If you had to sum up Drew Plotkin in one word, you may choose “inspiring,” “astonishing,” or even “incredible.” That’s because he is not only extremely successful at anything he puts his mind to, but he also sets a great example for how we should all choose to live our lives.
Plotkin is perhaps best known for his work as an Emmy Award-nominated television news producer, as well as the Founder and CEO of Launch DRTV, a full-service creative agency based in Los Angeles. He has directed and overseen nationally televised commercials, that have featured celebrities such as Jennifer Lopez, Serena Williams, Cindy Crawford, Ellen Pompeo, Dwayne Wade, Kristin Davis, Jane Seymour, Paris Hilton, and Drew Brees.
Another of his remarkable feats is being the co-founder of Global Mobility USA, a non-profit organization that helps deliver wheelchairs to those in need of them. He also launched the company Derm Dude, a men’s grooming and tattoo care brand, and is the creator of the As Not Seen on TV podcast on YouTube. Oh, and let’s not forget that he has dabbled in being a music video director, most notably for Rafael Valdez.
One of Plotkin’s most significant interests is tattoos. In fact, you may say it is a borderline obsession. He has travelled the world, receiving tattoos from some of the top artists around the globe. He recently released a book titled Under My Skin, which tells his life story through the context of his tattoos. It is this passion for tattoos which led him to create Derm Dude, which, in only one year of existence, has skyrocketed in popularity, and is quickly becoming one of the most in-demand tattoo products.
When it comes to tattoos, is there anyone better to speak to than Drew Plotkin? We think not! This is why we recently spoke to Plotkin for Tattoo Talk, in which we discussed his first tattoos, his favourite artists, most painful tattoos, best shops, and more. Find Drew online here or here.
What was the first tattoo you ever got/gave?
Drew Plotkin: “A very poorly designed human eye with a teardrop that was a bad attempt of also being shaped as a ‘world globe.’ I was in my early 20s, wanted my first tattoo, and without any experience or research, I picked this because I thought it was deep and meaningful (at that time).”
How many tattoos do you have on your body?
“I don’t know exactly because I’ve been adding more and more tattoos constantly for the past 25 years. Of course, some are standalone pieces, but now many of my tattoos flow and merge together.
“The best I can guestimate the sheer amount of ink I have is as follows: the average tattoo creates between 50 and 3,000 puncture wounds or tattoo needle pricks per minute. I’ve known lots of people in my lifetime, but I have absolutely been touched by millions of ‘pricks.’ Also, I would estimate I’ve spent over 150,000 dollars on tattoos, so, a lot.”
What’s the most challenging thing about tattooing/getting tattooed?
“I hated the pain from my first tattoo, and I hate the pain even more now, 25+ years later. In fact, I got a new tattoo just yesterday, and the pain was awful. When I go to the doctor for a physical and the nurse does blood work, I shriek at the needle, which surprises them. Everyone always assumes if you have a lot of tattoos, you love pain or at least don’t mind it. Unfortunately, that is untrue for most people I know with tattoos. The pain is a necessary evil we push through for the permanent art we want on our living human canvas.”
What’s the most painful piece you’ve ever received?
“The most painful was either a tattoo on a small part of my ear cartilage or my lower back calf that was an 8+ hour detailed realism session. The swelling and pain from that one lasted over a week after the tattoo was completed. Ribs were no picnic either.
“For me, my neck and head were actually fairly mild in terms of discomfort. Everybody has different nerve endings and sensitivities, but common areas most people hate in terms of pain are elbows, ribs, knee caps, backs of legs, etc.”
Who are some of your favourite artists?
“Way too many to list all, so apologies to any I will surely lapse and leave out by mistake. But I am a huge fan of: Mr. K, Drew Normandine, Balaz, Oscar Akermo, Sarah Lo, Robert Pho, Yatzil Elizalde, Kozo, Turan, Keith Hernandez, Isis Muniz, Cold Gray, Johnny 2/3rds Anderson… and many more.”
How would you describe your personal artistic style?
“Hodge podge. I am a giant POST IT note. I’m far more of a walking living scratchpad than a ‘work of art.’ Which is intentional because this reflects who I am, how I think, live, and exist.”
What inspires you for your tattoo designs?
“Life. Real life experiences. Humanity. And when I say humanity, I mean the good, bad, and ugly of it all. The raw, authentic reality of life inspires every one of my tattoos, no matter how obvious or enigmatic the tattoo may be.”
What’s the most outrageous/batshit thing you’ve ever had or asked to have tattooed?
“I would not call it outrageous, but I recently had a bird tattooed on my middle finger. I’m 50+ years old, so I can finally give people the bird for real. I also have ‘Lower The Bar’ tattooed on my finger. I love when people underestimate me.”
What would you never tattoo?
“The twig and berries. ‘Nough said. Ain’t happening.”
What’s the longest session you’ve ever had?
“Sixteen hours of needle time split over two days in a row on my back. The artist was Robert Pho, who is a true master in every sense of the word. Tattooing, life, philosophy. Sixteen hours of time with him is an investment in becoming a better human being.”
What’s your greatest passion besides tattoos?
“My four amazing kids, who are also the inspiration for many of my tattoo designs.”
What would be the most surprising thing people who have never been tattooed might learn about your tattoos?
“How deep the meaning is of each tattoo on my body. Many of them came from years (and years) of thinking and playing out various concepts and designs.”
Any shops or artists you want to give a shout-out?
“Shops like Bang Bang NYC and Ganga LA have very deep talent pools, including some of the best artists from around the world. And that starts at the top with Bang and Ganga themselves. Robert Pho owns Skin Design Studios, and besides being a creative ink genius, he is an exceptional tattoo mentor to many, which reflects in his deep talent pool at all of his shops.”
What motivates you to create? What inspires you?
“Life and the people around me who I experience it with.”
Do any of your tattoos have a particularly special meaning behind them?
“I have a portrait of Anthony Bourdain on my leg. I was a huge fan of his storytelling, style, and personality. My own father committed suicide the day after Anthony Bourdain killed himself. There was no direct connection between the two deaths other than the close proximity of timing and the personal loss I felt from both.”
Do you have any new tattoos planned or underway?
“Always. As long as I have open real estate on my body, my mind is spinning multiple concepts simultaneously, waiting for the right window with the right artist to come together.”
If you HAD to get someone’s face tattooed on you, whose would it be and why?
“I have known a few people along my journey I don’t care for very much, and I if I had to add a face somewhere, It would probably be someone I didn’t like on my ass cheek. But I’m not a fan of revenge tattoos or dwelling on the past, so it won’t be happening.”
Do you have a crazy, weird or super-memorable tattoo experience you’d care to share?
“A few years ago, I went on a life-changing tattoo journey to Bali. Just hours after finishing a two-day epic chest tattoo by my friend and insanely talented tattoo artist, Balaz, I decided to hike up a volcano to watch the sunrise. While I did see the best sunrise of my life, my amazing brand-new tattoo was drenched in sweat, and coated with thick lava ash. Even worse, I was flying back home in a few hours.
“Itchy, scratching, and fairly certain I saw signs of a tattoo infection, I asked the driver taking me to the Bali airport to stop in the town of Ubud. Coincidentally, Ubud roughly translates to ‘medicine.’ I stopped at a shop and loaded up with a myriad of all-natural hydrating aloes, soothing balms, and moisturizing gels.
“My 24+ hour trip home became my own chemistry experiment, testing various mixtures and in-flight ‘tattoo remedies.’ Whatever I did, it worked because the tattoo didn’t get infected and healed perfectly.”
Tattoo artists are similar to bartenders in the sense that people confide in them. What’s the most personal story you’ve shared while getting work done.
“One of the very first few people I ever told about my father’s suicide was the tattoo artist who was doing the piece for me. I felt he was owed the right to know. And I wanted his truthfulness to come through in the tattoo itself.”
Tattoo pain: love It, hate it, indifferent to it? Or maybe pain is all mental?
“I HATE IT, but mental strength plays a huge role in pushing through the pain for the end prize.”
What is your absolute favourite part of getting fresh ink?
“The moment the artist says ‘DONE.’”
If someone is thinking about a career as a tattoo artist, what’s the most important advice you could give them?
“Be bold, original, humble, confident, and passionate. Learn from others and then teach others what you have learned.”