'Lord of the ink': Tattoo artist's prestigious Roman honour
TATTOO enthusiasts are travelling thousands of kilometres for a Coolum artist to ink their skin.
Benjamin Laukis, now based in Athens, Greece, is as at the forefront of an international shift to recognise tattoos as a fine art form.
He is the only Australian and one of eight people whose work will be catalogued at MACRO, the Roman Museum of Contemporary Art, which has honoured Benjamin with contemporary artist certification.
Realism and portraits are his speciality. His portfolio is stacked with images of the rich and famous, superheroes, movie scenes from cult classics and, his other passion, skulls.
"He has his own skulls that he copies from and looks at all the details... because you can buy a skull in Europe," Benjamin's mother Kerry Laukis said.
It is one of these designs which will hang on the walls of MACRO, because of course you can't hang someone's tattoo, Kerry explained.
The proud mother keeps up with her son's success from her Coolum home, and said she was "blown away" by his fame in an art form often not accepted in the mainstream.
"I am the mum, but I find it amazing this little kid from Coolum is now one of the top tattooists in the world," she said.
"He was always so dedicated to drawing, it's nice to see him make something of it.
"We always thought he would be a poor artist.
"He wears Armani suits and Rolex watches, he doesn't look like your average tattooist."
Kerry assured her son was humble in his successes, and she had alerted the Daily to his latest achievement as he slept halfway across the world.
She said since they handed a one-year-old Benjamin a packet of crayons, his talent was already far beyond his years.
"He was just seriously drawing things a one-year-old shouldn't have been able to draw," she said.
"He's just got better and better all his life, it was always meant to be."
But Benjamin forged his own road to riches after he gave up his trade with the family's Nambour air-conditioning business at 25.
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"He came to me one day when he was working for us, and said 'I really want to leave and do a tattoo apprenticeship, and I don't want to upset dad'," Kerry said.
"I told him he would be stoked, we always knew he could draw."
Kerry said they supported him for about six months as he began an apprenticeship with Coolum Tattoo.
During that time he did graffiti and tattooing on the side, before he moved to Melbourne and perfected his craft.
A decade on and Kerry said people were making the 2400km journey from Germany to Athens for a Laukis original.
Benjamin puts in his fair share of the legwork, constantly travelling to promote his passion and livelihood.
"He travels Europe and goes to all the shows - he was recently at the London International Tattoo Convention," she said.
"He goes from tattoo show to tattoo show and works in friends' shops in between.
"It's completely his whole life, his girlfriend is a tattoo artist as well... she's incredible."
Kerry laughed that she was the first in the family to get a tattoo, about three years before Benjamin started his apprenticeship.
"He has since done ones on me as well... and he has done one on his father and half the Coast I would think," she said.
Kerry said with her son so far away, it was special to have such a personal reminder of her boy.
"He has done vines and roses on my back, put his name and his sister's name on my foot, and on my other foot I have a tiger lily... it was always meant to be for him."