Tattoo Artists You Really Should Get To Know: Lepa Dinis
[Duane Joubert Photography/David Hare Photography] If you're thinking that this is yet another ‘hot tattooed girl’ post, you might be right.
But a pretty face and some inked skin aren't all that's in here. This talented stunner is so much more than that.
Lepa Dinis is your dream girl and dream tattoo artist rolled into one. But sorry to break it to everyone else but we're quite sure that irezumi has this lady's heart on lockdown. That's right. So if you happen to be from around London, you know where to go if you're looking for some fine traditional Japanese style tattoos, from someone who's gotten the blessings of master irezumi artist Horiyoshi III himself, at that.
How did you get into tattooing, and how long have you been in the business?
I have been in the tattoo industry for at least ten years. I was born and raised in East London. I found my gift in fine arts when I was barely out of my nappies. I used to carry around paper and pen or pencil (anything that can leave a mark really) with me every where I went. I loved having art work with me at all times; it was, and is, the very essence of my being.
My father used to watch old black and white Japanese movies and one day, a guy [in a movie] was taking out one of his shoulders from his kimono, and I saw a half sleeve cherry blossoms and clouds; I couldn't believe you can actually wear art! It was the ultimate dedication to it [art] in my mind. Suffice to say, it was love at first sight for me—I knew then with conviction, this is what my life will be dedicated to without question.
Recent from Tattoo Artists
I knew I wanted a full body suit from the beginning, period. When I first went to see George Bone, he looked at me like I was crazy. I could tell he did not believe me—in turn, he made me wait for around eight months! But I kept persisting and eventually, we got started on my back piece first of all, and carried on from there.
Describe your tattoo style, your art influences, and the artists you look up to the most.
My style is new school Japanese/Asian tattoos. There are also many artists that I could name from different styles that I look up to and my work is heavily influenced by, such as Jeff Gogue, Shige, all the great Ukiyo-e (Japanese woodblock print) artists—Yoshitoshi, Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Kunisada, Hokusai, Utamaro etc., to name just a few.
I like to take regular trips to The Royal Academy Of Arts and The National Portrait Gallery here in London for research, colour ideas, as well as inspiration. I am always looking for ways to improve my work—to become a better artist than I was yesterday. I understand the importance of advancing daily—never to remain stagnant, and am always reminding myself the dangers of becoming content with the current. I am always striving to become more efficient, having awareness of the endlessness—the perpetual attainment. I also like to mesh both new and old school Japanese tattoo styles together to create really unique pieces for each of my individual clients.
I have had the privilege and honour of being able to observe and learn off of some of the greats and innovators in our industry, such as Master Horiyoshi III, Horikazu, Alex Reinke, Lal Hardy, George Bone, Ivano Natale, to name a few. I am forever grateful and honoured for everything that I have picked up from them over the years and I feel blessed and privileged for their ongoing guidance. [With] Master Horiyoshi III, I have had the privilege and honour of having his personal blessings and guidance throughout. He has also honoured me by choosing and bestowing me with my artist signature name (彫 霊 波) which I carry with the utmost respect and humility. I understand the responsibility and the weight this carries with it, and try to honour it everyday through my work as well as everyday life by following and always observing Master Horiyoshi III's teachings of ‘SHU HA RI’*.
(*Describing a martial arts concept, the stages of learning to mastery in any particular art form.)
My constant, I would say, teacher, guardian as well as spiritual guardian is Master Horiyoshi III. He was—and is—always there for me via emails, phone for whenever I needed assistance to improve my art work, and so on. I cannot express my humility for this great spirit, it is truly humbling for me to see how much time he has for me whenever I asked it from him, what a humbling spirit he is. He has always showed a keen interest in my journey and was advising me with invaluable information and techniques. I can never repay this generosity.
It gives me great pride, honour, humility, and privilege to say that Master Horiyoshi III has bestowed me with my Japanese artist name. He initially chose a few different names for me, as Kanji is quite involved, phonetically it can say the same thing, but the way you write it-the meaning can change drastically. He settled with the name that he has given me now. The meaning is along the lines of ‘religious spiritual being’ stating that this one he felt was more true to me, my spirit. It is such an honour to me and it is my duty and privilege to live up to this name I have been bestowed with. To me, the best way I can do this is to never restrict my growth, with being content with what I have learnt today, as there is always a better way to do something, always strive to be a better artist than I was yesterday.
He has (and still is) played the biggest part in my career and personal growth. It is suffice to say he has been the biggest reason for me trying to be a better artist than I was yesterday. What a truly humble, generous, beautiful spirit he is. I will always strive to live up to his shining example.
What's the best part about being a tattoo artist? To me, the beauty with Asian style tattoos is that the whole body is observed as the canvass and can always be added to; flowing freely into each tattoo as a whole piece, complimenting each other—whether you start with a sleeve or a back piece—making it into one continuous piece. There's no beginning and no end to make it naturally part of the body. When I am tattooing, it feels like I'm unveiling the inner beauty hidden beneath the skin which is actually there in the first place. It's such an amazing feeling as an artist to have that privilege to reveal the art for each unique piece. Suffice to say, it's an obsession as well as a passion for me and I love it. I think Master Horiyoshi III said it best: “I will live and die devoted to this.”
Aside from tattooing, what are your other interests? I love painting, when I have the time, on canvas; quite the big scale fine arts, as this is what I started off with. This also helps me enhance my tattoo design ideas I love pushing the boundaries. I also like to read and research. I don't like to call it 'conspiracies' rather hidden knowledge.
You've done a bit of modelling here and there, tell us more about it. Not much to say really about that it's not really a passion of mine, just something I did in my spare time.
What's one thing you'd tell someone who's determined to pursue tattooing? To me, you have to be 100% dedicated to anything you do without question, this is second to none. It's not something that happens overnight, but with relentless studying. Learn what you can from others that you have the privilege to [since] everyone has something to teach you. You can pick up something from every body, it's just that some lessons you learn are big things. Others [are] small, yet, all things are equally valuable, they all shape you to being a better person and artist you were yesterday.
When I think of Master Horiyoshi III, this always comes to mind, as the great Yamamoto Tsunetomo put it best:
"I give myself over to my ethics, my arts, I serve them, and I serve those that are close to me. If you serve, serve with everything you have for there is no higher purpose."
So observe the teachers diligently, and above all, remain humble at all times.
Any future projects or plans for your career as an artist?
I just want to keep striving to become better in my arts, to remain humble, to never take anything for granted, and to try to be a better person then I was yesterday. I leave you with this quote that says it best I think:
"Never remain stagnant. Awareness of the endlessness. Never think of yourself as having finished—the perpetual attainment. Strive to always become more efficient, he [who] truly knows his own insufficiencies and never in his whole life thinks that he has succeeded . Do not rely on following the degree of understanding that you have discovered, but simply think, ‘This is not enough.’ Throughout your life, advance daily, become more skilful than yesterday, more skilful than today. This is never ending." —Lepa Dinis (彫 霊 波)