Inkerviews > Tattoo Artists > Sean Herman Interview


Inkerviews features the work of tattoo artists and collectors, as well as fine artists, in a series of interviews. With an exciting lineup already in place and endless more to come, I hope you will check back often to read about these incredible people and enjoy their visually stunning talents.

Visually feast upon the portfolio of Sean Herman and you will find that his tattoo work has the capacity to both elicit emotion and make you think. That ability to WOW you with the designs, while contemplating a deeper meaning is a powerful combination indeed.
Sean's reach doesn't stop with his art. He is one intelligent man and is passionate about life and living it without the constrictions that much of society falls victim to. He can make you stop, ponder, question and think; and does so in a gentle, yet efficacious manner.
A proponent of enjoying all that life has to offer, when he's not tattooing at Royal Street Tattoo in Mobile, Alabama, you can find Sean outside, enjoying life: hiking, camping, riding his bike around town, traveling, spending time with his girlfriend and friends, and basically taking in all the inspiration he can from the people, places and experiences around him.
Herman is a huge proponent of education and spreading ideas. A visit to his website or myspace page, will reveal lists of incredible books, websites, documentaries, and music, with anarchist messages and an overall determination to alert people to what is going on around them.

Learning leads to thinking. Thinking leads to action. Action can lead to a revolution of change, both on a personal level and on society as a whole. Sean is dedicated to spreading this idea and I, for one, send huge kudos and thanks for being so committed to this cause.

With a true commitment to his clients and to spreading a positive vibe within the tattoo community, it is such a pleasure to feature him in the Inkerviews project and I hope you enjoy peeking into the fascinating mind of Mr. Herman.

Your artwork is so stunning, but one of the most beautiful aspects of your style is that there seems to be an underlying passion that surfaces alongside the apparent talent for tattooing. Can you explain how you unify the art with your zeal for life?

Thank you for the kind words. To be honest, it's not something I really think about, it just happens. I think that as an artist, you are the main thing that comes through your art, if you're honest with yourself. When you've hit that point that you are completely honest with who you are, and what you're doing in the world, then it will come through in whatever you are doing. Honesty creates the greatest art, music, writing, etc.  Once we are honest with ourselves, we can start to live. Then, everything in your life will reflect that.

I know that you are passionate about anarchism, solidarity, and equality. How do you think we can we bring about a revolution and an awakening? How do you feel your work and life plays a part in this?

I think the key to bringing about change is to really quite simple, it's about honesty and community. Human beings naturally want to be around each other. We need each other.  It's obvious through social interaction, and even the silliest of dynamics, such as "reality tv" and the like. We naturally want to be a part of a group.

Unfortunately, this has been capitalized on by those trying to do nothing but benefit themselves.  This is obvious with the constant onslaught of media advertising from every direction.  "Smell like this so your mate will love you;" "eat this to be accepted by your peer group;" "wear this to be wanted by those who want you." It's really sad. This capitalization on our own innate need to be together has created a rift in our natural interaction, because they have also instilled fear in us.  How better to control a group than to break it down from the inside and make it fear itself?

So on top of the media onslaught of "how to be accepted" we have the opposite ideals with "make sure to fear your neighbor." It's enough to completely break a group down with opposing ideas that are disguised as being completely different, when in reality, they are breaking down the same ideals.  

When you turn on the television, read the news, or whatever; we have constant images like "To Catch a Predator" thrown into our faces. We are now taught that instead of loving thy neighbor, you should fear thy neighbor. We get more locks on our doors, more security, more guns and more precautions to keep us safe within our fortress. This fear cuts off all social interaction, where now when we walk down the street, we are constantly averting our eyes so that we don't have to look at anyone.  It's sad. 

Try this little number: sit at an airport and watch the people walk by. Everyone looks at each other, for one brief instant, and then looks away. They look so angry, so sad.  BUT, if you try the same thing, this time smile at everyone, and never break eye contact, you'll see a difference. Not everyone (but most) will look back at you and smile - and smile big.  The funny thing is, it will make you feel better too. We long for it, we need each other.

Bill Hicks had the most amazing quote:
"Just a simple choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love instead see all of us as one. Here's what we can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride. Take all that money we spend on weapons and defenses each year and instead spend it feeding and clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would pay for many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace."

So the first key to revolution is getting  the community together. The second is honesty; and that could be flip-flopped to have honesty first. We have to be real with ourselves and truly understand what is going on here, and why we are here. 

