SHERIDAN — When you shake hands with Matthew Campbell for the first time, you’ll likely make a quick judgment about him.
At first, you will see a man covered from head to toe with tattoos; artwork covering his face, head and most of his arms. Many people draw conclusions about him that reflect negative stereotypes.
A brief conversation with the local tattoo artist, though, will reveal a calm, level-headed man who operates a successful business.
“When you treat people with respect and are nice to them, that can really change people’s opinions about guys like me who have a lot of tattoos,” Campbell said. “I like to show people that are covered in tattoos aren’t bad people.”
In fact, the tattoos on his body made Campbell the success he is today, and helped him get past some of the toughest periods in his life.
“It really has been kind of my savior,” he said about tattooing. “I know a lot of people who were in my situation thank gods or deities, but for me, it’s been my artwork. It levels my head and it keeps me sane.”
Campbell grew up with little stability.
For most of his young life, he spent his days moving from home to home. As a child, he spent time in the foster system and lived in orphanages in the Los Angeles area.
“Los Angeles in the 1980s wasn’t the greatest area to grow up,” Campbell said. “I grew up a little bit harder than most.”
It wasn’t until he was a teenager that he found a permanent home. He moved to Moses Lake, Washington, to live with his grandparents.
Though he moved to a strict Protestant household, Campbell made a habit of rebelling. He was always getting into fights with classmates and was constantly getting in trouble. He eventually ended up spending several years in a juvenile detention facility.
“I was always told growing up that I was just always going to be in trouble, and that I was always just a bad egg. For the longest time, I really believed in what everyone said about me,” Campbell said.
Some good did come out of that period in his life, though, and it was about that same time he fell in love with tattoos.
“I saw this guy covered in tattoos, and I thought ‘I want to be that guy,’” he said. “I wanted to be different. I never really went with the flow in life, and I wanted to be a little strange. I really love the artwork.”
At 14 years old, he got the first of many tattoos, and once the ink hit his skin for the first time, he was hooked. Campbell has lost count of how many tattoos he has today, but he estimates that he has more than 250 hours of work done across his body.
Campbell started to find solace in tattooing. He realized that he had a passion in creating art and drawing tattoo designs. After a few years, a friend of his invested in him to start professionally tattooing, and his career skyrocketed from there.
Tattooing has taken him all over the world. He spent several years in Europe, tattooing in Norway and England. He’s done guest spots across the country, as well. Campbell’s primary focus is in black and grey photorealism, which is a detail-oriented type of tattooing that takes photos and copies them on the skin as real as possible.
It was the quality of his work that caught the attention of Paige Pozos. Recently, the local tattoo artist asked Campbell to set up in her shop — Forever Flawless — in Sheridan.
“I love having Matthew at my shop,” Pozos said. “He exceeds all the clients’ expectations with the quality of his work, his professionalism and in how he does business.”
Today, Campbell stays busy. When he is not spending time working on a client, he’s awake well into the night creating designs and ideas for tattoos. He said it’s entirely worth all the hours he puts into the job.
“I’ve met so many people and done so many things that I wouldn’t have otherwise if it weren’t for tattooing,” Campbell said. “It’s really been one of the best things in my life.”