Liam Sparkes is a man of few words, as he prefers to let his tattoos do the talking. The owner of Old Habits Tattoo in London, Sparkes has made a name for himself with his illustrative black work tattoos.
Steeped in the realm of the occult, Sparkes creates witchy portraits, human serpent hybrids, and various personifications of death. “My creative process is basically channeling all the inspirations and influences from life, and blending them in with the subconscious, splashed with a hint of absurdity and brutality,” he explains. Citing human relations and emotions, antiques, and old books as his inspiration, his work is heavily rooted in the Victorian/early 1900’s fascination of anthropology.
A traveling artist, Sparkes works in between East River Tattoo in Brooklyn and Old Habits Tattoo in London. Using a combination of nuanced shading, and intricate stippling he creates stylistically and subjectively dark pieces, but it’s his background in illustration and sculpture that become increasingly apparent at second glance. Taking care to perfectly shade the creases in a grim reaper’s cloak so that each fold of dark fabric is visible, he creates as much depth as a marble sculpture. Meticulously “sketching” each piece of hair on a spider’s leg, he evokes an uneasiness that sends shivers down the spine — that creepy crawliness that propels the hairs on the back of your neck into a nervous frenzy.
While Sparkes tends to focus on small-medium sized work, he loves the challenges that large pieces present — the attention to detail and the intricate planning that must be taken into account. “I push myself at every step,” he remarks. “I’m self-critical to the point of destruction.” Sparkes may be his own biggest critic, but his commitment to his art is what’s built him a worldwide following.