Other tattoo artists working in a Celtic style draw more directly on medieval works of art. For instance, Pat Fish, the self-proclaimed "Queen of Celtic," is a California artist whose mentors included Ed Hardy and the late Cliff Raven. Adopted as a child, Fish eventually met her birth mother and discovered that she was descended from "the famous tattooed warriors of Scotland." Inspired by that genealogical connection to the people in the British Isles, she elected to focus her talents on Celtic tattoos. In her words, "By specializing in this type of tattooing I get to meet people who are my same kind of dog, who think bagpipes are thrilling and knotwork mazes are a kind of visual prayer of complexity."
Examples of Fish's tattoos range from designs that resurrect medieval images to modern revisions of ancient forms. She subtly transforms centuries-old works of art for use in contemporary contexts and a new medium. According to her website, Fish's creative goal is to make "the intricate designs from the ancient Irish illuminated manuscripts and Pictish stones come to life in the skin of modern Celts." Applied to animate bodies, her tattoos actualize the fluidity of Celto-medieval imagery over time. They literally :"come to life" in the sense that they return to the world, and they also become vivacious and mutable as they move and change with the creatures who form their canvas.
One of Fish's works reproduces the Lion Of Mark from the Book of Kells. The manuscript page depicts the four symbols of the evangelists: the angel for Matthew, the lion for Mark, the eagle for John, and the ox for Luke. ... Mark's symbol,the winged lion, appears at top right. The animal is viewed in profile, turning toward the center of the space and facing Matthew's angel across a dividing panel of geometric decoration. ...
Pat Fish's rendition of this fantastic beast is an almost exact duplication of the original design. With meticulous precision, she renders the Lion of Mark on a human calf muscle, reviving it in the transfer from a dead skin to a living one. The religious significance of the medieval design slips away as the symbol is translated into a sign of personal identity. The collector selected this image to evoke membership in a Celtic community, to express his solidarity with other decorated bodies and specifically other modern Celts. His tattoo samples directly from the ninth century Book of Kells, using a nearly identical image to signify very different things for contemporary audiences. Fish articulates some of these interpretive shifts on her website, writing:
"It is not necessary to know what they might have "meant" to the monks who painstakingly painted them. Yes, certain aimals may have had a coded iconographic symbolism, but it is enough that it appeals aesthetically. If the design speaks to you, it can be your tattoo. In the act of wearing it will take on personal meaning, it will become a personal totem and symbol for you... For people of Celtic heritage ... these designs can be a way of showing pride."
In another of Fish's designs she combines the familiar ringed Celtic cross with the modern symbol known as the Claddagh, which usually appears as a finger ring. ...The Claddagh is a popular modern icon of Irishness, similar to shamrocks, harps, wolfhounds and the tricolor flag. Here, Fish fuses the design's conventional meaning, as the "romantic symbol of Ireland," with the "timeless beauty of a knotwork Celtic cross." Her cross is decorated with panels of knotwork, and the base of its ring culminates in the heart at the center of a Claddagh. That she refers to the ringed cross as both timeless and Celtic is particularly telling. For Fish, her clients, and most contemporary audiences, the medieval Christian origins of ringed crosses are virtually irrelevant. What matters is the form's ability to signify a continuum of Celtic identity, an abstract sense of both independence and belonging that remains constant over time. ...
For ... Pat Fish ... the imagery of Celto-medieval Ireland becomes a personal badge of cultural identity in the form of permanent tattoos. ... For Pat Fish, images of ringed crosses and excerpts from medieval manuscripts like the Book of Kells bring Irishness "to life in the skin of modern Celtis." ... They proclaim national and personal independence by using (a) provocative art form, and they express cultural solidarity by allowing ancient Irish kings and mythical creatures to emerge from the mists of an invented Celto-medieval past.