Sean Herman: Tattoo Collectors (Part II)

By Sean Herman
This past Hell City I was fortunate to tattoo three different collectors. Collectors are a whole different breed of client getting tattooed. They are passionately pursuing specific tattooers, and getting pieces to signify the work from that tattooer, no matter what the subject matter of the piece is. That always makes it an honor to tattoo a collector. During the weekend I had some people who were close to me tell me, “Hey, you keep going on about how awesome it is that they love tattooing, how about you write a blog about the collectors, like the one’s you write about tattooers.” She was right, why didn’t I think of that. Genius. After Hell City, I decided to get a few of them together to tell us their stories, I hope you enjoy… [Part I] 

I had been keeping up with Jason Cornell for quite a bit longer than I originally thought. I had been a huge fan of Shawn Barber’s work and have always followed when he puts new stuff online, which I am sure is a practice of amount a million people, because he is amazing. He did a tattoo of a small group of skulls on the side of a knee, and it just looked so dang awesome. It is one of those pieces you tend to always remember.

So when I was looking at another skull piece from another tattooer, I was surprised to see the skulls Shawn did right above it. I kept seeing all these awesome skull tattoos by these amazing tattooers, and then realized it was all on one guy, Jason.

Once Jason’s leg was finished, he put it up online for the world to ogle at, and we did. It was awesome to see so many great tattooers, with totally different styles, meshed together in one area. A supreme collection.

A few months later I got an e-mail that I honestly didn’t expect. It was Jason saying that he wanted to get a skull tattoo from me at Hell City. He was working on his arm now and wanted me to tattoo his forearm. Wow, talk about an honor. As a tattooer we know that forearm is prime real-estate. So, like any sane person would, I said, “Yes sir, that would be awesome.”

Jason is probably one of the most professional and prepared people I have met. He came up to the booth with a bag all ready with snacks and drinks to stay hydrated. This wasn’t his first rodeo, and he had become a seasoned vet in the art of getting tattooed. All his preparation paid off, I have never tattooed skin like that before, it was perfect. Almost no bleeding, no liquid, no redness, nothing. He isn’t human, he is superhuman. His attitude is the same way. He is one of the most positive people who is just in love with tattooing, and it glows off of him. I think now, looking back on it, that is the main thing that ties these guys together, they are so positive. Tattooing has created this amazing positive impact on their lives, and it’s infectious. Here’s Jason’s story about how he first was exposed to tattooing, and how he became a collector…

Jason Cornell:

First, I wanted to sincerely thank Sean Herman for inviting me to be a part of this project. It is an honor to be considered among all the incredible collectors out there. Well, where to start… It’s funny thinking back to four years ago… a lot has changed in my life since then.
 Four years ago I had a few tattoos but was not a serious collector in any way. That all began changing when we found out we were having our first child. Well, it turned out he was going to be born smack in the middle of the sign of the Lion. This is when I started doing my “tattoo homework.” I was on a mission to find someone who could create a realistic lion cub.

After my research, I stumbled upon Mike Devries website. That was it, I was completely sold. I made the appointment and LUCKILY he had quite the waiting list. I say “luckily” because my son decided he didn’t want to be a Leo but instead a Virgo. Well, I had the appointment set up so I thought long and hard and decided to have Mike tattoo a skull on me. That was the real start of my tattoo collecting. 
After doing so much research, I had created a list of artists that I wanted work from. I called it my “tattoo Dream Team list.” I decided to continue the skull theme on my entire leg. I think the tattoo gods were looking down on me because everyone I started contacting from my list was excited to be a part of my project. Artists that had year-long waiting lists were suddenly getting me in a few weeks later.

I am grateful and humbled to have been so lucky. 
The more artists that came on board, the more “obsessed” I became with collecting. Looking back now to when I first started, I think initially it was the thrill of the chase that was so appealing. Getting work from these “bigger” name artists that so many people could not get, was exciting in a way. I know that sounds very shallow now… and it is weird for me to admit that to myself, as it is completely not me anymore. 
More recently in my collecting, tattoos have begun to take on a whole new meaning for me.

Of course I am incredibly grateful to wear such amazing works of art, but it has become so much more than just that. It has become the experience. I love the whole process, from getting in touch with the artist, to traveling to them, to going to the conventions, to the tattoo session itself. Actually I don’t like the term “tattoo session.” I like to call it the “tattoo encounter.” Session to me sounds so impersonal, whereas encounter is something that has the potential to change your life… and it has for me!

I love the experience of getting the tattoo. I love the interaction with the artist. There are not many things in this life that are as personal as someone permanently modifying your body and having the ability to interact while that process is happening. There is an unparalleled level of trust that happens. It is an opening of the mind and soul for me. 
Also, because of the art of tattooing, I have become a part of a whole other family.

I have met so many incredible people and made the most amazing friends. You all know who you are, and I thank all of you for being on this great ride with me! I love all of my experiences that have happened in my life as a result of tattoo collecting and I cherish them all! 
There are three things that are the most important in my life, my wife, my son and my tattoo experiences. I can’t even really remember a time when all three of those were not in my life and I could not imagine life without any of them. 
I want to thank all the artists who have contributed to my collection to date. They are: Aric Taylor, Mike Devries, Carlos Torres, Jeff Gogué, Bugs, Nikko, Robert Hernandez, Bob Tyrrell, Stefano Alcantara, Phil Garcia, Goethe, Adrian Dominic, Jeff Ensminger, Sean Herman, Jonathan Montalvo, YZ, FAT, Carlos Rojas, Jason Butcher, Derek Noble, Juan Salgado, Shawn Barber and Joshua Carlton.
 Thanks for listening to me rant!

(Sean Herman is a tattooer and contributing blogger for Tattoo Artist Magazine.)

Sean can be found at:

Royal Street Tattoo

Mobile, AL 36601

251 432 4772

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