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Art, Downtown Businesses, Meet the Artist

The Washington Tattoo Collective: Art on Living Canvas

I’ve been in touch with Kyle Scarborough for a while now through Facebook, as he sent me some nice messages to Re-Discover Washington mentioning his plans to open a tattoo shop downtown. I sadly missed the grand opening, but I’ve been keeping up with The Washington Tattoo Collective, Kyle’s successful new venture.  After seeing him at a number of different events downtown, I finally set a date and time with him to meet for an interview for the blog. I walk by his shop everyday, and I was intrigued to peek in 😉

 
Washington Tattoo Collective

Located on 204 Jefferson Street downtown, the Washington Tattoo Collective has a discrete inviting front.

Kyle completely renovated the space. I love the color scheme he went with - very calming, relaxing, and clean. I have not been to other tattoo shops, so I have no room for comparison, but I felt every comfortable and at ease at his place.

Kyle completely renovated the space. I love the color scheme he went with – very calming, relaxing, and clean. I have not been to other tattoo shops, so I have no room for comparison, but I felt every comfortable and at ease at his place. He even had nice music playing.

Meet Kyle Scarborough himself, owner of the Washington Tattoo Collective. A true artist, who uses the human body as a canvas.

Meet Kyle Scarborough himself, owner of the Washington Tattoo Collective. A true artist, who uses the human body as his canvas.

How did you begin doing what you do?
I’ve always been an artist, or at the very least drawing was a part of my life since I was 3. Martial arts movies, action films and cartoons were huge for me growing up. It was reflected in what I drew. Then around 10 or so on into my teenage years I really got into comic books and that took me to a whole other level of dynamic illustration. It was then I knew art was my future, just didn’t know how to go about it. By the time I was in high school it became obvious that a career in illustration was becoming harder and harder in a world dominated by digital media. After a brief stint in college for art I began operating as an independent artist taking on various projects. University functions, logo and clothing designs, children’s books and what have you. Tattooing was always an interest for me but up until that time I never saw it as a viable career. I only ever had real exposure to the cliché aspect of tattooing. What we knew to be “biker” and “prison” tattoos. I thought them interesting but nothing more. Around the time I turned 25 I came across artists throughout Europe who were not only tattooing far more advanced imagery than I had ever seen but creating incredible photo realism work. That really opened my world up to what tattooing is and could be and immediately turned an interesting art form into one of the world’s greatest forms of expression.
What are tattoos for you?
Tattooing is the most interesting medium of art in the world to me. Other forms of art can be manipulated in so many ways in their creation. Tattooing is limited far more than any other, but it’s within those limits that some of the most amazing pieces of art have been created. No tattoo is ever the same, no canvas ever the same. So many variables can make or break a tattoo each and every time.
Kyle, prepping up for work. There is so much that goes into a tattoo - from the initial design and sketch, to the final image approved by the client an then the process of application which can take up to 6 hours. Consuming time and creative energy, but so rewarding when you see the final results!

Kyle, prepping up for work. There is so much that goes into a tattoo – from the initial design and sketch, to the final image approved by the client, and then the process of application which can take up to 6 hours or more. Consuming time and creative energy, but so rewarding when you see the final results!

Kyle only does original designs, and his sketches look amazing. I loved the "about me" section on his website: "I'm an award winning and internationally published Tattoo Artist currently working at The Washington Tattoo Collective, my all-custom tattooing and fine art studio in historic downtown Washington MO. My work is loosely defined as "Chiaroscuro-Surrealism". I don't tattoo bumper stickers and logos. I'm an artist. I create art. Please do not be offended if I choose not to tattoo your design. View my portfolio to better understand my style."

Kyle only does original designs, and his sketches look amazing. I loved the “about me” section on his website: “I’m an award winning and internationally published Tattoo Artist currently working at The Washington Tattoo Collective, my all-custom tattooing and fine art studio in historic downtown Washington MO.
My work is loosely defined as “Chiaroscuro-Surrealism”. I don’t tattoo bumper stickers and logos. I’m an artist. I create art. Please do not be offended if I choose not to tattoo your design. View my portfolio to better understand my style.”

He  does have many awards, and people travel to have a tattoo done by him. Did you know that there are tattoo collectors? People who collect tattoos on their bodies by some of the best artists in the business. I just learned that today and I find it pretty amazing!

He does have many awards, and people travel from different states to have a tattoo done by him. Did you know that there are tattoo collectors? People who collect tattoos on their bodies by some of the best artists in the business. I just learned that today and I find it pretty amazing!

What does it mean to be a tattoo artist?
First and foremost it’s being an artist, period. This industry is so heavily saturated with tattoo “artists”, which is to say there’s far more people out there tattooing who have almost no real skill artistically. I know personally many tattooers who are incredibly talented illustrators, painters, sculptors and so on. Tattooing is another medium, another expression of their art, and they’re true artists. To limit a tattoo artist to being “only” a tattooer is a shame, because any true tattoo artist is an ARTIST. Tattoos are simply another expression of their creative ability. So many people have taken up tattooing as a means to make–what they believe to be–“easy” money or to live out some kind of rock star lifestyle that television shows lead people to believe exist. For every celebrity tattooer on television there’s a hundred incredible artists who are just as talented yet lead the same life as any other working class individual.
What is the most challenging tattoo you’ve ever done?
There isn’t a single tattoo I’ve ever done in my career that hasn’t been a challenge on some level. Every piece is unique, not only the design but especially the client. The simplest, smallest design can be just as, if not more difficult then a fully rendered sleeve or portrait. I take everything I do as seriously as the next.
Tools of the trade. Many people think tattoo artists are party animals, who breeze through life. Quite the contrary, they have jibs children and wives just like anyone else. In their line of work there is no room for mistakes, and precision and concentration are the key.

