House of the Dragon is one of the most popular TV shows in a while. It has incredible ratings, to the tune of over 20 million views per episode. They’ve had constant press and raving fans glued to HBO Max for the Game of Thrones prequel series. At San Diego Comic-Con last month, fans were getting dragon tattoos as part of the blitz to launch its streaming debut.
In fact, the dragon tattoo is seeing a resurgence thanks to House of the Dragon, it’s a growing trend that’s likely to succeed with the show’s overwhelming hype.
“I’ve tattooed so many dragons since the hype hit when House of the Dragon’s trailer went live on YouTube,” said one tattoo artist Sung-Jin Yin, who works under the moniker of Intat and runs the Yasaeng tattoo studio.
“The dragon figures and designs in the series are incredible, so inspiring, as well as the dragons from Game of Thrones,” he said. “Hands down, it’s one of my favorite dramas and one of the coolest ways we see dragons in pop culture today—it’s definitely something people want inked, too.”
Yin has been inking dragons since 2016, especially one design he came up with in 2018, where a dragon is inked down the spine of a person, with its tail dangling down, rising towards a moon. “It’s a tattoo with a mysterious air to it,” he explains. This design went viral on Instagram and drew the likes of international clients. Today, he’s booked up months in advance for inking dragon tattoos and is booked throughout the year.
This rise of the dragon tattoo started with Game of Thrones, really. “It’s a type of fan tattoo, and both of the series keep fans on the edges of their seats,” said Yin. “Even I couldn’t control my excitement for episode five.”
Fandom tattoos for the series range from character tattoos, symbolism we see in the episodes, like the 200-sword Iron Throne from Game of Thrones. “I love inking the coldness and grandeur of the Iron Throne,” said Yin. “It’s chilling”
The dragon Yin designs fuse together medieval Western-style dragons, the kind we know protect a castle, and East Asian oriental dragon designs inspired by ancient folklore. That includes water dragons from Japan and China, and artworks that date back to 19th century prints.
It’s almost an art history lesson. “Fans who are interested in dragons in the series are naturally fascinated by the symbolism, which leads them to learning about the history of dragons in culture and art, and learn about the grandeur of the dragon itself,” said Yin, who is part of his local Tattoo Union.
The dragon designs he creates are based on the Japanese dragon, which is different from today’s tattoo artists, which are heavily influenced by anime, cartoons and illustrations we see in Dragon Ball Z and One Piece.
Yin aims to incorporate dragon figures we see in Korean folk paintings, as “they have their own unique special charm that is different from other Chinese and Japanese dragons,” he said. “Through my own tattoo work, I want to introduce this charming Korean dragon style to many people.”
And it ties into the show’s own 17 dragons that appear during the series—from the red dragons, to flying dragons, evil dragons, fighting dragons, and even dragons wrapped around swords, or with their wings spread out, too. “All the narrative elements in the series are perfectly united, so all fans, including myself, can fully immerse themselves in the drama,” he said.
Each dragon he inks is detailed with black and white ink, and sometimes two dragons are seen in battle. “I try to put yin yang in every piece,” he said. “The yin and yang expression in my work refers to the harmony between black-and-white ink as the yin, and the skin’s unique tone as the yang. It means creating a stable harmony not only in light and shade, but also in various elements that express that in my work.”
Yin has a dream to travel the world as a tattoo artist. “It’s like a dragon that swims freely in the sky,” he said. “I hope there will be a chance to realize this dream someday.”