Right in the middle of San Clemente, Ink Gallery has rapidly become known as one of the most reputable shops in all of southern OC, and one of the main artists responsible for the recent growth is Scott, a Laguna Niguel native who is doing better work in his 20s than many other artists can conquer after decades of experience.
But like so many other rising young artists, it wasn’t all that long ago that Scott was just a teenager with some artistic skill and too much time to kill. These days, he can look back at that first time he started tattooing his friends a handful of years ago and laugh, but he certainly never thought it would lead to a full-time career.
“When I was 17, one of my friends got a tattoo machine for his birthday, but he didn’t really ever use it,” Scott says. “One day, we were all bored, and one of my other friends said ‘Hey man, you should throw a tattoo on me.’ Stupidly, I did, and the next thing I knew I had all my friends wanting them. Then it just escalated from there.”
Although Scott may have learned the basics of tattooing from just messing around with his homies, it didn’t take long for his artwork to catch on with the professional tattooing scene. While most people his age were just gearing up for college to figure out what they wanted to be when they grew up, Scott had it figured out incredibly quickly.
“I was just doing it randomly for about a year, and then some other people started noticing my work,” Scott says. “I got an offer for a job at a shop, so I tried it out, and as soon as I tried it out, I was set. I knew that was what I wanted to do.”
Long before he was known for both American traditional and black and gray tattoos, Scott became indoctrinated in tattoo culture simply based on where he was living and the people he was surrounded by. Whereas preppy neighborhoods in Yorba Linda might not have been full of tattoos, Scott got used to seeing tattooed adults on the beaches of South County throughout his youth.
“I was always into art, but seeing older people – even older family members – around town with tattoos, it was kind of something cool to look at,” Scott says. “Everybody I was hanging out with was always surfing, and they were all tattooed, so it went hand in hand back then. Now, I really like to do a lot of ocean and aquatic tattoos, and we get a lot of surfers that come in to get tattooed. The majority of our clientele is either military or local surfers.”
Even with as many tattoos as Scott grew up around, the married father knows that his daughter will be even more exposed to ink throughout her life. In addition to his own tattoos, the artist is noticing more and more highly visible tattoos on people everyday. When he began tattooing five years ago, it wasn’t uncommon for Scott to see a sleeve or two, but anything more than that was still a pretty rare occurrence.
“When I first started, the industry was already really big, but you didn’t really commonly see a lot of face tattoos or even knuckle tattoos,” Scott says. “I’d say within the last three years or so, I see people pretty much everyday with face tattoos. There are still pretty few face tattoos, but I see about one everyday.”
Beyond seeing the recent jump in face and knuckle tattoos, tattooing for Scott is still very similar to how it’s always been. The artist knows he’s still surrounded by some of the best tattooers in the world in and around San Clemente, and he uses that as inspiration to push himself to get better. For now, he’s just focused on Ink Gallery’s upcoming re-grand opening while he bumps elbows with other great tattoo artists at the grocery store.
“They’re all very nice cordial people,” Scott says of the other well-known tattooers in South County. “We see each other around town all the time, and I really feed off the energy from those guys.”
Ink Gallery, 139 Avenida Granada, San Clemente, 949-481-8775. Instagram: @scotttatts