In the hands of leading Christchurch tattoo artist Scotty C, skin becomes a canvas upon which life stories are drawn out in exquisite detail. 

‘Scotty C’ is Scott Chapman’s professional moniker and it’s one that he’s worked hard to build into a multi-award winner at New Zealand International Tattoo and Art Expos over recent years. Working out of Expression Tattoo in Merivale, Scotty C is a sought-after practitioner with a particular flair for creating realistic imagery in black and grey on skin.

It all began in his teenage years. At 15, he got his first tattoo – a traditional Māori tā moko design. This experience marked the start of what was to become a passion.

‘I became obsessed with it really,’ Scotty C explains. ‘I dropped everything in order to learn how to become a tattoo artist.’

He soaked up what he could over several years working at various studios in Auckland and Christchurch before travelling to the United States to get work done by one of the world’s top tattoo artists, Jun Cha. 


‘I was really inspired by him: not just his art but also his approach to making it real and intimate so it became so much more meaningful than simply putting a sticker on someone. That’s when I decided to get out and start pushing my own brand.’

He ran a tattoo studio in Auckland (Empire Tattoo) for a couple of years but feels the experience of becoming a father for the first time five years ago is what has really honed his professional focus. Working closely with people who are open and committed about what they want is something he particularly enjoys. Their personal stories often inspire his most unique custom designs.

‘I find it very satisfying to create memorial tattoos for people, for example, as they can have such a big positive effect on the wearer. Being able to execute what people want to the highest possible standard is very satisfying – it’s where my passion comes from.’

Templates are created before the tattoo art is applied so people can visualise how it will look once it is permanent.

An individual tattoo session, from 8:30am to 3:30pm, is often just a small part of an ongoing journey. Scotty C has been working on some clients for over five or six years now. How much gets finished in a one-day session will vary depending on the design, the person’s skin type and their pain tolerance.

Sadly, there is no escaping the reality that getting a tattoo will hurt.

‘Certain areas are more sensitive than others. The ribs are meant to be the most painful part but some people treat that like it’s nothing. It really does depend on the individual.’

With a taste for expressive realism growing in his field, Scotty suggests the stigma around tattoos is in fast retreat. It would probably have been impossible to imagine a studio like Expression Tattoo operating in Merivale a decade ago.

Today Scotty C has a long waiting list and sometimes turns people away if he feels their requests may be best met elsewhere.

‘There used to be this belief that only bad people wore tattoos … [but] now people do appreciate that it is an art form.’ 

WORDS Kim Newth PHOTO Sarah Rowlands

FeaturesBlueprint Ltd