Move On - Scott Move

Published: 17 September, 2012 - Featured in Skin Deep 216, September, 2012

The internet, amongst a heave of pros and cons, has one particular standout pro – the freedom to trawl through a ton of mediocrity and be blessed by uncovering a real gem. That was how it was for me with my discovery of Scott Move.

Generally when I’m so immediately taken with something I get suspicious. Usually it’s the slow-burners that last for me. But it was different this time. I was taken immediately, and then with each look at his artwork and tattoos, I only became more and more fascinated with them. Rather than losing that initial excitement, instead I became increasingly interested and knew I had to seek out the man behind the art. And so I did, and my interview with him is
what follows…

“I’m 36 years old. I’m from Chelmsford in Essex; a small village in the countryside. I studied art very casually at school, then at college, followed by a short stint at university in Northampton. But to be honest I didn’t learn anything there at all. I kind of fucked that one up. Everything I learnt I learnt from my mum when I was about six. She is a painter. I learnt about shading and how to draw negative space. That’s as far as the education goes. My dad can draw better with his feet than he can with his hands! He’s more of a business-minded person. My brother and sister don’t draw, so the artistic side was really my mum and I – she does watercolours. I would be in my room, watching Terrahawks, and I’d be drawing pictures of people with knives stuck in them; lots of blood. I’d watch Conan and stuff like that. My mum always asked me, ‘why can’t you draw nice things?’ and I was just like, ‘I don’t know, mum’. And I still don’t know to this day why I do.

“When I went to university, I had no real desire to be there. It was just to keep my parents off my back, so I went along with it. I left home and got drunk every day and didn’t really go to any classes. Eventually I left because that obviously wasn’t going to work. I came back, I wasn’t really doing anything. I didn’t really care about art at the time and I ended up getting a job on a building site for ten years, which was a huge waste of time. So I didn’t draw for a pretty long time. Most of the time I was on the building site I didn’t draw. But I was in and out of bands for a while, and I was asked if I could draw a T-shirt design. Other people didn’t want to draw it because it was a guy stamping on a policeman’s head, but I was happy to. I drew it, they sold a bunch, and that was the thing that brought my interest in art back. It was around the time that the internet was becoming this great tool for finding out about other artists, and seeing what people were doing.

“Music has always been a big influence. I’ve always been listening to punk-rock and stuff like that. Eversince I saw a skateboard video at Primary school; from then on I was always listening to the soundtrack of skate videos. Being in bands, playing punk and hardcore throughout my teenage years, was obviously a big influence as well. It definitely affected the way that I was drawing. I got tattooed the first time when I was about 17 in a really small and awful tattoo shop. It was a terrifying experience that I didn’t like at all. Back then I never thought it would turn out to be something that I’d be interested in, but my friend Jim had loads of tattoos and I thought he looked really cool. But back then it was just about being cool; it certainly wasn’t an artistic interest I had in tattooing. I didn’t know anything about tattoos back then.

“I think it was when I was in a band and we started to play in London where my interest in tattoos became a real thing. I started to get more tattoos; I realised you could get some really great stuff. So I was getting tattooed a lot before I even considered the fact that I might be able to do it myself. But then around the time that my drawing started to come back into play, I think I started to think that I may be able to tattoo.

“The thing with the hardcore scene back then was that if you got a tattoo you got a sleeve. Everyone had sleeves. Nowadays people want to get palm-sized tattoos, rather than a Japanese sleeve like when I started; I didn’t realise you could do anything else at the time, so that’s what I did. People don’t seem to get them so much these days. Dom Holmes did the Japanese sleeve; she works at The Family Business. I don’t think I’d get it now because I’m aware now how quickly space runs out, so I probably would have saved my space for other tattoos by other artists… get palm-sized tattoos, so I can collect from as many artists as possible. But I didn’t really think about it back then; I just wanted to get my sleeve and be cool like everyone else!

“My friend, Pete, who played in a band called Beatdown Fury and was also a tattoo artist, covered up my first tattoo that I got on my stomach (which was a pretty brutal experience, I have to say). But he said, ‘with your art stuff, you could be a tattoo artist and you could do well. You’ve got a good style of drawing and it’s different, so you should go for it.’ So one day I went around his house and he helped me. He tattooed me a little bit, and I tattooed him a little bit, and so on. It was just like a baptism of fire – it was literally one day. We set up some machines, and it was all good and it was all safe. I tattooed myself. It’s quite weird tattooing yourself, but it’s a lot of fun once you get into it. It’s a good gauge whether it hurts too much, y’know? After that one day though, I still felt it was incredibly difficult and I’d probably never be able to do it. It was fun, but that was about it. I didn’t think it would be a real career choice at that point.

“But it sparked my interest properly. From then I didn’t pursue it for a little while. I was just working, socialising, being in a band; it seemed very far out of reach at that point. I think I stopped thinking about it for a while; I thought I’d just concentrate on drawing more at the time though. I spoke to a friend of mine, Josh, who lives in Baltimore. He told me that if I was to come to America he would apprentice me, which was awesome. He said I could come over for six months and he’d apprentice me and give me a place to stay, so I saved up a bunch of money for a year. He was guiding me via email what I should be doing before I even got any machines. But the weekend before I was supposed to go to America I got drunk on a stag do in Brighton, fell of a statue and broke my ankle… so that put an end to my America visit.

