Love is an undeniable force that can often have both positive and negative outcomes, and it isn’t uncommon for men to wish to express those negatives when they arise.
A broken heart is a multi-tiered symbol that not only speaks to the physical pain that one might go through at the lose of a loved one, but also to the greater metaphor of the destruction of the literal mechanism for love.
Broken heart tattoos serve as an excellent reminder of what once was, and they can be stylized in many different ways that can correlate to the individual or the situation. There’s a vast difference between love lost as a result of death and love lost to time or degradation. A broken heart tattoo can be used to showcase either situation, and each is just as meaningful as the other.
The classic heart is perhaps the image most associated with love, trust, and compassion, so the imagery of a broken heart is something that reaches deep within the psyche of man. A broken heart has this strange sense of finality, as if nothing could possibly repair what has already been destroyed. The idea that a tattoo can be used to act as a visual reminder of that pain and loss only goes to show that such remorse is a healthy part of life.
1. American Traditional Broken Heart Tattoos
Large and striking, prominently displayed on the chest, this uses vibrant colors to apply the familiar flash designs of a heart pierced by a dagger, while the extra head on the eagle creates a stylistic twist that helps set this tattoo apart from similar American traditional pieces.
Here, the artist takes a stripped down approach to the design, using densely packed red ink is to create the gradation of tones while negative space is utilized for highlights in this classic broken heart tattoo.
In these pieces, to create the wolf and shattered heart the artist uses bold, fully saturated black lines that simultaneously ensure that the ink won’t fall out of the notoriously painful and tricky placement on the palms of the hands.
Here, bold black line work and a simplified design that utilizes hatching to create shadows are utilized this broken heart tattoo that is reminiscent of hand cut lithographs from the 19th century.
This is an excellent piece that uses classic American traditional flash images like the skull and pierced heart in cooperation with a precise application of lines and smooth whip shading to create tattoo that incorporates details like gold teeth to help it stand out from other designs.
The western school of tattooing arose from the American traditional style and many of the classic images and designs of this style have come to be synonymous with tattooing itself. One of these common design elements in the American traditional style is the heart.
In the past this tattoo style was governed by a strict set of rules regarding color and subject matter, although in recent times this structure has relaxed a bit, resulting in some amazing tattoos. The bold lines and densely packed color is perfectly suited to broken heart tattoos and the variety of design elements that can be incorporated into a design means that the only limit to a American traditional tattoo is the artist’s skill and the client’s imagination.
2. Black and Gray Broken Heart Tattoos
In this interesting piece, the artist takes a detail oriented approach to create this stylized pierced heart tattoo that stands out thanks to the meticulous application of stipple shading used to create depth and texture in the various elements that make up the tattoo.
Here is another interesting black and gray piece that uses an illustrative approach that is reminiscent of lithographs while incorporating a stylized snake, coiled around the heart along with several piercing broad swords that wouldn’t look out of place in the hand of an armored knight.
There is something special about black and gray tattoos. This style maintains a subtle elegance that is almost impossible to achieve with bright colors and the best of these pieces are reminiscent of film noir and black and white photography. However, black and gray isn’t just about photo-realism and portrait work, although it is an excellent choice for these styles.
These unique broken heart designs demonstrate the versatility of black and gray ink. From smooth shading and a subtle gradation of tones, to fine line hatching that is evocative of 19th century lithographs, there is a successful black and gray approach to every design.
3. Abstract Broken Heart Tattoos
This is an excellent black and gray piece that incorporates two contrasting styles to create a single tattoo is equal parts anatomically correct and geometrically abstract.
This artist uses an illustrative approach to the heart that effectively uses hatching to capture the curves and veins of the heart, while the machete, script and fez give this tattoo and absurdist composition that is undoubtedly one of a kind.
Here the artist uses an illustrative approach that uses black and gray with white ink for highlights to create this piece that attempts to mend the wearer’s broken heart.
Realism and anatomy are great for some people’s broken heart tattoos, but for others this straight forward approach is downright stifling. For these folks a more abstract approach is the perfect way to produce the broken heart they are looking for.
Some of the most significant and influential art of the last century has been abstract, and it is no surprise why. There is something exciting about seeing a piece of art that contains layers of meaning and symbolism, and tattoos are no different. Whether applied in vibrant colors that recall Picasso’s later work, or black and gray designs that incorporate disparate design elements to create an absurdist masterpiece, an abstract approach is a great choice for broken heart tattoos.
4. Anatomical Themed Broken Heart Tattoos
While some people prefer the stylized heart shape that we have seen since childhood, for other people an anatomically correct heart is the perfect choice for these odes to love lost. The heart is perfectly suited to this approach thanks to the distinct shape and the instantly recognizable valves of the organ.
These anatomical broken hearts also provide artists the opportunity to use vibrant colors to capture the vivid reds and purples of the flesh and blood of this, the most vital of organs. It is worth noting however, as these interesting pieces demonstrate, that color is not necessary for this approach: an equally successful anatomical heart can be produced using only black and gray ink.
5. Neo Traditional Broken Heart Tattoos
A direct descendent of the American traditional school, neo-traditional is an interesting style that continues to gain popular in the tattoo community. This approach is favored by many for the way it maintains the bold line work of American traditional tattoos while taking a looser approach that is more open to artistic creativity.
While American traditional work has definitely relaxed its attitudes in terms of acceptable colors and subject matter, the neo-traditional style has and even stronger “anything goes” attitude towards designs. The application of bold lines and densely packed colors ensures that these tattoos will stand the test of time while the artistic freedom means that the sky is the limit regarding subject matter and designs. These exciting neo-traditional broken heart tattoos demonstrate what is possible with this innovative approach to tattoos.
6. Simple Broken Heart Tattoos
Many people enjoy vibrant colors and intricate detail in their tattoos; for other people, simple is best. However, simple doesn’t mean uninteresting or ugly: quite the opposite in fact. The stylized heart that has adorned Valentines since childhood actually arose in the 5th century BC, if not earlier, and this modest, yet instantly recognizable shape is perfect for these simplified designs. Whether utilizing unadorned black ink to create a broken heart or vibrant reds to apply this shape, sometimes simple goes a long way.
Click on the links below for more galleries exploring the art of the heart tattoo: