Scott Campbell was born in 1977 and spent his childhood in New Orleans, Louisiana, with his conservative Christian parents. He subsequently went to Kingwood High School and graduated in 1995.
Next, he attended university in Texas to study biochemistry. Campbell wanted to become a medical illustrator, but it wasn’t meant to be. In fact, he never graduated, dropping out before finishing the course.
Soon after he left university, Campbell moved to San Francisco and pursued a new passion of his: tattoos. What’s more, he learned the tricks of the trade at one of California’s most renowned parlors, Picture Machine.
Campbell’s career as a tattoo artist subsequently went from strength to strength. After establishing himself as a talented illustrator, he was eventually able to set up his own studio, Saved Tattoo, in Brooklyn, New York.
Campbell became renowned for his work, and over the years his clientele became an increasingly exclusive group. Indeed, he has tattooed a whole host of big name celebrities in his career.
His list of clients is impressive, including famous faces such as Courtney Love, Robert Downey Jr., Howard Stern and Orlando Bloom, to name just a few. But life hasn’t always been so glamorous for Campbell.
Indeed, before making it big, Campbell had traveled around Asia and Europe tattooing people as he went. ‘‘I’ve tattooed murderous bikers who kill people for a living and Jennifer Aniston – and everything in between,’’ he revealed in an interview with Dazed in October 2016.
Clearly a natural artist, Campbell has also received acclaim for other types of artwork, including sculptures and even watercolor paintings. Moreover, some works were inspired by a voluntary six-week visit to a Mexican prison.
But it’s what Campbell did next in his career that was particularly unusual. It all started in a place called Milk Gallery in New York in 2015. It was here that Campbell set up a lottery for people to win a free tattoo.
A renowned tattoo artist offering a free tattoo? Of course, many people would jump at the chance to be inked by Campbell. However, there was quite a significant catch if you were to be one of the lucky winners…
Indeed, there would be no pre-tattoo discussion between artist and client. Instead, the winners would stick their arm through a hole in a wall, ready for inking. As a result, they had no idea what they would leave with.
Therefore it was a risky business for the 23 people who were chosen. Regardless, they all seemed happy to put their trust in Campbell. They were separated from the artist by a screen, leaving themselves unable to see whatever he had in store for them.
On his Instagram page, Campbell explained that he would draw “whatever I feel their arm needs.” And so he began. Strangers put their trust in him, and the reception afterward was surprising.
One of the winners told the New York Times that, “Everyone thought that they got the perfect one.” Despite the element of risk, all the participants walked away happy with their new tattoos.
In a video posted on his own website Campbell even admitted, “I’m kind of making this up as I go.” He claimed that he didn’t even prepare any designs ahead of the people arriving for their tattoos on the day.
The video followed the lottery winners as they uncovered their tattoos and got to see them for the first time. They all seemed delighted with their designs. Indeed, they could later be seen hugging and thanking Campbell when they finally came face to face.
Campbell said that the division between artist and client had allowed him to trust himself more. The artist felt he’d been able to create beautiful designs without inhibitions. However, he did admit that he couldn’t “help but imagine who [the arm] was connected to.”
It was clearly an exciting day for the lucky winners. But the artist himself also took something profound away from the experience. He said, “It was the first time a tattoo artist had real freedom and it felt amazing.”
The project was named “Whole Glory” to reflect the nature of the concept, which Campbell called “a tattoo glory hole.” Due to the overwhelming success of the New York event, he soon began planning to repeat it in another city.
And his plans soon came to fruition. He traveled to LA in June 2016 to perform some more mystery inkings on 20 brave people. A few months later he set up a “glory hole” in London’s Covent Garden too. Whatever happened to never trusting strangers…?