In art, bears are often depicted in two drastically different ways; either as kind and endearing, or fierce and vicious. Bear tattoos show both ends of the spectrum and everything in-between. The image of a bear has a variety of symbolism that show this contrast; wisdom and ingenuity, as well as brute strength and a ferocity of spirit.
Some of the most popular designs for bear tattoos come straight from Native American art. The Zuni bear is a great example of this; it is seen as a healer and a guardian of the Earth. These bears are shown in profile, always have a well defined slump to its back, and a rounded ear and muzzle. They can either be in simple colors of turquoise, red, blue and yellow, or they may have a variety of patterns. These patterns may have detailed geometric puzzle-work, or may simply feature symbols such as arrows, lightning bolts, and occasionally even feathers.
Bear tattoos often depict a realistic image of the beast, mingled with other symbols. For instance, the face shaped into the image of a downward facing paw, the jagged teeth melding into the claws. The head of a bear may also appear in a dream catcher, or as part of a totem featuring fierce, wise, and brave animals.
Bear tattoos may stray from the natural formula, and occasionally take on a more charming appearance. Though, these may not be steeped in as deep a meaning as the more common styles, these tattoos often symbolize a more mellowed version of this predatory animal. These designs tend to be illustrated in a cartoon style and often show a small, fuzzy equivalent to the strong creatures you see in real life. They generally have large, watery eyes and a drowsy expression. They are regularly shown alongside other softer images such as hearts, flowers and even chasing after butterflies.
However, most bear tattoos feature this creature in a more ferocious manner. Many bear tattoos show only the bust of a wild, ragged bear growling and on the verge of attack. Some pieces may show bears on their hind legs, either threatening, or fighting with each other. Occasionally they may be shown in a slightly more peaceful setting, perhaps dipping its paw into a lake so as to catch a fish, or simply wandering through a vast forest scene.
There are many ways to incorporate a bear into your body art. With the variety of these large creatures, you will certainly have many options to express the strength and brilliance of both yourself and these wild and majestic creatures.