Tattoo Gunner

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Sep 15, 2013 | By Nicholas Pell

Tattooing is now a respected art form, and more and more fine artists are making the move to tattooists. It's a natural progression, and it's oftentimes more profitable. But the reverse move, from tattooist to fine artist—that's a rare leap. 

But rarities are kind of Scott Campbell's thing, and he's no ordinary artist. After all, he learned his trade in a Mexican prison.

Campbell, in an interview with Mercedes-Benz, described himself as both fascinated and terrified by prison culture, something we—and fans of Oz and Sons of Anarchy—can certainly relate to.

But after spending two months in a Mexico City jail, Scott channeled the prison culture, one of the primordial homes of tattooing, to help divorce his art (and his tattoos) from the uniformity found in mini mall shops and reality shows.

You can see this prison tattoo sensibility in the starkness of his colors, or rather the total absence thereof.

While some of his art does ape the aesthetic of flash art you'd find in a tattoo shop, he's equally comfortable making exquisite poster art, dollar bill cutouts or even portraits of poodles in black and grey.

It's less the art itself that draws influence from the joint than how the man works. His primary tool for putting ink on canvas is a jury-rigged tattoo gun of the type you might find in the prison where he studied. 

Campbell has variously made tattoo machines out of combs and plastic spoons. Naturally, the only transmission vector suitable for his ink is a destroyed ballpoint pen.

Whether you like tattoos or just badass art, Campbell is definitely someone that you need to keep your eye on. If a guy's willing to spend months in prison to perfect his art, we're pretty sure he's game for anything.

Our call for what's next, the other mecca of home-cooked tattoos—the Navy.

Tattoo gun watercolors by Scott Campbell. Shop images by Emily Rosser via Ignant.