“I was back to square one and unable to walk. After that I still had the idea that I wanted to do it, but it seemed less and less likely that I’d be able to save up that amount of money again. But it wasn’t an option anymore anyway, because he had moved shops and would be unable to apprentice me from there. Some time later, I finally got around to buying a few machines and started to tattoo myself. I was just buying stuff online; tattooing myself with guidance through email/ text messages/ phone calls, and just going for it. I had some help from my friend, Alex Young, who was learning at the same time. He showed me how to set up machines and I just did a couple on my legs until there was no more room… so I progressed onto friends. I didn’t have an apprenticeship or anything like that, it was never an option. I didn’t have the amount of time that I could possibly give up to do that. The more I went along, the more important it became to learn as much as I could.

“At that point I was introduced to Allan Graves who works at Haunted. We were talking about an art exhibition (at this point my drawings had a following, mainly thanks to the internet, and I was doing a lot of commission work) and I also brought up the fact that I was learning how to tattoo, but I wanted more help. He invited me to come in every Friday and hang out, to ask questions and just to watch. I needed a proper space; it wasn’t ideal tattooing at home anymore. I wasn’t charging any money at home anyway, I was just tattooing friends. I’d take photos and show people what I’d done. I said to Allan that I had a lot of people that want the tattoos that I’m doing, and I asked if I could bring them to the shop and do it there, and he said ‘yes’ to it. So that was great.

“At the time when I started, my girlfriend was about to have a baby. I think it was two days after he was born when I started to work there, so I just dropped the job at the building site, started working three days a week at Haunted and selling drawings the rest of the time. I had all my own customers from the get-go because of internet ‘skills’! I’m always on the internet doing something; I’m on facebook all the time. People knew me already, so I had people coming in, wanting my style. I didn’t really have to do much walk-in stuff, but I did what I could handle. I just jumped straight in, and this was back this past February. If I’d been 18 years old and living at home with my parents, an apprenticeship would have happened. But I’d just had a baby, so I wasn’t able to work for free. But I got on with it. I’ve had some particularly great advice from some people, and I’ve just tried to pick it up as best I can. I was at Haunted until two weeks ago.

“I just started tattooing at The Circle Tattoo in Soho. It was basically an offer I couldn’t refuse. It’s in Soho, filled with great artists – a great place that I could forward my craft – so I just took it. If I didn’t take the offer now I’d regret it. It’s a new studio that I can really get behind and help promote. It’s all about learning for me. I work with a guy called Math who owns it and tattoos there, his business partner Ashley, Daniel Ronson tattoos there, El Bernardes and Dawid Gaura tattoo there, its a pretty sweet team. There’s laser removal there done by an awesome guy called Wayne too. And I live in North London so it’s only about five stops away on the tube. It’s a custom tattoo shop, but we do walk-ins as well. It’s kind of a lifestyle thing; there’s a shop upstairs, there’s a gallery, and downstairs is a huge tattoo studio.

“I’m still trying to find out what my style is at the moment. I think I work a lot with black ink at the moment because that’s come from my drawing. Just very recently I’ve started to add a little bit of colour, but it’s just baby steps at the moment. I know that tattooing is so difficult. Everything has to be done in very small stages, so I wanted to become comfortable using black first and won’t start using colour properly until I know how to do it. I try and encourage people to maybe have a little bit of colour done too, even though everyone wants black from me. I just want to make tattoos that look like I did it; like my drawings. You can tell my favourite tattoo artist’s tattoos a mile off, and I love that.

“One of my favourites at the moment is Ien Levin from the Ukraine. What a fantastic dude. I did a drawing trade with him; I was terrified. I posted a drawing to him and it took like three weeks to get there and I thought it had got lost. He’s a really amazing tattooist. I saw his stuff years ago on the internet; I didn’t know who it was or what I was looking at. We’ve become friends now though and it’s really nice. You can look at one of his tattoos and you just know who it’s been done by; same with Liam Sparkes. There’s people like Duncan X who have been quite a big influence. At the start a lot of people told me that my drawing style wouldn’t transfer to tattooing, but it’s only when I found people like Levin and Duncan X, that I realised that was bullshit. It transfers perfectly; what are you talking about?!

“When I look at tattoos now I’m not looking at them now as just an image. I’m looking at individual lines and shading; picking bits out and trying to see how they’re done. It’s a little annoying actually – it’s like listening to music and only listening to the drum track! You lose sight of what you’re really looking at. But it’s really important to look at tattoos that way as a tattoo artist. The main thing is to look as much as possible and ask as many questions as possible.”

As we drew to the close of what for me was a very exciting interview, Scott wanted to thank a few people who have both helped and inspired him. “I’d like to thank Alan Graves at Haunted, Alex Young, Simon Earl, Josh Hart in America. Obviously Math and Ashley at The Circle Tattoo for giving me the chance. And to you for hooking me up with this; it’s very kind!”


Text: Tom Abbott; Photography: Scott Move


Artist Profiles: