INKED: When and how did you get started as an artist?

LEVI BARNETT: I grew up with an art teacher for a mum so I was always doing something art related.

Did you grow up around tattoos? I did not. No one in my family had tattoos when I was growing up but for some reason, growing up, I always had an infatuation with tattoos.

Have you always been into art? No, I wanted to be a police officer most of my childhood!

What drew you to tattooing? Not wanting to give up an opportunity that I was given.

Why realism? Realism is something that I have always felt comfortable doing. Also, I was always told that realism wasn’t “real tattooing” and I am a very competitive person.

What are you most proud of, careerwise? To be honest, I am most proud of myself. I began my apprenticeship in a small rural country town, in a tiny, one-man tattoo shop. Before my apprenticeship was completed, the studio closed down and I was left to fend for myself. I went studio to studio and did a few small stints in a number of studios around Victoria before I really found my bearings at 166 in Richmond, and the rest is history. I was never somewhere long enough to really be mentored by anyone, so I feel I am mostly self-taught.

What makes you want to get up in the morning? I love every second of what I do, and every day that I get to tattoo is a good day.

Is your current studio like a home? My studio is private, alongside my girlfriend, Montana, who runs her business Inez Eye Design next to me. It is above the show room for Tatsup Tattoo Supplies, run by our good friend Kevin Mack, and away from the hustle and bustle, in a quaint little street in Prahran, Melbourne. It is an environment filled with creativity and passion, but most of all, fun and teamwork. So in a way, yes, I guess you could say it is like a home.

What are your plans for the future? As I mentioned earlier, I have just opened my private studio and I am planning on doing a lot more travelling in the coming years, mixed in with a few little secrets that you will have to wait for!

Who helped you along the way to further your work? I would love to give a list of names… But honestly, there is no one.

What kind of clients do you love the most? Anyone with the same over-the-top and mostly offensive sense of humour.

Is there a piece, or kind of piece, that you’d most like to create but haven’t been given the opportunity yet? I’d love to work on some larger scale back/torso pieces!

What do you think is the biggest issue facing the industry at the moment? eBay and misleading TV shows.

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