Advocate leading mental illness support program in Pictou County
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By Sara Connors - SPECIAL TO THE NEWS
Smith describes how he became a tattoo artist and how people react to his face tattoos
You’ve probably seen him. You can usually spot him standing outside of his shop, Two-Face Tattoo and Piercings on Foord Street in Stellarton, sipping on a Tim Horton’s coffee. With both sides of his face tattooed, George Smith is hard to miss.
“My face is a walking billboard,” laughs Smith as he sits at his desk in his shop. He explains that his face is “good for business,” as he’s found people are more likely to get tattooed by someone so heavily tattooed themselves. He recalls that around three years ago a couple travelling from Spain got tattooed at his shop solely because they wanted to get tattooed by the guy whose face was tattooed.
Smith, 39, is 70 per cent covered in tattoos, but the decision to have his face tattooed eight years ago wasn’t an easy one. It took years for Smith to finally pick a design and go through with the tattoo, yet he says he has no regrets at all.
Half of Smith’s face is covered in a traditional tribal design, while the other half is in bio-mach style, which is based on machine-like bio-mechanical tattoos but “softer and more subtle.”
Local tattoo artists Mike LeBlanc, who has since moved away, tattooed Smith’s tribal design, while Gordie Stewart tattooed the bio-mach pattern last year. LeBlanc and Stewart tattooed Smith at the Maritime Tattoo Festival.
Both friends of Smith, neither had qualms about permanently inking his face.
“They know what I’m like, and they knew I was serious,” says Smith.
He says he felt no pain during the tattooing process.
As for the meaning of his facial tattoos, Smith says there is none.
“This is me and this is how it is, and it’s not changing.”
Originally from Thorburn, Smith describes his early home life as difficult and that he experimented with drugs and alcohol at an early age. He says his love for painting and drawing was a way for him to escape everything.
At 15, he was given an opportunity to “clean up” by working in a tattoo shop, which not only fuelled his love for tattooing, but began his tattooing career.
“Tattooing saved my ass,” he smiles.
Though he’s mainly recognized for the extreme artwork covering his face and body, Smith says that most people who don’t know him personally are usually surprised at how normal he is.
A certified welder and millwright, Smith enjoys spending time with three his children, gardening, fishing and baking.
“I make the best banana bread every weekend for my kids,” he quips.
Smith is also involved with charity, especially raising money for Lyme disease. For the last three years Smith has thrown a Tattoo-a-thon for Chelsey Livingstone-Rector, a young girl suffering with the disease.
“When I found out what this little girl had I knew I had to do something. Until I can make sure she can have a normal life, I’ll do it every year.”
This year alone Smith raised more than $6,100 for Livingstone-Rector and her family so that they could travel to the United States for her to receive treatment.
“I’m a real sucker for kids, as you can see,” he says.
However, despite Smith’s “normalcy" and charity work, he sometimes experiences negative responses towards his appearance.
“I’m not rude to anybody therefore I deserve to be treated with respect, but not everybody thinks the same way. I’ve walked into banks where the ladies there almost had their hands in the air,” he says. “That’s fine, that’s your opinion, but if you don’t like them, don’t look at them.”
Though most of Smith’s family and friends supported his decision to have his face tattooed, his parents and maternal grandmother did not, and they refuse to have a relationship with him.
“They were never really that supportive anyways,” he shrugs.
Yet, Smith says reactions to his facial tattoos are mainly positive.
“Before you couldn’t take my picture or I’d smash your camera, but now people want to take their picture with me and it doesn’t bother me at all. Most older people [I encounter] like it. One old lady told me one time ‘you’d be more interesting taking to the bathroom than a magazine.”’
In the future, Smith hopes to raise more money for other children suffering with severe medical conditions. He also intends to add more to the bio-mach tattoo on his face and fill in the gaps of the tribal design.
“Having a face tattoo is life changing,” says Smith. “It’s really made an impact around here. It’s me.”