Interview with tattoo artist Leo Black

  Hello Leo Black Leo Black! Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. Please start by telling us something about yourself and your background. What inspired you to start tattooing? My name is Leonidas and I'm originally from Kalamata Greece, a small city in the south main land. I'm 31 years old and I'm tattooing professionally six years now. Since I was little, I remeber always sketching on paper and later on mostly in high school on my classmates skin as well. So amazed with the idea of creating something on someone's body, so when I was 16 I went to the only tattoo shop there was at the time in my hometown to do something. I went by myself cause all my mates were afraid, so I stepped in and an old school behavior guy comes out in the waiting area and asks me “ what you want?” Very sharp... I’m like do you have any books to see designs, he doesn’t say anything he takes a good look at me, obviously sees how young I am and he tells me, “ you can find your designs in the supermarket together with the chew gums, they have sticker tattoos in there” And he leaves... I was likeee huh? Hahaha Anyway I left. Two and a half years later I went back with a friend that he was getting tattooed on that day! It was the first time I saw the real deal, I mean the machine how it works etc... and that was it, it was love at first site. I said to myself that's what I want to do for the rest of my life. I got my first and most of my tattoos there, we became friends with the owner and after a while he asked me if I want to learn. I was so excited and we ordered together my first set of machines, but this happiness didn’t last more than couple of months cause literally after I bought my set, the mother of the owner died so he had to close the shop and go back to where he was from. I was all alone trying to figure out and learn all by myself and from what I remembered, I learned all by myself.

Q: What types of tattoos you used to do as a beginner?
A: I was doing kinda anything in the beginning mostly on myself and on my friends trying to understand the fundaments and how it works, but I was always attracted to the dark arts such Beksinski, Hernandez, Booth.

Q: You call your style "Dark Realism" that's a very brief description I guess.
A: Yes, I love powerful contrast and strong black areas with dark creepy realistic, surrealistic designs. In my opinion it gives so much character and so many emotions. Inspiring artists for me definitely are Paul Booth, Robert Hernandez, Victor Portugal, Josh Duffy and many more, these are some of my favorites.

Q: You're very creative. Do you use a pen tablet or you're old school so you draw a bunch of sketches before the session?
A: Thank you so much, yes in general I use tablet. I used to draw by hand before but an iPad makes life easier in this case and the process is faster, so I really love using it, great tool. Sometimes I have the honor to tattoo anything I want on my clients which is awesome and I'm grateful for that, and other times we collaborate together so I create my vision based on the ideas they bring.

Q: Do you allow them to bring some reference images?
A: References are welcome but I always try to do my own thing and keep it as unique as possible.

Q: How important is to be open minded with new ideas and maybe even experimenting with different styles?
A: As artists we should never stop exploring and experimenting, that’s how we progress. Maintaining your own style in everything.

Q: The portraits are truly something special. I can't even choose a favorite to be honest, ok maybe Kurt Cobain. Ah I love that one! Who came up with that concept?
A: Oh, yeah the messiah Kurt as I call him, I came up with the idea, I mean the legacy he created, it was like a religion.

Q: The longest tattoo session?
A: Longest tattoo session I believe it was around 13-14 hours if I'm not mistaken, I was kinda fried you see I don’t remember exactly hahaha

Q: Do you take a few sessions for big pieces?
A: It depends, I would say, If it can be done in one session and the client is ok with it I'm always willing to finish on the same day.

Q: I'm in love with the drawings! You're so talented. Do you sell some of them or it's just a hobby, another way to get inspired maybe for another tattoo design? Would you try different techniques like oil on canvas etc?
A: Thank you so much, I love drawing. Is also great to learn or practice new things ideas styles etc. Definitely I’m up for anything acrylic or oil but I mostly love charcoal and pencils.

Q: Dublin... I've visited only once... The place is so beautiful. What's your opinion about the local tattoo scene? Do you see progress?
A: Dublin is beautiful indeed, whole country actually is stunning. Tattooing is pretty big here I would say Dublin only hosts few of the biggest names in the industry. Some of them I'm lucky enough to call them friends and colleagues. Is absolutely great.

Q: What do you like the most about being a tattoo artist?
A: I love traveling and working around the world. It is amazing that you get the chance to see, meet and learn so many things form different people, is truly amazing.

Q: Any advice for the new artists?
A: Love, dedication, respect is definitely three things to keep always in mind, just give your all, it is such an extraordinary journey. So grateful to be a passenger.