SCARBOROUGH, Maine — Jasin Chapman’s colorful work begins with a buzz and takes hours, or months, to finish.
Chapman, 36, has been licensed as a tattoo artist for more than 15 years, drawn to the profession as an artist who used to hang around tattoo shops in Portland.
Now he is settling into his new site for Hallowed Ground Custom Tattoo, at 287 Gorham Road, ready to draw intricate art on skin for repeat and new customers.
“I wanted to be in a place where it is easier for customers to get long jobs done in a more comfortable environment,” Chapman said. “Ninety-five percent of my customers are not from Portland and having a parking lot for them is so important.”
Hallowed Ground had been at 610 Congress St. in Portland, where parking meters or parking garages added expenses for customers sitting for six- to eight-hour jobs.
Chapman said sketching and filling designs on skin requires its own patience and care, and artists find a loyal clientele through word-of-mouth advertising.
“There’s no mistakes, everyone’s skin is different and everyone reacts differently,” Chapman said. “I know a lot of artists who can never learn how to tattoo properly.”
His skill and care keep Lisbon residents Dawn Almeida and Vicki Denbow coming back, even as they have differing concepts of how much getting a tattoo hurts.
“It goes through you. I’ll have to move a different way. Everybody has a different pain tolerance, mine isn’t very high,” Almeida said as she watched Denbow get a tattoo on her forearm.
Denbow sat motionless except to check messages on her phone.
“I hate needles. But there is a big difference between a needle that goes deep into your skin and one penetrates through the surface,” she said.
The width and variety of powered needles has expanded the scope of tattoos Chapman can draw, he said, but the constant challenge comes from where the drawings are made.
Before setting to work on Denbow’s forearm, Chapman chided another longtime customer about excessive tanning that would make it harder for needles to penetrate skin.
“It was terrifying for the first year, really,” he said about going into business. “If you really care, you want to have the best art possible, and it is scary when you are learning.”
Denbow and Almeida said they would not have anyone else draw their body art, showing loyalty Chapman said is common in the profession.
“A lot of this business is reputation,” he said. “If you think you are going to make a quick buck and not look out for your customers, you will not be open long.”
Licensed by the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention and subject to state inspections, Chapman’s shop is also governed by a local ordinance.
His shop is in the former home of a property management company, and when not drawing body art, Chapman is working to open HB Exotics, supplying amphibians, reptile and avian species, and supplies for keeping them.
The shops are completely separated and have no adjoining doors, but represent dual passions for Chapman.
“When I was a kid, everywhere I went I had to catch snakes and frogs and keep them as pets,” he said. Chapman hopes to open HP Exotics in late July and raise species himself.
The extensive job of creating tattoos, which can require five or six monthly sessions lasting several hours, brings Chapman very elemental satisfaction, he said.
“I like sitting down and working with someone and giving them what they want, then knowing they can look at something and be proud the rest of their life,” he said.