With ink already flowing in the bloodline, picking up a tattoo machine at 16 would have been as natural as breathing for Leslie Rice. “It was a foregone conclusion. It was understood that when we got to a certain age, that was what you did.” Les is the owner and founder of LDF, and began tattooing under the tuition of his father Les Bowen, himself a tattoo artist since 1959.
After completing an Honours degree at Sydney’s National Art School in 2006, he won the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize in 2007 and again in 2012. He has been a finalist for the Blake and Archibald Prizes a number of times. Tattooing has also won him awards at national and international levels, including Best Large Tattoo and Best Black and Grey Design Sheet at the National Tattoo Convention in Philadelphia in 1999.
Les continues to find inspiration in fine art and the work of his peers, but his father remains the “be-all and end-all”. “He taught us that tattooing is first, and foremost, a job. It’s not a rock-and-roll playground. Don’t take it all too seriously, but treat it with respect.”
And if he had somehow sidestepped his fate? “I did quite well at high school and I always loved a good argument, so the smartest thing to do was to apply for law.” The first year of criminal law, with all its stories, interested him. “Then we started doing constitutional law. I think that’s when I got up in the middle of a lecture and thought: the fun stuff’s over now. It just wasn’t for me anymore!”
Les is a dab hand at any style – but has a keen interest in the three big themes of Western tattooing – Love, Death and Faith.
You can catch Les from time to time at the Marrickville studio while he concentrates on his painting work. Contact the studio for enquiries.