Shawn Conn will be the first to tell you he’s not a people person. That’s funny, considering people are the reason the local artist continues to tattoo.
A few years ago, Conn’s career as an illustrator took off. He spends most of his time these days designing artwork for the horror publishing industry and working on concept art with screenwriters.
Still, he devotes two to three days each week to tattooing, which has been the one mainstay in a life that’s seen Conn experience just about everything.
He attended college during what he jokingly calls, “The glorious 1980s,” before dropping out and selling everything from cars to advertising. Conn even spent a number of years in the army, working his way up to the rank of sergeant. But tattooing is where he found his niche.
Though he says he considered tattooing a means to an end, Conn quickly made a name for himself, following the guidance and tutelage of local veteran artist including Joel “Doc” Yager and Todd “Bare” Barry.
Just six months into his career as a tattoo artist, Conn received his first magazine feature and won his first award from Tattoo Magazine. Conn has spent the past 20 years receiving recognition for his tattoo work, especially his portraits. However, in 2008 he found his true calling.
Thanks to the urging of his wife, Conn entered a t-shirt design contest sponsored by the Web site, DesignByHumans.com. He won for his “Blackbirds Attackin’ in the Dead ‘O Night” design, a shirt that became one of the top selling in the entire t-shirt industry for 2008.
Conn has used his success as motivation to launch a full-blown career as an illustrator, centered on his passion for horror films. It’s gotten to the point where, “There’s stuff I can’t quite mention yet,” says Conn.
“I love being an illustrator,” saysConn. “People are telling me what to do as an illustrator, just like tattooing, but there’s a lot of leeway. When you’re doing a tattoo you’re limited by what the person wants, their skin and body shape. You’re also limited to what you can do with the machine, the needles and the ink.”
Although Conn’s illustration work takes up the bulk of his day, he doesn’t plan on abandoning tattooing any time soon.
“I do enjoy tattooing the people I’ve been tattooing,” he says. “I’m not willing to give that up.”
~ Story by Troy L. Smith, photo by Ashley Coon