1978 is a crucial year in your life : Felix has the revelation about tattooing in Yugoslavia ; he learns the basics of tattooing with Jock, an old-timer in London who accepted to teach him and then, after 6 months of “apprenticeship”, all the family leaves, Felix with a bit of a material to start tattooing, to Goa, India. Why that fast and why that far?
First of all, life was very cheap there, and it was also a good place for kids to grow up in. But the main reason was that Goa had a steady stream of travellers passing through it, Westerners who would come there for 2 weeks, one month… people like us. So Felix thought that was a good place to go and tattoo. We didn’t have a lot of work in the beginning, maybe one or two tattoos a week. But because life was cheap—we could even afford two maids in this big 10-room house we rented—and with some money, we had saved in Europe we knew that we could last for a few years. There were just a few tattooers there at the time; we became friends with Gippi Rondinella from Rome and Paco el Vasco, a nomadic tattooer. There was also an Indian tattooer, Soma, who worked in the market in the town of Mapsa and in the weekly hippie flea market.
How could you be sure that this stream of people would become a clientele?
Because of that village in Yugoslavia, come on! It’s true that tattooing was not so popular with hippies until Janis Joplin got her bracelet and little heart from Lyle (Tuttle, tattooer from San Francisco). It was not a big thing in the hippie scene. There were not so many people tattooed when we arrived. But there were travellers, freaks—which is a bigger name for the whole thing; hippies is a certain niche label, “freaks” includes everyone who thinks differently, people who don’t follow the mainstream. Because we were the same as our clients in a way, it worked!
Felix didn’t have any tattoo culture and therefore came to it without any preconception. He was able to offer custom tattoos, using contemporary references picked up from his era.
Felix went for what people were asking for and he was able to draw it. Most of the flash that I found is fairly representative of what people asked for in Goa: butterflies, Goa scenes, eagles, Om and peace signs, dope leaves, Ganesh, Buddha… also what you see in the transfers shown on the inside covers of the book. It was their ideas, but Felix’s way, right? We also had a catalogue of flash sheets from Spaulding and Rogers, but the images were a very small size, so it was Filip’s first tattoo-related job to enlarge them by hand using the grid system.
What were Felix’s graphic inspirations?
He was a huge admirer of Salvador Dali. He thought he was really a good painter and somebody who worked really hard at it. He liked comics, all the underground artists like Robert Crumb, also the artists who did the psychedelic posters in San Francisco in the 60’s like Rick Griffin or Mouse and Kelley who did artworks for The Grateful Dead, etc. In 1967, Felix was in San Francisco for a few months during the Summer of Love, and that definitely had an influence on him. He also liked Peter Max, very brightly coloured art which combines fine art with a cartoony style. Later on, he really liked Robert Williams, who did that famous record cover for Guns N’ Roses. He had also a lot of influence from the East, inspired by Indian and eastern forms and symbols.
You left India after almost three years, why?
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Ask Here Part Two
With the release of Tattooing Ask Here—a collection of original and traditional flash, interview, stories and photographs detailing the tattoo history of Felix Leu—we took the spectacularly well-timed opportunity to speak to Loretta Leu about the book and her life with Felix. The following concludes our time well spent…
The SERPENTS of BIENVILLE
SEAN HERMAN’S TRANSFORMATIVE TATTOO
SAVED BY INK
Carlos ‘Loz’ Oliveros has never had any shortage of passion or drive. Inspired by his father, a pro fighter and DIY tattooer, Oliveros started boxing when he was just six years old, then picked up tattooing at 16. All the while surrounded by the realities of Miami’s Mexican gang culture. Saved by tattooing, Oliveros chose to follow a different path than most of his peers. A path he’s now sharing on a VH1 docu-series called Cartel Crew
It’s no surprise at all to run into a guy like Russ Russell. Pretty much every tattoo artist I talk with cites music as a massive influence on their work and lives in general. But while, for most of them, music is a passion—an inspiration, even, for their day job at the tattoo shop—for Russ it’s almost the other way around. Music is his day job, Russ having worked as both a producer and musician for many years, with tattooing coming later on down the line
Why Is That First Tattoo Encounter So Terrifying?
