Levi Reimer is a black and grey tattooer tattooing out of B.C. Canada. He is doing really solid work, has an amazing attitude, and is a follower the Lord Jesus Christ. I got the chance to ask him some interesting questions that I hope you guys enjoy.
How long have you been in the tattoo industry? What brought you here?
At the age of 18 I entered into my tattoo apprenticeship, I am 28 now. So I have been involved in tattooing for the last 10 years. However, there was a three year portion where I tried other things due to some personal life exploration. My journey was certainly unconventional to say the least! Altogether I would say I have about 6-7 years of actual professional experience! There are many reasons I could talk about that brought me to the world of tattooing, however the most authentic answer I can give is God and his timing. I grew up playing sports my whole life, not ever considering art as a possible career path . It wasn’t until I quit playing hockey after 10 years of dedication and eventually stumbled across a book at the age of 16. The book was based on the voyage of Captain James Cook and his discovery of the Maori’s. For whatever reason this book had me completely engaged and eventually lead to an obsession with Maori tattoo work, culture and the history. I would say this was the seed that ultimately lead to my interest in tattooing and from there it was a combination of timing and meeting the right people to get myself a tattoo apprenticeship.
Man tattooing has got lucrative to say the least. I assume you’re making an amazing living as it is but let’s pretend you made $30,000 per full day session. How often would you tattoo? Why?
Tattooing has certainly become a lucrative career, especially to those who strive for excellence and give it all they have day in and out. However, I don’t think many realize all the free hours that lead up to making what we do. Where most careers you get paid during apprenticeships, many, including myself worked for free for years only to struggle for more years to perfect our craft. But you are certainly correct, once you get the right place the reward of finances is great. That is really just a bonus when you are doing what you love though! If I was making 30,000 per session I can’t say I would change to much about my schedule. I absolutely love what I do and there is an unsatisfying thirst to get better and grow in the craft. I think the amount you make has the power to adjust your lifestyle, obviously, but not what is instilled within you and why you choose this career path. The best way I can compare is professional athlete’s that make millions each year but still choose to show up play the game they love for decades. Tattooing and art in general is a transformation of the mind. I catch myself daily analyzing shadows, colours, shapes, textures and all sorts of things and breaking them down like I would a tattoo. This art form has away of captivating a person for a lifetime!
What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in the tattoo industry since you’ve been in it up until this point?
When I started tattooing I felt like the community was relatively small and confined to my region as traveling to get tattooed and the online presence was quiet. Maybe that was a product of my apprenticeship and where I grew up but I am not really sure. Since then it feels like social media has really grown the community and probably helped to make tattoos more accepted and understood in our culture. It has also created way more opportunity for travel, to get tattooed by artists you normally couldn’t, communicate with other artists and also all the technology and advancements we see in equipment etc.
Have you collected any amazing tattoos besides the incredible back piece Boris did on you?
The back piece Boris did for me is certainly amazing, he is also an amazing human being which makes the honour that much greater. Yes, I have collected from Jun Cha (still have more to do with him), Jose Lopez, Lil B, and Bobby Serna. Every tattoo has turned out amazing and still would like to do more with each of these artists!
Any other artists you’re dying to collect from?
Oh man, the list is probably bigger then my little body can accommodate haha! I really want work by Carlos Torres, Matt Jordan, Sergio Sanchez, Nikko Hurtado, David Vega, Michael Perry, Robby Latos, Josh Duffy, Jacob Sheffield, Arlo, Eliot Kohek, Ryan Evans, Fred, Denys Sivak, Robert Pho and the list really goes on. I think a lot will have to do with timing and if I can lock in appointments when artists are guest spotting or at conventions etc.
Hardest lesson you’ve learned since being
The hardest lesson I have learned as an artist is how to endure through self criticism and self doubt . I really struggle with being satisfied with what I am doing, in fact rarely do I feel 100% happy with my work. This can have its benefits in pushing a me to be better but can also bog me down in negativity. All I know is humility and dying to ego is super important if you care to grow and learn. There is a balance in there somewhere and as long as you are fighting to learn, be the best version of yourself, and passing that on to others nothing else really matters.
Favorite part about tattooing? Toughest part?
The best part of tattooing is not working at Burger King haha! Joking aside I wake up inspired and passionate about what I do every day, it certainly doesn’t feel like a real job! I get to be apart of a transaction between my art and someone’s skin, thats a pretty surreal and intimate exchange. The relationships you build through this area nothing short of amazing. The toughest part about tattooing is trying to keep up with all these crazy talented artists. Damn, the talent is just insane nowadays!
Inspirations in the industry? Why do those people inspire you?
I have many inspirations in the industry, most of which are the guys I named that I would like to get tattooed by. I would say their overall understanding of composition, structure, image creativity, texture, contrast, skin breaks/breathing room, lighting and all artistic components it takes to create their work. There’s a way greater artistic maturity you can see in people like Carlos Torres, Matt Jordan, Sergio Sanchez, Nikko Hurtado, David Vega, Michael Perry, Robby Latos, Josh Duffy, Jacob Sheffield, Arlo, Eliot Kohek, Ryan Evans, Fred, Denys Sivak, Robert Pho and many more I haven’t named. There’s lots of good tattooers but very few that truly understand the full sophistication of art as a whole and how to bring that to life on skin. Something I feel far from at times but desire to achieve and better comprehend.
Best piece of advice for aspiring artists hoping to take things to the next level?
My best advice for aspiring artists or artist that are looking to improve and grow. Leave your ego at the door, enter with humility and doors will open! Get tattooed by others you aspire to be like, travel, try other art forms and never stop learning in all areas of art. We don’t stop learning unless we give up all together. There is also no substitute for hard work, no great artist you aspire to be like got where they were working a couple hours a day, its a life long dedication! Don’t be fooled by instant gratification, prepare for the long haul!
Most bizarre or funniest experience with a client so far?
One of the funniest tattoo experiences I had was my second tattoo ever. The client requested camouflage on the top of his big toe so he could tell people he had “Camo Toe” haha.
Best pieces of advice for tattoo collectors?
Best advice I can give to tattoo collects is follow “Lead The Followers” for advice ha! I think you having an open mind to artistic interpretation is huge for any artist to accept your project. Artists hate being micromanaged, it inhibits our ability to create and puts too many limitations. Our work takes years to develop and constant inspiration to create beautiful work. If you come to an artist expect to see their interpretation of your ideas not necessarily your own. Our brains break down the world differently, that’s the beauty of artistic interpretation. In regards to getting appointments – be willing to travel, go to conventions and be flexible in your schedule if your priority is to get tattooed by certain individuals. Remember we are individual people and can only accommodate so many people so you will need to be patient, flexible and strategic at times!
What do the words “Lead The Followers” mean to you?
Lead the followers to me is phrase that sums up what it means to know your identity, purpose, calling, gifting and using that to love and enrich the lives of others. To share all that you are in authenticity and build up the people around you!
Thanks for your time Levi!! It was great to get to know you a little more through this interview. I hope you all enjoyed it- be sure to give him a follow @levireimer