Scott Campbell on Tattooing Marc Jacobs and His New Book

Scott Campbell
Photo: Getty Images
Scott Campbell and Chloe Sevigny.

Hipster tattoo artist Scott Campbell has inked Marc Jacobs (they have matching "Bros Before Hos" insignia) Lily Cole, Terry Richardson and Justin Theroux at his Brooklyn outpost, Saved Tattoo. He's also a fine artist who has shown at OHWOW Gallery in Los Angeles. His new book, If You Don't Belong, Don't Be Long, showcases his work on both skin and canvas. Campbell reflected on fashion, art and tats with us, and told us who he wants to get his needle on next. (Jay-Z, are you listening?)

What has it been like working with Marc, Lily and other fashion figures on their tattoos? Do you have any stories about working with them?

Sure, lots of stories. The stories are the best thing I get out of doing tattoos. There's a sort of collaborative element to doing someone's tattoos—getting to know him or her emotionally, as well as aesthetically, in a way that you don't get to in any other sort of interaction. But Lily and Marc aren't so different from my other clients. "Fashion figures" are people, too.

Why do you think fashion people, who are always chasing new trends, love the permanence of tattoos so much?

I don't think permanence is the appeal alone. There are obviously many parallels between tattooing and fashion, in that they both affect the visual appearance of oneself. They're both ways to take control of your physical identify and tailor it to represent the way you feel inside, or the way you want to be seen. Of course, there's always the notion that you can change your wardrobe every season, but you can't change your tattoos. I have tattoos on me that I got when I was 17 that I still enjoy. If I got tattooed in that spot today, I would probably not get the same thing. But they become a narrative; souvenirs. Like stickers of different countries on a steamer trunk. I can look down and see all the different people I've been in my life. My tattoos don't depict who I am in this moment, they just represent where I've been. I no longer have the luxury of denial.

Do you consider yourself a fashion person? Do you have any favorite designers?

I don't really consider myself a fashion person. I am attentive with my appearance, in that we are all subtly judged by our appearance, and I don't want to be misrepresented. But I don't follow fashion as closely as some do. As for favorite designers, of course Marc. He's one of the most brilliant creative forces I know.

Marc Jacobs

Photos courtesy of Getty Images and Rizzoli

Campbell client Marc Jacobs and his tats; the cover of the book and a shot from inside.

What is your favorite tattoo and why?

My favorite tattoo is a little handmade tattoo on my leg. It was done by a really dear friend of mine late one night, after a few drinks. Who knows what the guy intended it to look like, but it ended up just being a gray blob on the side of my leg. The only discernible feature is where he tattooed the word "sorry" underneath it. An apology for making a mess on my leg. But I love it. A tattoo with a good story is much more interesting that a pretty tattoo with no story.

Who in the fashion world would you most like to work on and what design would you give them?

Is Jay-Z considered a part of the fashion world? I'd love to tattoo him. As for the design, I would never be so bold as to decide for him. The most exciting part would be getting to work with him on the design. What does someone that's done all that he's done, and seen all that he's seen take away from it all? What would matter to him so much that he decided to carve it into his skin?

What do you see as the common thread between your tattoo work and your fine art work?

The life of a tattoo compared to the life of a painting or sculpture if obviously very different. I feel like fine art works are actually the more "permanent" medium. Tattoos are done in a moment, for that moment. They walk out the door after that and I frequently never see or hear of them again. There's a specialness in their purpose that often gives them a particular sincerity. Tattoos don't ever have a resale value, they will never hang in an important collection. There are no auction houses that determine the value of the great tattoos of the world. I try to take that same intimate narrative that tattoos capture, and place it in a more archival medium with my fine art.