There is something about getting that very first tattoo that will always make you feel a little bit sick when you walk through the door
The Serpents Of Bienville - Sean Herman's Transformative Tattoo
“There is probably nothing more menacing or dangerous than an individual who is devoid of compassion or empathy. When this individual is permitted by community apathy and bias to successfully cloak himself in the attire of one who claims allegiance to his or her Creator, it becomes the moral imperative of those who lay witness to the peril to step up before it is too late. Until such a time when domestic violence and sexual assault are eradicated for good, the perpetrators of these deplorable acts will continue to cause unspeakable harm as Evil’s welcomed ambassadors and Tyranny’s strongest ally.”
The Eternal River
Through impact-laden encounters between ornamental and figural imagery, tattooist Aron Dubois has developed a self-sourced visual language that openly explores symbology, spirituality and surrealism in an effort to “drink from the eternal river” and return to what the Colorado-native defines as “the source”. Drawing much of his inspiration from esoteric literature, mythic archetypes and the natural world, Dubois has spent his decadelong relationship with the craft “digging for the grail of tattooing”. Here, Dubois demystifies his “optimistic escape attempt” from the addictive dangers of digital tools, and the answers he finds in nature when allowing the walls that stand between himself and the world to dissolve
For centuries we have looked to our palms as a valuable source of information, a complex blueprint of one’s identity, both physical and spiritual. The latter has seen the palm as a bodily map for instigating premonitions, with its many criss-crossing lines foretelling either a joyful life or a foredooming resolution
He is one of the most gifted Japanese tattooers of his generation. From the region of Niigata in the North-East of Japan, he's spreading the beauty of Japanese tattoo culture. All tattoo lovers praise his complex and very detailed compositions which adorn the bodies of some very lucky collectors, but after 20 years, Tomo is ready to move on…
Esther Garcia plays by her own rules — she always has and always will. Even with two decades of experience, the Chicago-based artist still finds ways to push herself and innovate. Whether it’s juxtaposing two unexpected styles (she fuses blackout work with botanical imagery inspired by Dutch Masters beautifully) or offering a unique tattoo curation service in which she doesn’t actually tattoo, Garcia isn’t afraid to take risks. What else is up her sleeve? We tracked her down to find out.
These days, plenty of kids grow up aspiring to become tattoo artists, but during the eighties and early nineties this was seldom the case. Jess Mascetti first fell in love with tattooing around the time when the ban was lifted in NYC, although it took over a decade for all the pieces to finally fall into place after she began getting tattooed by her soon-to-be mentor, Josh Lord. We sat down with Mascetti to learn how she wound up becoming a world-renowned artist and what valuable lessons led her to where she is today.
As tattooed people, we seldom consider how our body art will impact the people around us. But, it only takes a stranger seeing one tattoo, one time, to change their entire worldview.
Social media forever altered our perception, in ways both large and small. Not only has it changed the way we look at other people, it changed the way we present ourselves to the world. With every post he makes on Instagram, Adam Weitsman is fully aware of the latter.
Bhad Bhabie took her 15 minutes of viral fame and turned it into a viable career. The rapper dishes on her only fans and upcoming new music.
Pretty in INK
Jessica Carter crushed the competition to take home top honors
Tattoo Artist – Carlos Fabra
Whoever said you can’t learn anything while glued to the television?
Fusing The Flavors Of The World
After growing up in the kitchen that brought pad thai to america, Jet Tila wants to broaden your culinary horizons one meal at a time.
I am currently an apprentice at The Abyss Fine Art and Tattoo Studio in Long Beach, NY. I have been surrounded by different forms of art my whole life. I always knew I wanted art to be the center of my world, but never really understood how to make that possible.
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Exploring The Unknown With Skylar Grey
Tattooed by some of our favorite artists—including Tye Harris, Josh Lord and Mister Cartoon—the songwriter behind your favorite Grammy-winning hip-hop hits shares her latest album release, “Angel With Tattoos.”