Header illustration by Jorge Margarido
From small, subtle flags to your sexuality, to giant middle fingers to the patriarchy proudly soaked through your skin, ink has a long history in the queer community. Tattoos are getting a bigger and bigger platform thanks to social media, TV shows, and more and more people being willing to go under the needle. And with the exposure over the last couple of decades comes a whole new wave of amazing queer tattoo artists, whose work we think you should be checking out. Here are five of our faves to get you started…
Cobra Lightning (@cobralightning)
Bi star of Black Ink Crew: Chicago, Cobra uses light and shade in amazing ways to create phenomenal depth in her tattoos. She tattoos everything from horror sleeves to conspiracy theories, but a large chunk of her work is creating amazing tributes to people through ink (including in 2017, when she paid homage to murdered trans women).
What do you get when you cross fierce black line art with a geeky sense of humour? Spoilers – you’ve found it with Happy4Never. Based in Glasgow, his unique style is a combination of cartoons, horror, and buckets of queer humour. If you grew up watching Pokémon and the Simpsons, you’ll love their work.
Jose Vigers (@jwvigers)
Think trippy, quirky and undeniably queer and you’re halfway towards Jose Vigers’ awesome monochromatic creations. Based in Naarm and Melbourne, Jose is also a multi-media artist, and his love of playing with shifting forms comes out as clearly in his other work as it does in his tattooing.
Faith Phillips (@americanflesh)
Founder of Chicago’s first Black trans woman-owned tattoo shop, Wish Me Luck, Faith’s work combines bright colours, strong statements, and a touch of the playful to create visually jaw-dropping pieces of ink. As well as being a tattoo artist, Faith is also a singer-songwriter and performer.
Sarah Gaugler (@sarahgaugler)
Another musician alongside her tattoo art, Filipino-American bi tattoo artist Sarah Gaugler was dubbed the “first modern female tattoo artist in the Phillipines”. Her style combines modern design and fine lines with ethical vegan ink to create stunning tattoos that look like intricate sketches on the body.
Got your own recommendations for queer tattoo artists you love (maybe even you)? Why not share with us on our Instagram (@unicornzine)? Or apply to our Unicorn Fund if you’d like to create some visual work especially for our next issue.