Ok, one more Bill Hicks quote, but it's a good one that goes perfect with this:
"The world is like a ride in an amusement park, and when you choose to go on it you think it's real because that's how powerful our minds are. The ride goes up and down, around and around, it has thrills and chills, and it's very brightly colored, and it's very loud, and it's fun for a while. Many people have been on the ride a long time, and they begin to wonder, "Hey, is this real, or is this just a ride?" And other people have remembered, and they come back to us and say, "Hey, don't worry; don't be afraid, ever. Because this is just a ride." And we...kill those people. "Shut him up! I've got a lot invested in this ride, shut him up! Look at my furrows of worry, look at my big bank account, and my family. This has to be real." It's just a ride. But we always kill the good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? And let the demons run amok? But it doesn't matter, because it's just a ride. And we can change it any time we want. It's only a choice. No effort, not work, no job, no savings of money. Just a simple choice, right now, between fear and love."

So we have to look within ourselves, honestly, and search for change. Then we have to look inside each other for strength. So this might sound all well and good, but where's the practical side of it?  Practice. How do we put this into practice?

Honestly, it's quite simple. Smile at the those who pass you everyday. Sit back and realize every person you are affecting, every person your dollar is affecting, every person your trash is affecting, and do something about it, whatever that might be. Go to your local farmer's market, buy food from people you have met and know, ask them how they grew it, where it came from. Smile and talk. 

It's all much more simple than we think. I can't say what one should do, that is up to the person individually. We all know what we need to do, but we are scared. Unfortunately, those in power have convinced us that we are weak and we need them, when in reality, we are strong and only need each other.  Once the blinders have been pulled from our eyes, the revolution will begin. It's now our jobs to pull the blinders away.

I get the impression that your clients come to you for an overall experience (not just a tattoo). How do you make each piece special and bring their vision to life?

I just try to put myself in their shoes. I know if I was getting tattooed, I'd want the person to care about what was going on and about what they were giving me. I usually spend about an equal time drawing and tattooing every tattoo I do, trying to get it right and make sure it's the best tattoo the client could get. 

I'm amazed that anyone wants to get tattooed by me, so I do my best to take care of every single one, completely; being thankful they are even in my chair. I don't deserve clients. They shouldn't be falling into my door. It’s something that I'm thankful for and lucky to have, and will be until the day I die.

My friend Gabe Smith told me something years ago that has always stuck with me, "I don't want to be a rock star of tattooing, I just want to tattoo the working man and give him the best tattoo he can have."  I think that has just always stuck with me. 

I tell my clients that the experience is just as important as the tattoo. It sounds hippy-dippy, but you put your energy into the tattoo you do. If you are being negative, than you are putting negative energy into that. You have to remain positive, for your client’s sake.  You have to respect them, talk to them, give them something that they will remember. 

In twenty years, all tattoos will have faded, but the stories will remain. For me, I just want to create an experience for my client that they will be able to look back on and say, "Yeah, that was a really good time," you know?

I don't do perfect tattoos, but I try to create ones that the client and I both have come together to create. So I guess the simple answer is that I just try to listen to them and treat them like people, like they deserve. The tattoo is on them, not me, so we have to make sure they are the ones that are the happiest in the end.

I dig that you feel that your work is not "work" (in the job sense), but rather "life." Since tattooing does require so much dedication and drive, how are you able to separate the laborious aspect and keep it fun?

My friend CW says it best, "Tattooing is a demon that you have to exercise."  I tattoo a lot and I do it because I have to. It's something inside of me that when I'm not doing it, it's all I'm thinking about. It's been like that since the first time I picked up a tattoo machine. It became all I wanted to do. I was always thinking about what the next tattoo I was going to do. 

So I wish I had an answer that would be like, "I do other art" or "I go on vacation to stay driven," but to be honest, it's not something I try to do, it's something I have to do. I am always thinking about it and I'm sure that makes me completely crazy, but it's true. 

In the same way, it can be a bad thing, because it's all I think about.  I'm a workaholic, constantly trying to recover and not be one. I'll make myself go on little excursions, go hiking, or whatever; trying to make myself take somewhat of a vacation, but it never works. I'm always wishing I was tattooing. It will probably be the death of me.

What one word best describes you?

What one word best describes your work?

Emotion ( I hope :) )

What is your favorite sweet treat (because I owe you a vegan version of one for doing this interview for me)? =)

Well thank ya ma'am. Ummm, well, I have some sugar issues, I cant really have it, so anything that is not too sweet and has some fruit in it sounds great to me.

**Be sure to visit Sean's website and myspace page for more of his amazing work and make use of the library of links and information he makes available there.

Last updated on November 23, 2009 by Jinxi Boo