Welcome to an introduction to the artist behind the art. This section is here to give you a sense for the kind of tattoo art I love to do, and to explain a bit about why I am drawn to the peculiar and fascinating style of Celtic art that I have been drawing for as long as I can remember.
When I was a child, I had no ethnic identity, and I yearned for a connection to a bloodline and history. As an orphan I felt so alone, denied my place and race. I'd go to sleep at night praying “God, when I find out who I really am, please can I be Irish?” But the doodles I drew were tangles that I connected and wove to make knots, and even though it would be many years before I actually saw Celtic knot work in art books, I was making my childish versions of them. I also embroidered everything I wore, adding embellishment in thread with fine needlework.
I went to college and took art and film degrees, and my preference was always to draw intricate pen and ink pieces with lots of detail and dimension. i got a teaching credential and taught Right-Brain Left-Brain Art at the local City College Adult Ed, and I always encouraged my students to learn to see details and the designs behind the foreground, the layers and the forms.
Then one day I paid a private eye to find my family. When I was finally able to meet my true relatives I was delighted to learn that I am a Pict, a Scot, Clan Campbell on both sides of my heritage. I thought I wanted to be Irish, but being Scottish makes sense to me now. It is all the same Celtic blood, and although the cultures may differ the spirit unites. My ancestors the Picts were the famous tattooed warriors of Scotland, known worldwide as mercenaries easily visible in battles with their tattooed faces. It was in an attempt to hold them back in the Highlands that Hadrian’s wall was built by the Romans who could not conquer them.
Many histories will say that tattooing was introduced to Europe when Captain Cook brought back “tattooed savages” from his explorations of the South Seas, and by his sailors who had been marked on their voyages. But in truth the Picts were written about by Caesar and other ancient historians, who said they were “pricked with diverse marks.” For more about the Picts read my Pictish Tattoo page.
It happened that I met many of my true relatives and learned this heritage at the same time I began tattooing. It seemed a lattice of coincidence, that I was meant to do Celtic tattoos. I took it as my special goal to work to bring the intricate art of the ancient illuminated manuscripts and the Pictish standing stones to life in skin.
I met my mentor Cliff Raven, himself of Irish descent, and I began to be tattooed by him and learn the craft of tattooing from him. He was infinitely kind and patient with me, and taught me to translate my pen and ink skills into their new application.
On many pilgrimages to Celtic lands I have researched the manuscripts, tramped through muddy fields to see standing stones and Neolithic monuments, and spent many an hour in deserted graveyards with charcoal and paper, taking rubbings from high crosses. Everywhere I see patterns and motifs that suggest themselves as ways to embellish the human body.
In this photo, I am standing at the Aberlemno Stone in Scotland, and you can see I wear the pattern at the center of the cross on my right forearm.
It has turned out to have been a fortuitous choice for me, wanting to specialize in Celtic tattooing. I have a kind of dyslexia that allows me to be ambidextrous and see things backwards and forwards with ease, so looking at the negative spaces and interlacings in Celtic weaves is endlessly fascinating for me. The ancient monks and stone carvers had this same pleasure, working geometries and spirals to a pleasant representation of the intricacies of the universe.
It is a wonderful life I have chosen. There have been many challenges and opportunities that I have been grateful for, fascinating clients and amazingly talented peers. It is my fervent wish to be granted many more years in which to explore the possibilities for translating Celtic and Pictish art into skin.
My work is regularly featured in the media, from tattoo magazines and blogs to television specials.
VISIT THE PUBLICITY PAGE to see some of these.
To find out what I do when I'm not tattooing, VISIT THE ENTHUSIASMS PAGE.
Here I am with one of my Irish Wolfhounds, Murphy, as a puppy. I have a great passion for this noble breed, and you can learn more about my hounds and their progenitors here: