Davee Blows, the award-winning Polish tattoo artist, has blown the mind of thousands with his psychedelic, manga-inspired tattoos. We talked to him about a life lived against the rules.

“My grandma, like every grandmother in Hong Kong, hated tattoos,” Davee jokes, pointing out an eerily lifelike portrait of Michael Jackson inked across someone’s back as he navigates his way through the crowd amid the hum of the buzzing tattoo machines and dance music at this year’s Hong Kong China International Tattoo Convention. It’s Davee’s third time participating in the city’s largest ink celebration at the Kai Tak cruise terminal on Kowloon’s waterfront. A roving tattooist who practices his art all over the world, he is renowned in his sphere for two things: one, his distinctive, manga-inspired tattoo style, and two, for never, ever adhering to the rules. Hive Life sat down with him to discuss how both those things have forged a career that shows no signs of slowing.

Polish-born Davee laid down his first ink on his friend’s skin 17 years ago. “I was so obsessed, I wanted to do tattoos every day,” he remembers with a wide grin, showing off his silver grillz. The moment he spotted the tattoos worn by his favourite musicians, he was hooked. But, growing up in a traditional family, the thought of getting a tattoo was outrageous, let alone taking them up as a career. “Nobody was supportive in my family, everyone was like, ‘no, you should do something normal,’” he remembers.

He was not put off, however. While other teenagers were at school, Davee spent hours hanging around tattoo parlours. “I wanted to prove to my family that this actually means something. I wanted to show them that I can succeed,” he explains. And he did. By the age of 22, he had earned international acclaim for his lurid, bold-lined, manga-inspired designs. And, contrary to most in his trade, he did it without a mentor. “Everyone wants to have someone that guides them, but I believe this will kill your own personality,” says Davee. “My style doesn’t go along with trends, I do the stuff that I want to do. My tattoos are all about happiness, that’s why they are colourful. I don’t do black and grey, they are way too serious,” he laughs.

Stretching out his arm, Davee flashes his own intricate sleeve of colour-packed ink, which includes a vivid, heavily-outlined, purple cartoon skull. It’s the kind of new-school tattoo through which Davee’s infectiously bright personality shines. His impish creations are a vibrant mash-up of Japanese cartoons and new-school graffiti, characterised by a lot of shading and patches of colour. This standout east-meets-west style resulted in part from his love for graffiti, which he has been doing since he was 12, and in part from his many trips to Japan. In addition, his sees his take on tattoos as a manifestation of his free spirit. “I don’t want to grow up,” laughs the 33-year-old. “That’s why I do tattoos. Doing playful graffiti and tattoo keeps me young and entertained, they bring me a smile.”

Today, calling the world his home, Davee is constantly on the move. When he’s not doing tattoos or judging at conventions, he is hopping between different parlours around the globe from California to Seoul, Japan to China. “Travelling keeps me creative. If I stayed in one place, my brain would be empty,” he says, preferring to remain nomadic. “I don’t want to open my own studio because I don’t want to tattoo for money, I just want to do cool art. I’ve chosen to be a tattoo artist because it’s my passion. Tattoo makes me who I am.”

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