squirrel
Trying Out Desert-Toned Paper
Signs of Early Occupation
Desert Plants
Following the Rules of Perspective for Plants
Raven’s Hole

Small-Scale People
Painting People in Watercolor Pencil
Creating Skin Tones
Painting Hair in Watercolor Pencil
Landscape With Figure
Going Camping
Capturing Firelight
Canoes, Kayaks, Dories and Jon Boats
Sunset Canoes
Hiking or Walking in All Weather
Implied Humans
Variations on a Theme


Published by
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200, Blue Ash, OH 45242. (800) 289-0963. First Edition.

This e-book edition: April 2014 (v.1.0)

- An Illustrated Companion -

By Victor Paul, PhD
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Book Details
 117 p
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 by the Rising Sun Publishing House 

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- Professional and amateur Tarot readers who can find here 78 vivid full-size images of cards with Maori symbolism, meanings of all cards including reversals and the Hanged Man spread with examples of real Tarot reading sessions.
- Life coaches, counsellors, and psychotherapists, opening this thought-provoking eBook, open a full spectrum of teaching/healing possibilities.
- Tarot researchers, developers, and artists can empower their creativity.
Even tattoo connoisseurs can find an abyss of blueprints in the Maori Tattoo cards.
Tap into Maori Tattoo Tarot to explore new horizons.

Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Divination as Art and Science ......... 7
Chapter 2 Destiny and Free Will ............. 9
Chapter 3 Symbolism in Maori Tattoo Tarot .... 11
Chapter 4 Major Arcana ........ 13
Chapter 5 Minor Arcana ............... 37
Gourds (Cups)........... 38
Disks .............. 52
Wands .............. 67
Swords ...................... 82
Chapter 6 Reading with Maori Tattoo Tarot ........... 97
Chapter 7 The Love Story .......... 100
Chapter 8 The Business Affair ............... 102
Chapter 9 The Family Problem ............. 104
Chapter 10 Self-development ............. 106
Chapter 11 Parenting .............. 108
Chapter 12 The Health Problem ............ 110
Chapter 13 The Career problem ........ 112
Bibliography .......... 114


1. Akashic records. Wikipedia.Web. 16 August 2016.
2. Carl Jung. Wikipedia. Web. 8 September 2016.
3. Greer, Mary K. 21 Ways to Read a Tarot card. Llewellyn Publications. 2006.
4. Hamblet, Simone. Maori Spirituality and Anthroposophy. 
Journal for Waldorf Education. The Research Institute for Waldorf Education. Vol 13.2. Oct. 2011.
5. Higgins, Rawinia. Ta moko – Maori Tattooing - Origins of Ta moko. 
Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Web. 13 Aug. 2013.
6. O’Brien, Paul. Great Decisions, Perfect Timing: Cultivating Intuitive Intelligence. 
Divination Foundation Press. 2015.
7. Saunders, Thomas. The Authentic Tarot: Discovering Your Inner Self. Watkins Publishing. 2007.
8. St. Clair John. The Ancient Wisdom of the Maoris. Theosophical University Press Online Edition Articles from Theosophy — April 1896 to October 1897. Web. n.d.
9. Talbot, Michael. The Holographic Universe. Harper Collins Publishers. 1991.

Clinton R. Sanders with D. Angus Vail

The Art and Culture of Tattooing


1. Tattooing-Social aspects. 2. Tattoo artists.
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Book Details
 272 p
 File Size 
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 1-59213-887-X (cloth : alk. paper) 
 1-59213-888-8 (pbk. : alk. paper)
 2008 by Temple University 

Preface to the Revised and 
Expanded Edition
In those days, a tattoo was still a souvenir—a keepsake to
mark a journey, the love of your life, a heartbreak, a port
of call. The body was like a photo album; the tattoos themselves
didn’t have to be good photographs. . . . And the old
tattoos were always sentimental: you didn’t mark yourself
for life if you weren’t sentimental (Irving, 2005: 74–75).

Much has changed on the tattooing (and larger body
alteration) landscape since Customizing the Body first
appeared in the late 1980s. Perhaps the most important
change has been the transformation of tattooing from the ostensibly
“deviant” practice I discussed in the first edition to the popular
cultural phenomenon it is today.
There are (at least) three criteria sociologists use to define an
activity, perspective, or appearance as fitting into the category of
“deviant.” First, the phenomenon could be seen as constituting
or causing some sort of social harm. Since much of what might
be considered to be socially harmful rests on the values of the
person or persons doing the defining, what is regarded as “bad”
behavior, “disgusting” or “shocking” appearance, or “inappropriate”
thoughts is largely a matter of taste (though sociologists
tend to overlay their personal tastes with a legitimating patina of
theory). A second way of understanding deviance is to see it
simply as something that is relatively rare. This “statistical” orientation,
of course, has some presumed relationship to the
values/harm model since what is bad by definition is presumed
to be appealing to only a relatively small number of twisted, misguided,
or unfortunate people.

