"As a tattoo artist, I manage to combine both the graphic aspect and the artistic one."

Interview with Lieven André

14 November 2023

Lieven André is a Brussels-based graphic designer who retrained as a tattoo artist. His tattoo style is characterized by his rather unusual colorful creations. This colorful aspect is something he has in common with Spanish artist and designer Jaime Hayon. That is why MAD Brussels invites tattoo artist Lieven André on December 7 and 8 for 2 tattoo flash days. A unique opportunity to have an exclusive design by Jaime Hayon tattooed on your body by Lieven André. Curious about Lieven's style, story and vision on tattoos? MAD had a talk with Lieven André.

Can you introduce yourself?

"My name is Lieven André and I'm 28 years old. I am a graphic designer by education. As a freelancer, I have worked for more or less 5 years in various sectors like architecture, fashion and food service. Then I reoriented myself to become a tattoo artist, which I have been doing for 3 years now. 2 years ago, I opened my salon in Brussels. In addition to tattooing, I am still active as a graphic designer and painter."


Why did you make the switch from graphic designer to tattoo artist?

"As a graphic designer, you are much less free, especially creatively, than in tattooing. People expect a graphic designer to be someone who mainly masters the technical skills for creating a business card, a logo or a flyer. They do not consider the artistic aspect of the graphic designer. People's mindset for designing a tattoo is not the same as that for a logo. I have been very frustrated with this for 5 years. As a tattoo artist, I manage to combine both the graphic aspect and the artistic one. I have found a nice balance in this."

Where do you get your inspiration for your designs?

"I get a lot of inspiration from fashion, architecture, art history and art in general. I often visit galleries and exhibitions. In addition, I am inspired daily by my little son who will soon turn 7. At his age, he has a different way of looking at the world. He stimulates my childlike mind a bit. At school he sometimes makes drawings in all kinds of color combinations that I think are really crazy and would never think of before. I think we are inspired on a daily basis, and that's why we sometimes lack inspiration. When you have a bad day or are tired for example."


How would you compare your work and Jaime Hayon's?

"While studying graphic design, I drew a lot with Illustrator. My drawing style was very similar to Jaime Hayon's. His drawings always have something childlike, almost surreal. I find that really interesting. Jaime and I have a lot in common but also some differences. For my tattoos, I work with very simple, block shapes, but always with lots of colours. While Jaime works with flexible, curved and organic shapes. So on the one hand this is a contrast, yet also a similarity because of the colour aspect. Also in the exhibition, you see a mix of colours, combinations that people might not think of easily, but which I understand why he combines these colours."

Have you collaborated with other artists before during flash days?

"Yes, I have already collaborated with several others for flash days. For example, I have already had an event with Encré. But also flash days in collaboration with a bar, a vintage clothes shop and a florist. Soon I will have a flash days with a hairdresser. I always try to combine tattooing with other sectors. It's great to mix two sectors, both linked to art but otherwise unrelated. More and more flash days are being organised. And I think the more we organise it, the more visibility it gets and the more demand will rise."

In your opinion, are these spontaneous tattoos becoming more popular?

"People used to think much more about a tattoo and let their idea mature for a few months. They then searched for someone who could tattoo their idea. Today, this reflection is different. People look for an artist whose style they like and whose design they want on their body. As a tattoo artist, you now have almost a blank canvas on which to let your creativity run wild. There is less thought put into a tattoo, we have moved from reflection to action."

"I myself am a good example. I have modified many of my tattoos. Because at the time, I thought a lot about the symbolism behind them. But as I got older, my view on this changed. We evolve, we start thinking differently, including about the symbolism behind our tattoos. A spontaneous tattoo, from an artist whose work you like, I think you are less likely to regret. For me, it shows that we are more freely, that art touches us more broadly and not everything has to be calculated."

"The concept of flash days is original and very spontaneous. The tattoos are unique. Coming to a flash day is also participating in a universe. I find the spontaneity of a flash day event super interesting. For me, it is really a sign of personal freedom to be part of an artistic environment. And you also support the artistic sector a bit."

What do you like most about your work as a tattoo artist?

"A tattoo artist is actually considered a painter. I think the most beautiful aspect of my profession is that people come to me for their tattoo, that they choose to put my artistic work on their body and that they are very happy afterwards. We mark people for life with our art. It is like a canvas, but alive. The tattoo evolves with the person. I find that enormously powerful."