Creative, personal, curious and wonderful – we look at the work of popular Leeds’ tattoo artist, Louis Santos.
What does the Indian god Ganesh, Princess Zelda, Lemmy from Motorhead, a lion, an explorer’s ship, a Super Mario Brother, and a Japanese dragon all have in common?
They’re just a few of the fantastical or remarkable creatures and creations Yorkshire-based tattoo artist Louis Santos has lovingly rendered onto the flesh of his clients.
The 35-year-old tattooist, based at private tattoo studio Familia Tattoo, in Leeds, has worked his way to becoming one of Yorkshire’s leading tattoo artists, having become obsessed with arts and graphics as a young child, growing up growing up in Olinda, Brazil.
His journey to prominent tattoo artist began as a boy, when he would read comics and copy the images. “I started with comics when I was a kid. In Brazil, you can get comics from everywhere, even if you go into a corner shop to buy bread, so I started drawing comics at a young age.”
The influence of graphic artists can be seen in his work to this day, where you can see hints of Alex Ross, or the dark magnificence of Todd Macfarlane, or the sci-fi themes of Frank Frazetta.
This is not to suggest that Louis is in any way derivative. Indeed, one of the elements he prides himself on is the cultivation of his own personal style.
He cut his teeth as a tattooist with an apprenticeship providing “flash designs” – those pro-forma designs you see when you walk into a tattoo parlour, designed to be quickly transferred to the skin. But in the decade since, he came to realise he was passionate about the idea of tattoos as art, and providing people with a customised design to cherish.
“Body art should be unique, special and one-off.
“I love painting. I draw and paint a lot. By doing this, I can take my work a bit further. I always try to push myself. I travel to learn – I’m always studying art. I sacrifice a lot of my personal life to dedicate to my art,” he said.
That sacrifice means Louis has worked his way to becoming a foremost Yorkshire creator of realist, fantasy, religious, portrait, and Japanese influenced tattoos. His specialism is back tattoos, with 3-D designs proving particularly popular with clients.
His decade of experience has offered him a first-hand view of the way tattooing has grown to be more common within the UK. “Tattoos are more acceptable nowadays. When I began tattooing 10 years ago, David Beckham got tattooed and the shop got busier,” he recalled. “Then tattoo programs started airing on TV, making it more popular, more palatable.
“I believe one day our Prime Minister is gonna have a full sleeve. When my generation rules the world, tattoos are gonna become very normal.”
Louis’ essential 3 steps for getting a unique tattoo
Check the artist’s whole body of work.
“Don’t just look for a tattoo portfolio,” Louise advised. “If a tattooist is an artist, they must have a strong portfolio in drawing and painting. The word tattoo ‘artist’ means exactly that. The better artist your tattoo is, the better your tattoo will be.”
Decide on a style.
“Everyone is different. Think of the style of not just what you want, but the style the artist works with. Remember this is to remain on your body forever.”
Allow for some artistic freedom.
“Telling the artist what you want is very different from telling them how to draw,” explained Louis. “It’s very important you allow your tattooist the creative freedom to deliver what it is you want. Work with them on your design to get something you are both proud of. Be fussy, and wait until you can pay good money for a good quality tattoo.”
Louis is a proficient in a wide range of styles, from line and dot, mandala, Japanese, to portraiture. To book your session with Louis, visit Familia Tattoo, 7 Call Lane, Leeds LS1 7DH or visit www.familiatattoo.co.uk