Scottie Ford Talks Wisdom From Masters, Deconstructed Cubism and How He Finds Balance
Patrick Coste: Good day Scottie, thanks for chatting with me today. I know you’re an active person on so many levels. When you’re not tattooing, you’re painting. When you’re not doing those things, you’re on two wheels of some sort. How do you manage all that?
Scottie Ford: Yes, hi Patrick! Lol... it’s all about balance. I’m booked enough now - I decided to tattoo three to four days a week. Something like Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 10am to 7pm. That gives me good days of work, and good days of painting. It never feels like work really. Painting at home, going for a ride in the morning... You know, life!
PC: I hear you loud and clear! You still have time off for real, that’s neat. Enough time to ride that crazy Triumph motorcycle you got! You’ve got to tell me a bit about that bike, and where your favourite spot to ride is on the western side of Canada...
SF: Oh yes! Balance you know… I love riding motorcycles, bicycles... I got myself a gift - a Triumph Rocket 3 Triple Black limited edition... Only 1000 were built. It comes with a certificate and all. They call it a muscle cruiser. It has 2500cc - for reference it’s like some of the newer pimped Honda Civic engines’ force.
SF: Long story short, apparently each dealership had only one of them, so I got the one from the Southern Alberta dealership. I think I might have one of the two in Alberta… There ain't that many let’s say.
As for riding, without a doubt the Kootenays! You know when you go to Castlegar, Cranbrook and all those little spots, there are actually campgrounds there for motorcycles... Just beautiful! Would be nice to own land over there!
PC: Ooh I hear ya... I live in the bush and I love it! We could go at it for hours eh? Let’s go back to a younger Scottie and how you got into the trade, tattooed alongside living legends, and ultimately found your way to one of the most reputable shops in Alberta… Hell, in the country... Damn, the whole world!
SF: Lol right! Ok, hmm back in the 90’s…
PC: That’s the 1900’s for you kids...
SF: Lol, ok, I’m originally from Regina, Saskatchewan and back in the 90’s I’d just finished four years of Art college in Calgary. I moved back to Saskatchewan, and I was printing shirts for what seems like quite a while.
At one point I wanted to get a tattoo, so I went to a shop named Valhalla Tattoo and RJ was there. Right away he says, “Hey Scottie, how long have you been back from Art school? That’ll be ‘bout $300, and you should be tattooin’.”
It ended up that he knew me and had one of my drawings from the past. He asked me to go for a coffee and offered me an apprenticeship. That lasted about 9 months and to this day he’s a very good friend to drink rum & Coke with.
Then I moved back to Calgary and worked at Steve Peace’s shop for about three years, built a clientele… Things were good and after that time, James Tex was moving out of Smilin’ Buddha, Paul Jeffries’ Shop, and he put in a good word for me. Paul said, “I like the idea. This is how it goes, this is how I pay to keep on doing good tattoos”. That was it. I started what would be my next thirteen years!
I started tattooing a bit later, in my 30s. Even my mom tells the story of when I was very young, in kindergarten, at the very first parent/teacher meeting my teacher told my mom: “Your son is going to be an artist…” I was only 5. All the kids would draw stick figures and I would draw a hand with fingers and nails and all the details.
PC: Amazing! No doubt you went in and put in good work. I bet you’ve got good stories from those 13 years. Tell me more. I mean, Paul Jeffries…
SF: For sure. Actually, as far as I know, I'm the guy that worked there the longest. What came out of it was only great things and good friendships.
There were for sure so many things over the years and Paul was very supportive, always. He wanted everyone to excel. It’s funny how sometimes he would say nothing, or he’d come and say “Try this next time”...
One thing I’ll always remember, is that one day I was doing a fun tattoo, a #johnleehooker elbow to shoulder piece. Paul never visited with a customer, but he did that day to see that one and was, “Look at that” and blah blah blah... Very memorable!
...and the travel of course. I went to the London Convention FOUR times, Milan and to Japan to chill and eat fish. Good times!
PC: Four times eh? Must’ve been a lot of Scotch! Lol...
SF: Funny you should say that, I’m a big scotch fan, but you already knew that... Lol!
PC: Yep, lol!
SC: From an 85-bottle collection… I can only think of one or a dozen! Lol, that one from Dalwhinnie, a 29-year old scotch made only for the UK market. It has a beautiful blue label on it and tastes marvellous! I got it while I was on vacation at the Royal Mile Whiskies in Edinburg, Scotland. I entered one of the many liquor stores that looked like a library with the ladder that rolls, which I’d never seen before, and that blue bottle shining on me with a price tag of 169£, about 300$CAD… It’s great!