A third, and to my mind the most useful, way of thinking about
social deviance is to see it as behavior, thoughts, or appearances
that are widely regarded as “bad.” Consequently, when those who
engage in the bad behavior, think the bad thoughts, or publically
display their bad appearance come to the attention of some audience
or another, they are subjected to punishment or some other
kind of negative social reaction. This third orientation has the advantage
of making a distinction between breaking rules and being
“deviant” in that deviance is defined as that which is the focus of
social reaction. A person might break rules and not be found out—
he or she is a rule-breaker but not a deviant—or one could not
break rules and still be “falsely accused” of being a violator—he or
she is a deviant but not a rule-breaker. It is especially useful for
understanding the shifting social definition of tattooing and other
forms of permanent body modification in that this “labeling” perspective
(deviance as a socially applied label) incorporates the central
idea that defined deviance changes over time, from culture to
culture, and depends on just who is doing the defining (see Becker,
1963; Goode, 2005: 86-93; Rubington and Weinberg, 2002).
Tattooing and, to a somewhat lesser degree, other modes of
body alteration have been “de-deviantized” since the early 1990s
in light of the last two definitions of deviance. Tattooing has
become more widely practiced (that is, more popular) and has,
therefore, come to be seen as less odd, unusual, rebellious, or
otherwise deviant. In general, those things your friends do are
significantly less likely to be negatively regarded than are those
things strangers do.

Although I see it as wise to take the findings of survey research
with considerable skepticism, polls conducted in the early– to
mid–1990s suggested that somewhere between 3 and 10 percent
of the general population were tattooed (Anderson, 1992; Armstrong
and McConnell, 1994; Armstrong and Pace-Murphy, 1997).
Recently, a study conducted by Anne Laumann, a dermatologist
at Northwestern University, revealed that 24 percent of American
adults between the ages of 18 and 50 are tattooed and one in
seven had a body piercing somewhere other than the earlobe
(nearly one-third of young adults between the ages of 18 and 29
said they were pierced) (Laumann and Derick, 2006).
The movement of tattooing into the realm of popular culture
displays certain features of the contemporary culture industry
and reveals how fad-like phenomena emerge. Culture producers,
beset by the problem of “commercial uncertainty” (that is, what
popular cultural products will or will not be successful [see
Sanders, 1990]), are constantly on the lookout for new materials
with potential commercial appeal. Typically, the producers keep
an eye on the interests, activities, and appearance of those outside
the boundaries of social power. The tastes and entertainment
and material interests of minorities, teenagers, disaffected urban
residents, and other “outsiders” are filched by the culture industry,
cleaned up and homogenized, avidly promoted as the latest
thing, and sold to the larger consumer market. In short, the major
source of innovation in popular culture is in the materials and
activities of the relatively poor and powerless; innovation flows up
the stream of power.

This process has impelled the movement of tattooing into popular
culture. Beginning with the “tattoo renaissance” of the 1960s
(discussed in Chapter 1), musicians, movie actors, and other entertainment
figures admired and followed by young people started acquiring
and displaying tattoos. Similarly, sports figures—typically
from minority and/or impoverished backgrounds—were tattooed.
Despite the fact that most of the tattoos displayed by entertainers
and (especially) athletes look as if they were done by eight-yearolds
with magic markers, the fact that admired public figures were
tattooed gave tattooing a certain popular cultural cachet.
While exposure by key figures in the mediated popular culture
is an important factor in the rise and dissemination of cultural
interests and products, cultural innovation and the consumption
of particular materials also derive from people’s immediate social
networks and contacts. As we see in Chapter 2, an important
factor in people’s decisions to get tattooed is that their friends or
family members sport tattoos. Understandably then, as more
people are tattooed, more people have contact with those who are
tattooed, and more people see it as reasonable or desirable to
acquire a tattoo. Cultural popularity is a form of contagion.
As tattooing has inserted itself into mainstream popular culture
in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, it has been
thematically assimilated into a variety of media materials. At this
writing, television viewers have access to such tattoo-themed
shows as “Miami Ink” on TLC, “Inked” on A&E, and “Tattoo Stories”
on FUSE. Popular memoirs such as Emily Jenkins’s Tongue
First (1998) and serious novels like John Irving’s Until I Find You
(2005) and Sarah Hall’s Electric Michelangelo (2005), a finalist for
2004’s Man Booker Prize, feature tattooing and tattooists. Mass
market booksellers like Borders and Barnes & Noble have a variix
ety of tattoo-oriented titles such as International Tattoo Art, Skin
& Ink, and Tattoo Magazine on their magazine racks. Clearly, tattooing
has moved out of the dark underground of the 1950s into
the spotlight of mainstream commercial culture.

