Artists: Zack Spurlock
9 East Bay St.
Savannah, GA 31401
What year did you start tattooing?
I started my apprenticeship in May of 2001. I did my first tattoo in September of 2001.
How did you get into tattooing?
I got into tattooing by hanging out in tattoo shops and getting as many as I could afford. I went with any friends who got tattooed as well. I kind of pestered enough tattooists about it until I finally got lucky one day.
Where did you apprentice?
I did my apprenticeship in Augusta, GA, but I did an extended apprenticeship with Clay McCay and Katie Sellergren when I moved to Savannah. I’d say that’s where I really started learning.
Do you have any special training?
I don’t have any special training other than the apprenticeship. I have a BFA, but I think this impeded my tattooing progression until I realized art and tattooing are separate entities. I get the chance to work with amazing tattooists every day at the shop I’m in, and have also had the opportunity to work with guest artists as well as with other shops. I think the best training is coming from firsthand experience, and trial and error.
What conventions have you worked? Have you won any awards? What are some of your best convention memories?
I have worked a few conventions in Florida and Philadelphia. My convention list is very limited. I’m not very interested in working conventions. I thrive on routine and prefer working out of the shop I’m in. The roaming tattoo gypsy life that seems to be all the rage is not for me. I am staying local. But no, I didn’t win any awards at the conventions, and I also didn’t ask clients to attend any judging. I don’t drink and don’t party, so that makes a convention just feel like work. I’m not opposed to conventions; I just prefer not to work them.
How do you describe your style?
I don’t know what my style is. I try to draw things as accurately as I can and try to stop before including too much detail in hopes that the tattoo will age well. I do what clients ask for and make suggestions based on size and placement. I’m not focused on one thing. I am focused on the long-term result. I want to feel good about a tattoo 20 years later.
What inspires you as an artist?
I am inspired by many different things. I am inspired by The Twilight Zone. I think about things like this while I am drawing tattoos. For example, what makes those episodes from the ’60s so timeless? Is there anything I can include or exclude to make my tattoos have that kind of staying power? I’m also influenced by contemporary pop music. What makes it so bad? Are there parallels I can draw between this and the over-polished, overly rendered tattoos I hate?
What sets you apart from other artists?
I think one thing that sets me apart from “some” artists is that I am not trying to express my ideas on a client. I want to make their idea as impressive as possible, but I am not going to make some sort of personal statement on their tattoo.
What other mediums do you work in?
I work in marker and pencil while I am drawing for customers; this occupies most of my free time. Watercolor or liquid acrylic can help you think about the application of tattooing. If I do find myself with enough spare time to make something other than a drawing for a customer’s tattoo, I would prefer to use something that I think is going to further my understanding of tattooing. Watercolor and liquid acrylic have that very deliberate approach that tattooing does.
How have you branched out from tattooing?
I really haven’t branched out from tattooing much. If anything, I’m finding myself more obsessed with it now than ever. I am constantly trying to be more focused and have less interests or hobbies that could steal my focus from tattooing. However, by default I am the co-owner of a fabric store with my wife. She owns Fabrika in downtown Savannah.
What tattoo artists do you admire most?
I admire the crew I work with on a daily basis. Clay McCay I can say taught me everything I know. Ricky McGee, elemental and straightforward. Dean Denney, so clean, so bold. Marco Sullivan, the Steve Perry of tattooing. The Anonymous Crew—these are my tattoo heroes.
What kind of tattoos do you most look forward to doing?
I look forward to doing most tattoos. I have an amazing clientele that give me a lot of leeway to make their ideas work. For the past few years I have been doing mainly Japanese-influenced tattooing. I like tattooing for the sake of it, though. I am even still stoked on tribal.
Before someone gets a tattoo what advice do you give them?
I try to help someone make good decisions on their idea, such as size and placement. If they want a large tattoo like a sleeve or a back piece, I try to let them know what an involved process it’s going to be and the possibility it could take years to finish, based on both parties.