After the wild teenage punk rock years, Mark Gibbs (aka “Black Scab”) is here to tell us about tolerance, the Addiction project and his flawless Realistic tattoos.
Let’s start from your nome de plume “Black Scab”: how did you come up with a nickname like that?
I came up with the name in 1999. Two years into my tattooing career and I only did black work, so much to a point where if you asked me for a dolphin or butterfly I’d be like “Ok, but it’ll be black”. No matter what tattoo I did back then, it would have to have a black scab as part of the healing process. I was also heavily into skateboarding at the time which obviously had a strong creative influence, mostly on the punk/rock side of things.
Unavoidable question: had you wanted to be a tattoo artist since you were a kid or did enlightenment come to you later?
It’s a regular question that I always enjoy answering. At 6/7 years old I used to draw skulls and anchors on my left forearm with a Bic pen. My childhood best mate Vincent’s dad had a blurry tattoo on both outer forearms. He would catch me staring at them, mesmerised. He’d always say in a severe manner that I should never do that, they were a mistake, that he did them drunk whilst in the army. He could’ve told me a hundred times, I knew I was gonna get some anyway…
Afterwards what happened?
At ten years old we had punks living across the road. They used to have wild parties, throw stuff through the windows. They were tattooed all over, face, hands, the works, and we’re in the early 80s… My mum used to catch me staring at them, fascinated! She’d be like “They’re bad people, don’t end up like them, will ya?” I’d be like “Ok, mum” thinking to myself that’s exactly what I’m gonna do! So I went all the way into the punk thing and totally lost myself until I was 25, which was when I straightened up and began tattooing.
I would like to call you a Realistic tattoo artist but I believe that there is even more to your artistic vision. What do you think about it?
Yeah, the base of what I do is Realistic. But at the end of the day, what’s real? What we can see with our eyes we know exists, but what about what we imagine? It’s just as real to me. I always try to understand the client as a person before trying to feel and see the idea for their tattoo. So I really enjoy fusioning images together so that even totally opposing subjects can harmonise in the same space. I actually see the first idea whilst I’m talking to the client. I also enjoy inserting a bit of graphism or a sacred symbol to enforce the general feeling the client wants to express.
Would I be right to say that one of your favourite subjects the unforgettable Lemmy Kilmister? And congratulations also for your tattoos dedicated to unusual subjects like Johnny Hallyday and Hailé Selassié…
Totally! I love doing portraits of any kind and in colour as much as Black ‘n’ Grey.
I’ve been listening to Motörhead since I was ten and I’d tattoo Lemmy portraits every day of the week! Lemmy to me, apart from making great music, was someone who did and said what he believed in and didn’t care at all if you didn’t agree. Everyone to their own point of view. Tolerance towards difference.
Tell me about that trachea you got tattooed on your neck. Who did it?
It was done by Yohann from Art Cannes Tattoo Shop (@artcannestattoo). We’ve lost contact but I just checked him out on Instagram, the living legend is still having it! It’s probably my favourite tattoo, because just like any tattoo it’s a great memory of who I was then. I’m at peace with myself now. This tattoo goes back to the creation of “Blackscab Tattoos” and the punk lifestyle. In the late 90s neck tattoos where still far off from an everyday thing.
I did it as a message to shock people. To say I’m not compliant, so if you’re not open to a different point of view don’t bother interacting.
People used to change pavements when they saw me coming. People and the general attitude towards tattoos have changed so much since then but I think it’s really all about the person behind the tattoo. Generally comfortable with myself and therefore with everyone else.
As a last question I would like to ask you about a project that is particularly close to your heart…
I’m the president of the association “Addict”. It’s a new and different approach to any kind of addiction, I solved all of my addictions with this method. I’ve been creating a stop motion cartoon for the last three years to promote this association. Every frame is hand-drawn, super long and testing to do! I’ll have it finished and on line probably by the beginning of 2021. I’m really proud of the mountain of work and difficulties I’ve had to overcome and of course the positive message it carries.