Given the “mainstreaming” of tattooing, the declining power of
the tattoo to generate what I call (after Quentin Bell) “conspicuous
outrage” becomes an interesting issue. When the traffic cop
who stops you for speeding or the youth minister in your church
sports a tattoo, the mark clearly has lost a considerable amount
of stigma potential. The issue then becomes “How can those who
fit into or aspire to the common social category of ‘rebel’ visibly
demonstrate their divergent identities?” The question “What is
next on the horizon of rebellious body alteration?” is commonly
tossed at me by the journalists who still call me when they have
been assigned filler stories for the leisure section of their papers.
When I choose to catch the question, I usually make note of the
rising popularity of full-body tattooing and multiple piercings and
less frequently encountered, and usually startling, alterations
such as extensive facial tattooing and surgical implants of horns,
feline-like wire whiskers, and bladders that can be inflated or deflated
for appearance-altering effect.

In addition to being incorporated into the lucrative world of popular
culture, in the latter part of the twentieth century tattooing
also became more firmly situated in the world of “serious” art.
The general issue of what products constitute “art” and what factors
increase or decrease the likelihood that an activity is deemed
“artistic” and an actor is defined as an “artist,” was the primary
focus of Chapter 5 in the first edition of Customizing the Body and
is an issue we touch upon again in the 2008 Epilogue. Continuing
the trend detailed previously, tattooing has remained a focus
of attention as academics have continued to produce “serious”
analyses, museums and galleries have continued to mount shows
of tattoo works, and specialty publishers have continued to produce
pricey coffee-table books containing photos and discussions
of tattoo works. Tattooing has even been incorporated into a particular
“school” of art. Those like Herbert Gans (1999) who espouse
an egalitarian view of art that rejects the hierarchical
distinction between “high” (serious, real, traditional) art and “low”
(popular, mass, “brutal”) art commonly see avant garde art as
resting on the border between the simple world of commercial
popular culture and the complex aesthetic world of high art where
materials are created by specialists (“artists”), evaluated by experts
(“critics”), and consumed by monied “collectors.” Since the
early 1990s, this border space between popular culture and traditional
art has been taken over by the expansive category of “lowbrow”
art (whose representatives derogatorily refer to traditional
fine art as “art-school art”). Grounded on the underground art of
the 1960s, and in reaction to the arid, theory-heavy installations
that dominated conventional artistic work in the 1980s and
1990s, lowbrow art (sometimes labeled “outlaw art” or “l’art
de toilette” by adherents) is composed of such diverse types of
products as graffiti art, car art, underground comix, limitedproduction
toys and statuary, customized clothing, “art brut,”
record-album art, black-velvet paintings, pulp art, poster art,
prison art, tiki art, anime and manga, pulp art, and tattooing. Inspired
by the dadaists and surrealists of the 1920s and 1930s,
advocates and practitioners of lowbrow art reject the constraints
imposed by critics, mainstream gallery owners, and other central
players in the conventional art world and create an art that is selfconsciously
representational, dismisses the baggage of art theory,
and revels in the aesthetic tastes displayed in urban, street-level
culture. Clearly, tattooing has found a home in an established, if
somewhat unruly, segment of the larger art world.

Despite its rising popularity and tentative incursion into the
world of (at least marginally) legitimate art, it is still reasonable, I
would maintain, to regard tattooing (and other forms of permanent
body alteration) through the conceptual lens provided by the
sociology of deviance. Quite a bit of ink has been spilled recently
over the issue of whether “deviance” continues to be a viable and
useful analytic category (see, for example, Goode, 2002, 2003;
Hendershott, 2002; Sumner, 1994). I have no desire to enter this
debate other than to say that I find many of the arguments offered
by those who celebrate the “death” of deviance to be unconvincing
at best. Creating rules is an elemental feature of social life
and, consequently, violating rules and reacting to those violations
are of equal importance. Studying misbehavior has been, and
continues to be, central to the sociological enterprise. Given its
focus on the tattoo as a boundary-setting mark, a sign of subcultural
membership, and a potentially stigmatizing identity enhancement
and tattooing as a disvalued, officially regulated or
prohibited, and secretive occupational practice, Customizing the
Body was, and is, a study in the sociology of deviance.

Table of Contents
Preface to the Revised and Expanded Edition vii
Preface to the First Edition xxi

1 Introduction: Body Alteration, Artistic Production,
and the Social World of Tattooing 1
2 Becoming and Being a Tattooed Person 36
3 The Tattooist: Tattooing as a Career and an Occupation 62
4 The Tattoo Relationship: Risk and Social Control in the Studio 117
5 Conclusion: Tattooing and the Social Definition of Art 149
Epilogue 2008: Body Modification Then and Now
Methodological Appendix 189

Selected Tattoo Artist Websites 203
Notes 205
References 221
Index 239
Photographs follow page 108


[T]he tattoo culture on display at Daughter Alice made
Jack ashamed of his mother’s “art.” . . . The old maritime
tattoos, the sentiments of sailors collecting souvenirs on
their bodies, had been replaced by tasteless displays of
hostility and violence and evil . . . skulls spurting blood,
flames licking the corners of the skeletons’ eye sockets. . . .
Jack took Claudia aside and said to her: “Generally
speaking, attractive people don’t get tattooed.” But this
wasn’t strictly true. . . . (Irving, 2005: 339–340).
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