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.
It's Valentine's Day. I know, I know...a Hallmark holiday designed to get people to spend money on cards, flowers, and candy at high mark-ups. But at the gooey center of it all, a day that celebrates love, whether it be romantic, friendship or familial, can't be all that bad, especially if we celebrate it on our own terms.
Here are a couple of links that share some love in our own tattoo way.
There's a lot of love going around Facebook for this wonderful love tattoo by Little Swastika, but in case you didn't see it, I wanted to share it here. In February, we featured his couples tattoos, but this massive 4-person tattoo has gone even further and is an amazing feat of tattooing, and I believe, a first.
On his Facebook page, he explains the story behind the work (words are reprinted exactly):
somewhere in middle of italy in a private living room. 4 peoples and a total of around 32 hours of tatuing over 4 days on two working spaces. this was in a way killing me, but in another way shows me what is posibly. when i started a few years ago with my first double piece i was just dreaming of making a tatu in a size like this. without much compromises at all. mille gracias gazzooosss. many thanks to all you 4 and to all other pieces who made me walk more than once over my boarders of dreams and reality.Staying true to the original meaning of the swastika, which was about luck and creation and not hate as appropriated by the Nazis, Little Swastika crafts tattoos as talismans, imbuing his massive pieces with a special magic. With this tattoo, the magic of love and friendship could not be more powerful.
Check the individual works below, followed by Little Swastika's "Japanese Tattoo Master" photo, where he is surrounded by his living artwork.