A number of stitching needles tied to a cork, a bottle of Indian ink and loads of ego gave Les Bowen his begin as a tattoo artist.
It was 1959 and the then 17-year-old was practising tattooing skulls and letters on his mates.
Sixty-two years later, Mr Bowen is one in every of Australia’s most effectively revered and awarded tattoo artists with honorary membership to worldwide tattoo associations together with the unique Japan Tattoo Membership.
Regardless of six many years within the enterprise, his ardour for tattooing has not pale and his ability is unwavering.
“I am nonetheless fascinated by tattooing.
“I at all times puzzled whether or not I might, as I obtained older, have shaky arms, nevertheless it has gone the other approach I believe, I am extra regular within the arms than I’ve ever been.
“I’ve been in command of the motion of my arms for thus a few years that I can maintain them very nonetheless certainly.”
Ego and illustration the place to begin
In 1960, the tattoo trade had a fairly seedy popularity, tattoo artists had been very secretive and fogeys warned their youngsters job prospects would dry up in the event that they obtained a tattoo.
It was in 1960 when Mr Bowen ordered his first correct tattoo gear from an American mail-order catalogue.
He had no data of learn how to use it and tattooists had been tight-lipped concerning the commerce however Mr Bowen used his ability as an illustrator as a bargaining chip.
“I bumped into one other tattoo artist who began speaking to me concerning the precise technique of tattooing which was a factor that tattoo artists did not do on the time.
“I used to attract designs for him, as a result of I used to be one of many few tattooists that might draw and he used to impart little snippets of knowledge to me.”
Mr Bowen was residing in a home subsequent to the Brisbane showgrounds, and the day earlier than present day he put an indication out promoting tattoos.
“And there I used to be, with no data or ability however loads of ego in order that’s actually the way it began.”
‘Gangsters and knockabouts’
When Mr Bowen opened his Second Pores and skin Tattoo store in Townsville in 1980, tattoo studios outdoors capital cities had been uncommon.
He stated he had seen tattoos change from the realm of “gangsters and knockabouts” to an accepted artwork type.
Regardless of many optimistic modifications, he laments the lack of the underground mystique of the trade.
“On the time once I began actually inventive potential wasn’t a pre-requisite, now it’s just about a pre-requisite to be a very good or at the very least an affordable artist as a result of calls for are so excessive for the standard of the paintings.”
Tattoos of the wealthy and the well-known
Mr Bowen has labored on many well-known our bodies together with Australia’s most well-known tattooed girl Cindy Ray.
He has a number of items on Tom Waits and doesn’t deny the hearsay he has tattooed former AC/DC frontman Bon Scott.
“I decide and select what I do now, I solely do the roles that I wish to do and I decide the folks that I wish to tattoo on.
“I really feel I’m semi-retired however I might by no means stroll away from it fully.”