In this world bearded ladies, leather daddies, bad ass Heavy Metal babes battling intergalactic monsters, and even the sexy sapphic visions of your middle school wet dreams all live in gloriously vivid harmony. Onnie O'Leary's work is dripping with the juices of a thousand horny hotties, but although it may be graphic, it isn't scatological. In fact, it's actually beautifully powerful in the way that openly embracing a deep facet of the human condition, like sexuality, can be. Body positive and sex positive to it's core, as well as super nerdy, intelligent, funny, and cute, Onnie's work is the eye catching stuff of forbidden fantasies unleashed.
How did you get into tattooing, and was it always what you wanted to do?
I grew up drawing as much as I could and even though I went through a few career possibilities as a kid when it came time to go to uni I knew I wanted to study art. Uni was great but there was a real focus on the contemporary and conceptual practices and I was looking for something a bit more hands on and practical. After I got my degree I decided I wasn’t done studying and went to TAFE (technical college) and studied Fine Art all over again. That was amazing and I was very lucky to study there at a time when it was still heavily subsidised. I think I paid $100 a year for my education there. After I’d completed those studies I knew I wanted to make a living from making art but I still wasn’t sure exactly what form it would take. I was lucky enough to meet a tattooer who liked my work and offered me my first apprenticeship. I was working full time trying to save money to go overseas but I would be there every night from 5pm to 3am trying to learn everything I could. After a year I went to Amsterdam, but wasn’t anywhere near ready to be tattooing on my own. I was lucky to get another apprenticeship there and that really kick started everything.
Your style is immediately recognizable as your own. How did you develop your aesthetic, how has it changed over the years?
My mentor really encouraged me to find my own style. I think he recognized that the industry was changing dramatically and that having a recognizable style would mean consistent work. Developing that was a matter of looking hard within the industry to see what was being done already and what worked for tattooing so I could do something different to it all, and then outside tattooing, for ideas that could be translated into something tattooable. It was also a slow process of figuring out what worked and what didn’t and what resonated with people. I rarely delete things from Instagram so you can go back and see how the style was built over time.
What artists, films, books, movements, etc. inspire your work?
Have you ever had to deal with censorship? What are your thoughts on social media and its effects on the art world?
Australia, in general, seems to have a really exciting tattoo community with tons of really incredible artists. What do you think is it about the culture there that supports creativity?
Beyond tattooing, what are your most favorite things? Where have you traveled that was your favorite and why?