Something I read a few weeks ago really resonated with me and I wanted to share it. It was an interview with Scott Campbell about tattoos, specifically on getting your first tattoo. I’m not familiar with Scott’s work, nor would I call myself a tattoo expert, but I live for genuine self-expression and for that reason I have always had a soft spot for tattoos. But this post isn’t about me, it’s about his interview! I think it’s something everyone (with or without an interest in tattoos) should read. Because I love perspective and his interview definitely gave me that. Here are my favourite parts; hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
What should someone do to prepare before his appointment?
The best way to prepare is to not overthink it. My favorite tattoos were done on a whim with very little forethought at all. When people don’t have that many tattoos, they feel like they have to summarize their entire identity into one symbol, which is way too much responsibility for one design. Just take a deep breath, clear your mind, and get what feels good. People think Marc Jacobs—who I’m dear friends with and have tattooed a bunch—is off his rocker because he gets these crazy, weirdo cartoon characters. But he’s got such a great approach to it. He’s got SpongeBob on his arm because when he looks at it, it makes him smile. He’s not trying to summarize his ancestry into one tattoo—it’s simple, primal.
What’s your favorite kind of tattoo to do?
I enjoy the technical stuff, the ornamental and beautifully rendered lettering. The way that you write a word can affect the meaning when done right. But that being said, I have a special place in my heart for fucked-up, two-in-the-morning, drunken tattoos. I feel like a lot of people come to me for my technical ability, but I appreciate the emotion and passion that goes into spur-of-the-moment tattoos. Maybe it’s trying to take the passion and the spontaneity of the drunken, enamored moment and render it in a way that you’re not embarrassed to show your mother.
What would you say is the main reason people want tattoos?
I first started getting tattooed because I grew up in this really conservative, southern, suburban environment. It was a way of promising myself that I wouldn’t grow up to be like my parents. I don’t know if tattoos hold that much rebellion anymore. A lot of times people will get tattooed based on what’s going on in their lives—someone close to them dies and they get a memorial tattoo, they fall in love or they have children and want to commemorate that. Anytime they’re feeling things so strongly that a T-shirt or bumper sticker doesn’t quite do it, or they want that idea or feeling to be physical and a part of them, that’s when you get it tattooed. It can be really cathartic. Getting tattooed can be a way of taking control of things and affecting who you are in a symbolic way.
So, I have a question for you from my mom. She wants to know where you can get a tattoo that won’t sag later in life.
The quick answer is to get it on your wrist, ankle, or back of your neck. But I love old, ugly tattoos! When I’m old, I’m going to have saggy tattoos because I’m going to be a saggy old man. That’s it. There’s an honesty to it that’s awesome. But as far as older folks getting tattooed, just get it where you feel it. I might be an exception because I place more emphasis on the emotion and feeling that goes into tattoos, the juju more than just the aesthetic. Any artist can make something look good. Tattoos that have the most feeling are going to be the most special.
What is your advice to the person who is ready for the commitment of his first tattoo?
Don’t force anything. Get it if you feel like you need it. Get tattooed if you sit there and you have an idea or a feeling that won’t let you sit still until you get it carved into your body. That’s your first tattoo. Make sure you feel it 100 percent and then get it like you mean it.