On this Valentine's Day, I thought it fitting to share a story on Scott Campbell's view of tattooing lovers' names, which are considered "regrettable tattoos" by many. In this NY Mag interview, which includes a short film entitled "With Love" (directed by Steven Sebring), Scott talks about how he supports and applauds those willing to take a risk in expressing their love for another in a very permanent way, despite the odds of a lifelong relationship.
Here's a bit from that Q&A:
How do you think tattooing has affected your view on love as eternal?
Nothing's eternal. There's something in having tattoos that makes you realize that we are ephemeral. In having a bunch of tattoos, you end up taking your physical self much less seriously. It's not precious. We're not precious. And I've seen that since falling in love when I was a kid and getting girls' names tattooed on me, which are now faded and blurred and buried under others. We are a narrative that has a beginning and an end. If you try to hang on to anything forever, it's not going to work. What works is appreciating who you got.
Do you see a difference between a "love" tattoo, like the couple ones you see in the video, and a regular tattoo?
No, tattooing is just a way of communicating. It's like a language. The idea is where the power is. It's not in the type of ink you use. If you're tattooing a powerful idea, it will be powerful. If it's meaningless and just aesthetic, it will be meaningless.
And when I say meaningful, that doesn't necessarily mean I disagree with spontaneity and lightheartedness; there's an honesty in that. If you got a dolphin on your ankle during spring break, that's valid. It doesn't have to summarize your entire existence. It's the documentation of a moment. Some moments are heavy and some are light, and they're all valid.
There's often this thought that
getting someone's name as a tattoo is a poor decision. You mention in
the film that when you got Lake Bell's
name tattooed on you that people were surprised. Do you ever feel like
it's irresponsible to encourage someone to get a tattoo of someone's
name, to get something they might regret?
No, not at all. You're talking to someone who has tons of tattoos on them. I don't see anything hazardous in having a tattoo on you that might become irrelevant. Like if you have an ex's name, and you're not with them anymore, it doesn't make it any less significant.
I encourage people to get their lover's name, if they believe in it. Nothing bad can come from falling in love completely. Yes, you might get hurt. But in the long run, having an ex-girlfriend's name on you is much less tragic than being 70 and having never allowed yourself to never let go. Not getting a tattoo out of fear of regret is taking the skin on your legs, for example, and putting that on a higher pedestal than your emotional journey through life. That's an imbalance of priority.***
I highly recommend reading the interview, whether you agree with Scott's view or not.
I recently got my own "couple" tattoo (shown below, freshly tattooed): a small little fish to complement the detailed Porgy fish skeleton, tattooed by Tim Kern on my love. It's symbolic and not a name. With my day-to-day work being so precise and literal, I love expressing myself through tattoos in a way that is not. Yet, I see Scott's view on the beauty behind "potentially regrettable acts in passionate moments."
Tattoos above by Tim Kern.
On this Valentine's Day, I want to share the ultimate in tattoo love -- being part of a larger art work beyond one's own skin. Artist Little Swastika has been creating full scale tattoos that span two and even three bodies.
I asked him to tell me a bit more about his work. Here's what he shared:
Skin is just a canvas. I try to use the human body as such. To go so far as I can away from what I know about classical tattooing. To create my work free on the body. To play with the shape and dimension of it. I never search the technical perfection or go too much into details. I love it bold and big. To create art not tattoos...