Geisha can be translated into ‘artist’; geishas themselves are seen as some of the most exotic, graceful, sensual and talented artists in the world; and although they are one of many remarkable symbols, geisha tattoos have become one of the most popular pieces in Asian influenced body art.
Many people like to use geisha tattoos that utilize the entire splendor of a traditional geisha or maiko (an apprentice whose appearance differs slightly from a full-fledged geisha). These are generally done in a portrait style, and depict the elegant figure with a porcelain-white complexion; small, brightly colored and bow-like lips; brilliantly hued kimono and one of the four shimada hairstyles (most commonly a style called ‘momoware,’ which looks something like a divided peach, and bears a good deal of colorful ornamentation).
The majority of geisha tattoos, however, take on the look of a pin up model. This style tends to exaggerate the feminine curves, red lips and vibrant trappings; it also plays off of the subtle sensuality that geishas are known for. For instance, it is not uncommon to see the geisha standing with her back turned to the on-looker, with a heavily painted face peering over her shoulder, neck partially painted and a shoulder exposed.
Although less frequently used, you may occasionally see wood block geisha tattoos. These usually show a more elongated version — both in body and face — and her clothing may appear long and flowing. The colors are normally more subdued, and show the geisha in a traditional setting; for example, she may be dancing, playing a shamisan, or simply fanning herself demurely. For something a bit different, you could create a fantasy piece in the wood block style; for instance, the geisha could rise from the ocean, her robes combining with the waves; or her pale, painted face and a white, or light blue kimono could meld with a snowy mountain, with only the shocks of dark black hair, sensual eyes and bright reds lips standing out.
Though there is no set definition to what geisha tattoos may symbolize, it is pretty easy to understand why some may see them as an emblem for elegance, striking beauty and hundreds of years of remarkable artistry.