Tools of the trade. Many people think tattoo artists are party animals, who breeze through life. Quite the contrary, they have jobs, children and family just like anyone else. In their line of work there is no room for mistakes, and precision and concentration are the key.

Kyle usually does about 2 tattoos a day, walk-ins are welcome, too. Many of his clients keep coming back, knowing the quality of his work.

Kyle usually does about 2 tattoos a day, walk-ins are welcome, too. Many of his clients keep coming back, knowing the quality of his work.

How long have you been doing this?

Over 6 years now. Served an apprenticeship for a year before becoming a licensed tattooer. I still maintain my interest in illustration and cartooning but tattooing has been a fulltime career since I began.
What are some things people should know before getting a tattoo?
Not every tattooer is the same. Tattoo shops aren’t convenience stores. Shopping for the lowest price makes sense if two or more stores are offering the same product. Applying this mindset to your tattoo is foolish and could potentially be downright dangerous. Bargain hunting for tattoos based on price is one of the worst decisions anyone can make, and getting these “great deals” by winding up with tattoos by unlicensed tattooers in an unlicensed establishment could have far worse results than just a terrible tattoo experience. Even licensed artists in licensed shops aren’t always good artists. If anything that’s the majority of the tattoo population. CHECK PORTFOLIOS first and foremost. Check the cleanliness of the tattoo shop. These are all factors in knowing you’ll walk away with the best quality design you can in the proper environment. Financial limitations are completely understood, but tattoos are one of the last things anyone who decide on based on what’s in your pocketbook.
Today Kyle added the old Sportman's Park to Steve's half sleeve. His portrait work is amazing.

Today Kyle added the old Sportman’s Park to Steve’s half sleeve. His portrait work is amazing!

Steve's other sleeve was also done by Kyle. It's his grandpa in the war. Living canvas.

Steve’s other sleeve was also done by Kyle. It’s his grandpa in the war. Living canvas.

It was my first time to witness a tattoo in progress.

It was my first time to witness a tattoo in progress.

Kyle's original sketch being transferred onto the bare flesh.

Kyle’s original sketch being transferred onto the bare flesh.

Inspecting to make sure everything is right.

Inspecting to make sure everything is right.

And the work begins!

And the work begins!

I asked Steve if it hurt. He said calmly: "You just have to put your mind somewhere else."

I asked Steve if it hurt. He said calmly: “You just have to put your mind somewhere else.”

What does The Washington Tattoo Collective stand for?
I’ve been a resident of Washington since 1993 when I just turned 12. It’s my home and I have no desire to live anywhere else. I’m proud of this town and its history. I wanted to establish a tattoo business that was a reflection of both myself and the love I have for my hometown. I wanted to represent the heritage of this historic area. The name was simple. The Washington Tattoo Collective translates simply as a collective ensemble of artists and creative people. Working not only together but also within the community. Downtown Washington was my only option for a location to open. It meant that much to me to be a part of it. The people and businesses are what make the area special. The logo is also a reflection of that. The Norton wine grapes sitting atop the crossed axes. The crossroads of the Missouri wine region. To me, it’s a name and logo that celebrates Washington first and foremost. The history, the viticulture, the heritage and the working class people. To become a part of that, to celebrate that instead of taking away from it. A collective of folks passionate about their home.
I love the way how Kyle has chosen downtown to share his creative talent and artistic vision with everyone.

I love the how Kyle has chosen downtown to share his creative talent and artistic vision with everyone. Working at and with the community.

How can one choose the right tattoo artist for them?
Know what you want, or find that artist whom you believe can express your ideas the strongest. Not every artist can do every design. Some–in my case–simply won’t, whether I don’t feel comfortable with the concept or disagree with the idea entirely. The last thing I want to do is put my name on a tattoo I never wanted to do. That’s unfair to myself and especially the client. Research the artist and the shop. Review portfolios. Always.
Kyle's tattoos have been done by friends and colleagues he trusts and admires.

Kyle’s tattoos have been done by friends and colleagues he trusts and admires.

What inspires you?
Other artists, music and–most importantly–my family. Whether it be illustrators, cartoonists or tattoo artists I always find new things that really excite me and push me like crazy to get better. I’m all about the right mood and frame of mind. Tattooing might be a commercial art business but it’s still art. I have to create an environment that allows everyone to relax and really let the best possible creative expression flow. Music plays a massive part in that. My family are why I do it. My daughter especially. She loves seeing the shop. My amazing girlfriend and a very close knit family that have been so supportive throughout my career. It’s humbling.
I wanted to thank everyone who’s been so supportive since my opening. I’ve been beyond excited to open my first shop in my hometown and it’s been incredibly successful. From other business others in the area to the Downtown Washington staff to the residents, everyone has been amazing. I hope to continue making a positive contribution to our society here and our doors are always open to anyone, no matter who they may be. I’m proud of my town and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.
Washington Tattoo Collective

After walking out of the Washington Tattoo Collective, I knew that if I ever decide to get a tattoo, I’d have Kyle do it.

“An artist’s only concern is to shoot for some kind of perfection, and on his own terms, not anyone else’s.”
― J.D. SalingerFranny and Zooey

Get in touch with the Washington Tattoo Collective! E-mail Kyle at scarboroughtattoo@gmail.com or call 636.390.2781. View his website here.

About Slava

I am a twenty-something Bulgarian girl in the USA, re-discovering the world through the lens.

Discussion

2 Responses to “The Washington Tattoo Collective: Art on Living Canvas”

  1. That was a completely awesome interview!! I enjoyed every bit of that! Kyle has grown and become such a respectable man in the community. I love all that he brings to Washington! Thanks for sharing this with everyone!

    Posted by April Bergin | July 17, 2013, 11:10 am

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