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Colombian tattoo artist Leonardo takes a spiritual approach to his work. While many of his colleagues may draw inspiration from classic painters or their favorite cartoons, Leonardo is influenced by the mysteries of our vast universe. He dives into the spiritual unknown, pushing beyond normal consciousness to unravel the secrets of different dimensions. This has resulted in some pretty spectacular tattooing, with color combinations, textures and motifs we seldom see on human skin. We sat down with Leonardo to learn how he found tattooing, formed his signature style and much more.

Tell us how you developed a love for art.

Art is related to consciousness. It’s a transcendental human language that we use to change ourselves and the world. Since I was young, my mother instilled the arts in me. Through art, I was always interested in the big questions as a human being—where do we come from? Who are we? This led me to explore where tattooing developed and I had the opportunity to travel the world in my quest. I started by going to South America: Argentina, Chile, Perú, Ecuador, Venezuela, Brazil and Panama. There, I studied tattooed mummies and learned about the Andean spirituality of gods and love. I continued my search throughout MesoAmerica and began forming a connection to the art cultures of the Toltecs, Aztecs and Mayans. I eventually made my way to Europe in college and studied the greatest painters of all time. I continued my studies of art and human spirituality in Asia, then I eventually made my way back to Colombia.

How did you learn how to tattoo?

Before becoming a tattoo artist, I designed classic motorcycles. At the time, I had a friend who was an American traditional tattooer and one day I told him to teach me how to tattoo. Ten  years have passed since I first picked up a tattoo machine and I never let go. It was love at first sight.

How did you form your signature style? How would you describe it?

At the beginning, my style was very much old school with strong lines, solid colors and simple designs. That was the majority of my early work and, over time, I began learning other styles such as Maori tribal, neo traditional, new school, Japanese and realism. I think it’s important to know the rules and then break them. The secrets I’ve learned from all of these styles have helped me to create my current style, which includes complex shapes with mystical, magical and esoteric meanings. I would define the tattoos I currently do as visionary art, as each piece evokes a certain metaphysical awareness through the symbols I use.

What are some of your favorite tattoos that you’ve done? What stands out about these projects?

I love all of my large-format pieces—full backs, bodysuits, sleeves, legs, etc. I hope to be able to join several bodysuits together at some point. In addition to big tattoos, I also love tattoos that have a clear message or a lot of unconscious symbolism.

How do you go about mimicking metallic textures in your work?

Since my style is based on experimenting with new things, I’ve always liked working with different textures. One of my greatest achievements is being able to achieve holographic chrome or gold chrome colors. It’s always a challenge, but is made possible through patience.

Is your art inspired by psychedelics? Do you have any fun psychedelic stories you’d like to share?

I consider psychedelics as a medicine for consciousness and to experience your senses in a new way. I learned little-by-little from my first times using LSD at drum and bass festivals. I remember one time I was at a festival out of town and I began seeing everyone as aliens—their original form perhaps. When the trip was over and I came back to reality, I understood that with DMT there is much more out there than we’ve imagined. We are projecting our reality in an empty space and everything we think, imagine and believe is real in some infinite dimension.

What advice would you give your younger self?

To be happy here and now, but also to keep dreaming.