Monday, October 25, 2010

The Tattoosday Book Review: Kat Von D's The Tattoo Chronicles

You can say a lot of things about Kat Von D. She is arguably one of the most well-known tattoo artists in the United States, if not the world. This fact, to old school tattoo enthusiasts, is not necessarily a good thing. She is the star of the hit "reality" series, L.A. Ink, has her own make-up line at Sephora, and on October 26, her second book, The Tattoo Chronicles, is being released by HarperCollins Design. And whether you love her or hate her, it's hard to argue the fact that this book, like its predecessor High Voltage Tattoo, is a lovely effort that looks and feels amazing.


Like her first book (reviewed last year on Tattoosday here), Kat Von D lets you into her world, with glossy detailed photos of her work and clients. But whereas her first book shows mostly her public persona, the new effort gives us an inside look at the inner thoughts and feelings of someone who is portrayed very much as a "character" on her television show.

It is L.A. Ink that has brought her fame, yet also the scorn and scrutiny of her detractors. The new book lets us peek behind the scenes and, if you didn't realize this already, the Kat Von D you see on the show is not the whole package. Through a diary/journal format, the reader is granted greater access to Kat's true emotions and feelings. We finally get to peek behind the character Kat Von D and meet the person.

It was on Page 44 where I first felt the facade truly come down. She talks about getting booed in the shop by "fans" who resent that she won't drop what she's doing to pose for photos for them, and there is the matter of the stalker who freaked everyone out in the shop. Granted, these are consequences nowadays for success of her order, but you certainly believe that such consequences were not anticipated when she headed down the road to fame.

It is also fascinating to read Kat's frustration with the onset of another season of L.A. Ink. If you're looking for validation that the only thing real on the show is the tattoos, it's here. I was reminded of Charles Bukowski's strong aversion to poetry readings. He despised them, yet they were often necessary as sources of income. The spectacle often outshone the poems. Similarly, L.A. Ink's forced drama often swallows up the tattoos, yet the drama drives ratings, which lets the series continue to showcase tattoos, which is why many of us tune in in the first place.

Whereas I found her journal entries fascinating, as I am sure most readers who are fans of the show will as well, there are still pages and pages of photographs featuring her work (drawings, sketches, and of course, tattoos) that are breath-taking in their beauty.

Viewers of the show  know that this book has been in the making for a while and it has found its way into plot points as well. Fans will also note that the author's relationship with Nikki Sixx, bassist for Mötley Crüe, runs throughout the volume (as it has in the reality series). However, 2010 has been a tumultuous year for the couple, having broken up, and then, quite recently, reportedly gotten back together. All that said, it's very interesting to read about the relationship with a future perspective.

Or, it isn't. If you're not interested in Kat's "personal" life, then perhaps you should pass on this book. I can see her detractors poring over the text, looking for evidence that reinforces their negative image of the artist, one that has been honed by the one-dimensional portrayal of her reality show and the tabloids.

For fans however, and the followers of Kat Von D's career, The Tattoo Chronicles, will be a treat, to be savored, an all-access pass to a window of her life, with a stunning visual guidebook to pore over, with evidence enough to back up her on-air claim of being so busy all the time.

My one criticism would be that we don't see enough of her tattoos, which is really what she is all about. I mean, sure it's interesting to see a full-page shot of her stuffed albino squirrels, but is it really necessary? I would have rather seen more art that she created, rather than collected.

However, in the end, I was delighted with the book. It really adds dimensions to one of the more dynamic celebrities in the tattoo industry. I doubt that it will turn detractors into fans, or fans into detractors, but it certainly provides those who admire Kat Von D for her art, a little more validation that she is a talented, complicated individual that can not only create amazing body art, but knows how to wow us with her pen, as well.

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