As one of the oldest art forms known to man, tattoos have more than made their mark on the world, influencing culture, identity and art on a global scale. Unlike other mediums of art, there is a disparity in the way that tattooing is valued alongside its cultural impact. Permanence is implicit in the art of tattooing, but the bodies of work have always remained permanently tied to the lifeline of the owner—until now.
Fast forward to the 21st century, and we’ve got a solution: NFTs. The digital assets (non-fungible tokens) have made waves throughout the art community, giving broader life to fine art in our ever-expanding digital world. NFT's use blockchain technology to authenticate ownership of unique works, and they can be bought, sold or traded using cryptocurrency.
All Our Best is a new NFT platform that aims to immortalize top tattoo designs. The emerging marketplace allows artists to sell their designs as digital assets, and it currently counts world-renowned artists Scott Campbell, Mister Cartoon, Dr. Woo, Grime, Tati Compton and Sean from Texas among its members.
All Our Best's initial offering is set to open July 9, with prices expected to range anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000. NFTs are also a great investment for clients, as they stand to profit from the appreciation of the token's value over time. At the forefront of the lineup for the All Our Best platform is Los Angeles-based American tattoo artist, Scott Campbell.
Celebrated as one of the most recognized tattoo artists internationally, Campbell is well-known among celebrities and elite designers. Famed for his intricate and unique designs, Campbell's clientele include Heath Ledger, Robert Downey Jr., Orlando Bloom, Courtney Love, Helena Christensen and Marc Jacobs. We caught up with Campbell to chat more about the All Our Best platform, tattooing and what he sees for the future of the industry.
What initially attracted you to tattooing?
Initially, it was the freedom of it. That’s always kind of been the most attractive thing. I was a young kid, 19 years old, and I was good at drawing pictures and not a whole lot else, so I was trying to figure out how to feed myself with that skill. I was running about with some punk rock kids in San Francisco, and tattooing seemed like a really organic way to pay my rent without having to get a job.
So, how long have you been tattooing?
I’d say I started when I was 19, and I’m 44 now. Right about 25 years.
What inspired you to take tattoo artistry into the world of NFTs?
When I first started to hear about NFTs and people selling digital artworks, it didn’t immediately click. I kind of saw it unfolding, and I was like, ‘alright, I’m gonna sit this one out and see where it goes’. I talked to a buddy of mine, Ian Rogers, whose been really at the forefront of where technology and creative culture meet. He was the first person to ever put an album on the internet with the Beastie Boys in the ‘90s. He’s very intuitive when it comes to technology and culture. I got a glimpse into NFT culture through him, and then there was a moment where it clicked where it was like, ‘oh, this solves so many problems that I’ve struggled with through my tattoo career.’
I love tattooing, and my hands could tattoo better than they could do anything else, but because of the finite nature of the medium, it’s not an art form that is taken seriously in the same way painting or sculpture or other fine art is. A big reason to that is because, even if you’re among the best tattooers in the world, you’re still kind of a service industry, and the clients and the collectors who follow your work are mostly just getting bragging rights and an Instagram post. If I shifted the way I work and sell my tattoos as NFTs first with the option to get it tattooed, that simple mechanism kind of changes everything, because it shifts the value from the application process to the image itself. If I create artwork, I’m actually selling you that artwork and not just selling you hours in my chair.
Could you explain a little more about how the platform works? Are you creating new works to make into NFTs or also adding in previous works?
No, everything’s new. All tattoos I do, I kind of create for each one. I don’t have a catalog that I pull from. I like to create something new each time. So yeah, all the works that we’re doing are new pieces that are created for this platform.
Do you think making tattoos into NFTs will give them a new meaning to people?
Absolutely. I think that idea that they’ll have a version of that artwork that is not vulnerable to sunburn and is truly archival is exciting. It gives them something more to take with them, and there is more of the pride of ownership of those digital assets. There’s a real tradeable secondary market value to them as well, I think. Even just a few years ago, one of my long-time clients passed away, and his sister reached out and was like ‘do you still have the drawings from any of his tattoos?’ She was going through photos trying to put together some sort of catalog of all the things he had tattooed on him, and I didn’t have them. In that scenario, if we had been doing [NFTs] back then, if I could’ve given my customers these unique archival digital versions of their tattoos, it’s such an amazing keepsake that they could pass on. I’m excited to implement that moving forward.
It’ll give tattoos a timeless appeal?
Yeah. It’ll make them truly permanent, and also the idea that a tattoo could have resale value is a crazy sentence to say. That statement in itself is like, "wait, what?" These images that I’m creating for people could actually have a life beyond just that one transaction.
How do you think this platform will change the future for tattoo artists?
Immediately for a community of tattoo artists like myself who are very collectible and sought after, it’s definitely a shift in how we work and an added layer of value to what we give to everyone. For tattooing as a whole, there will always be tattooers who don’t create their own artwork. There are tattooers out there that if you bring in an image, they’ll tattoo it on you. I think where this has the most impact is tattoo artists who really work to create their own visual language and their own distinct style, and now the clients that follow them and appreciate that will have actual digital artworks to accompany their tattoos. So yeah, I think it’s potentially an enormous shift in the way the tattoo industry works.
Do you think this could completely reinvent the tattoo industry?
Totally. Yeah, absolutely.
Tattoos are very personal to each individual and are ways of storytelling. With the All Our Best platform, are you excited about gaining a broader audience to appreciate your art and value the stories and messages you’re telling?
The platform to myself and the artists I work with, we already have a pretty expansive audience. It’s not about expanding our audience, it’s more about giving our clients more than what they’re currently receiving. It’s being able to take the drawings that we’re creating each day and giving them a larger life, adding another layer to them. I feel like the audience will probably remain the same, but it gives that audience a deeper way to engage with what we do, and a deeper way to collect the artwork we’re making.
In addition to tattoos, your other artworks take a variety of forms. Going into the digital world of NFTs, does the medium shape the art?
The artwork still is its own thing. I think the digital aspect doesn’t affect the direction of the artwork. It doesn’t affect the ideas we’re trying to capture with our artwork, it just gives those ideas a larger life. A lot of people I talked to, both the artists and the consumers, they’re like "oh, what does an NFT tattoo look like versus a regular one?" It looks just the same. The three letters NFT are not the thing that we’re selling. The thing we’re selling is still our artwork. The content will dictate the value, not necessarily those three letters. It’s still our responsibility as artists to produce content that’s fucking awesome. We still have to grab people emotionally with what we’re drawing and what we’re creating. This is just a device that amplifies those ideas.
You’ve tattooed so many influential and inspirational people. What would you say is the best part about your work, and what inspires you to continue sharing your art with others?
Oh man, I love the human aspect of it. Even with this project, as we’re talking about the world of cryptocurrencies and digital artwork, I like that there’s still a human aspect to it. I’m still touching people, and it’s still a way to connect with people. I think that’s why tattooing will always be special. Yeah, you’re paying with Ethereum, but I’m still gonna have your blood on my hands.
Photography by: Joshua Spencer