Art Works Blog

Marking Time: An Audio Documentary with Tattoo Artist Scott Campbell

I don’t believe there’s any benefit in having regrets, but, you know, having my whole life carved into my body, it eliminates the luxury of denial. - Scott Campbell 

The deep-seated human desire to mark a loss, a transition, or to celebrate a random moment in time has driven people to tattoo artists like Scott Campbell for eons. Campbell is one of the preeminent tattoo artists working today. He's arguably as famous for his skill as he is for his down-to-earth personality. He's quick to point out that tattooing isn't just about technical wizardry. He told me, "...it’s not rocket science. But the emphasis has shifted from just being able to competently do straight lines and solid color, to really paying attention to the emotional side of tattooing." There's a yearning, it seems, on both sides of the ink gun for connection and collaboration. Though, over time, he's started to yearn for something else: more freedom. This desire has led Campbell to explore new forms of art-making, from super detailed graphite drawings on the insides of eggshells to a radically different kind of performance art piece called Whole Glory. In this ongoing art experience, which started in New York City and is making its way around the world, willing strangers thrust their arms through a hole to get a free Campbell tattoo. The catch? They cannot a) see him or b) communicate with him about the indelible design he chooses for his or her forearm. No big deal. Press play to hear artist Scott Campbell talk about his first tattoo, pirates, the pressure of drawing ink on skin, and how he learned to identify as an artist.

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