Cover image by Peter Roessler
For many who aren't in the tattoo industry, it can be hard to imagine how some of the best, brightest and boldest artists in the industry got started. Even the greats of the past and present didn't start out as revolutionaries. Instead, the craft takes time and for UK artist Levi 70six, he's been working for years to hone his art. And, might we say, his efforts are certainly paying off. We caught up with Levi to learn how he found out tattooing would be his life's work, why he gravitated toward black-and-grey and what we can expect to see from him in the coming months.
How did you discover tattooing as a career and how did you go about becoming a tattoo artist?
I first discovered tattooing in my late teens. The only thing I was ever any good at growing up was drawing and this led me on the path of becoming a graphic designer. Back then, getting into tattooing wasn’t as easy as it is today. After many years as a designer, I was still fascinated in all things art and one of my best friends Alan rung me one day and said “Hey, I’m getting a tattoo with Olly (a friend I hadn’t seen in years) and I’ve asked if you can have a go. So get over here!”
How did you develop an interest in black-and-grey and did you experiment with other styles before committing to it?
Black-and-grey was the medium that interested me even as a child. I was never really into color, other than graffiti, so I knew straight away that I wanted to be a mainly black-and-grey artist.
What are your favorite parts of black-and-grey and what are the most challenging parts?
My favorite parts are also the most challenging—searching for the perfect portrait and creating rich black and super smooth greys throughout the piece.
What are some of your favorite subjects to tattoo and what do you hope to tattoo more of in the future?
My favorite subjects are realistic portraits, which are also what I mostly do on a daily basis. In the future, I would like to do more of my own designs as opposed to just straight portraits.
What inspired you to open your own shop and what are some of the pros and cons of being an owner?
I’ve always worked for myself and have been self-employed, so opening my own shop was a natural progression. The best part of having your own shop is that it reflects a bit of you as a person and an artist. The cons are that it costs a shit load of money and you have to deal with all the stuff people don’t see—that means time is taken away from the art sometimes.
Take us through the tattoo scene in Taunton and how it compares to other cities you’ve traveled to for work?
The tattoo scene in Taunton is fine, it’s just as adventurous as bigger UK cities like London, Manchester or foreign cities like NYC, where you see people letting an artist have a bit more artistic license. Don’t get me wrong, quite a bit of my customers let me push a bit, but only a few completely let me go with my own thing.
Who are some of your favorite tattooers working in the industry today and have you collected work from any of them?
Oh wow this could be a long list! First, BJ Betts’ lettering is something that I’ve loved from day one and I’ve been lucky enough to get four or five tattoos from him. Second, Macko and I also have a piece from him. This year, I’m looking to get a piece from Sam Taylor. I would love a piece from Carlos Torres, Niki Norberg, Franco Vescovi, Nikko Hurtado, Steve Butcher, David Vega, Dr. Woo, Myke Chambers, Eric Martinez, Pierfrancesco Eight, David Garcia, Heng Yue, Matteo Pasqualin, Ash Highman—I could go on and on.
Do you prefer small scale or large scale projects? Why?
I love large scale work like back pieces and full legs. Large scale pieces give you more opportunity to be creative, as you can see more of the piece at any one time.
What goals do you have as an artist that you hope to accomplish within the next few years?
I'm always trying to improve in all aspects of tattooing and business. I’d like to do more conventions and maybe some collaborations with other artists. I’d also like to tattoo Lewis Hamilton.
What else should our readers know about you?
I love sneakers, watches, sunglasses and I can sometimes be a massive cunt.