Oh! Another good story about scotch that involved Dan Allaston and Damian McGrath (RIP)… they came by the booth for a mere 45 minutes and it was gone! Dan said, “Not sure I can do a tattoo here!”... Lol
PC: You must have so many good stories!
SF: Yes, but that one I can't really remember… Lol!
PC: Scottie, it wouldn't be a “Scottie Interview’’ without talking about your art. The convention team has seen you painting quite a few times at conventions. You’ve drawn a few very nice Paul Jeffries portraits and a Lyle Tuttle one too, and you paint like a maniac! You do have a definite style, on a Cubist side of things… and WOW, those paintings are massive!!
SF: Yes, totally and thank you. It’s based on Cubism and deconstructing the shapes. It’s based on a drawing I did around ‘93 when I was in school. I dug it a few years back and I remember having joy and fun doing that, so when I sort of rediscovered it, that was the feeling I had. Just took me thirty years to get there.
Yes, I’ve been doing paintings at conventions for a little while now. I started doing that at Steve Peace’s show which states “Tattoo and Arts show”... So I simply went with the slogan, and it became a thing.
I love everything creative. There’s a great quote I like, from Ralf Ell: “VISUAL AND MUSIC, SAME STROKE DIFFERENT PEN”.
So I draw. I like literature, music, all art, you know? Every idea starts with a sketch, a novel starts with writing the idea, that sort of stuff!
I don't really have a favourite subject to draw or paint, it’s more about the environment, the lightning. I really enjoy doing those Renaissance statues, Greek statues... I wanna do more tattoos like that.
PC: Wow, next level! You seem very at ease and good with it all. The balance you were talking about earlier eh? When you look at your @scottiejfordart you can see there are MASSIVE paintings of moose, flowers, portraits... it goes on. All that in a #cubeforddism… Yeah, that’s a word…
SF: Lol! Exactly. You know tattooing is after all a service industry. We’ve learned that during these times. Sure we’re creative and very often you take the idea and make it a tattoo that fits the body, where it goes... and really, you inform the client as to what’s best for them in a creative way, but in the end, it’s a service…
When you take painting or drawing and I do it on my own terms, how can it not be fun? So I go back to my weekly routine and I can always adapt for fun projects. Like, today was my day off but I had a cool project I decided to take on. Just happiness! Lol!
PC: Painting, is this your retirement plan? Because damn, I see them in the @canadahousegallery in Banff... Wow!
SF: Oh, thank you! I definitely love it. It did pay a few mortgage payments during the lockdowns for sure, and you never retire from tattooing. I’ve got that big moose in the shop now... I try to rotate the painting to give it a fresh look when people come back!
Not sure if you know @wbrettwilson from Dragons Den, he got one of my paintings, a bison, and then he got tattooed… that’s amazing!
PC: Can’t bring the painting to the grave eh? I smell a beautiful wildlife series here...
SF: Remember that John Lee hooker tattoo? I did the #tag thing and I got a message from this very nice lady, saying, “I love the tattoo you did of my grandfather”….
PC: BAM! WOW! What are you gonna create next?
SF: I’ve got about fifteen unfinished drawings… lol.
SF: Talking and thinking about all those makes me also think of a regret that I have about that Lyle painting…
PC: Regrets? I figured you for a ‘never look back’ kind of guy!
SF: Small regrets you know... Nothing life-changing, lol. Here’s the short story… So I had the Paul (Jeffries) drawing done and Lyle saw it and loved it. A few years later at the National Convention, I asked if I could shoot some photos to do a drawing of Lyle tattooing. He loved the idea. I started it a few years back but had to put it aside for a while. I finished it, but sadly Lyle never got to see it. Lyle actually called Smilin’ Buddha from San Francisco just to thank me for the print of Paul. An absolute gentleman… I remember Paul kept bugging me about it, “You should finish it before…”, you know…
PC: Thank you so much Scottie, great stories. I feel like we could go on and on... So what’s next for you? Will I see you at a convention in 2022? If so, bring your puppies, lol!
SF: Lol, I love them! Always been surrounded by them. As for the next while… I’ll lay low for the next few years, focus on painting, ride my bike a bit more, maybe get into that Banff gallery you were talking about. After all, when a Dragon's Den dude buys your painting, maybe I should paint more... Lol!
PC: Lol, well said, and Patrick also says to paint more too! Lol thank you Scottie, you’re a riot.
Visit Scottie Ford’s Instagram here: @scottiejfordart @scottiefordtattoo