Not many people can put down tattoo artist/children’s author as their job title, but Portland’s Levi Greenacres now has that distinction.
With the publication of his illustrated children’s book Mommy’s New Tattoo, Greenacres has merged his background in art and writing with his work as a tattoo artist at Skeleton Key Tattoo in Portland. It adds to his broader resume, which includes work with circus shows, in radio, and, recently, as part of a panel discussion on the tattoo industry and the art of tattoos in Western culture.
In the book, Greenacres tells the story of a young girl who visits a tattoo shop for the first time with her mother, who is getting a tattoo. Mommy’s New Tattoo was inspired by Greenacres’ experience of accompanying his mother on her trip to a Seattle tattoo shop. He decided to write and illustrate the story after telling it to friends and customers for years, and as a Mother’s Day gift to his mom.
“Telling the story so many times over and over, I thought this would make a really good story for a kids book,” he says, “because it’s sort of the kind of story I wish I’d had to read when I went to the shop [with my mom] for the first time.”
Greenacres is originally from Oklahoma, where tattooing was illegal until 2006. He was 13 at the time of his mom’s excursion to the Seattle tattoo shop. While there, his mother got a tattoo designed around the word “Mom” as a way to express her love for her own mother and for how much she loved being his mother.
In the illustrations in Mommy’s New Tattoo, Greenacres has drawn likenesses of his mother and Madame Lazonga, the tattoo artist who tattooed his mother and served as one of his inspirations for becoming a tattooist. The child character in the book is fictional but based on Greenacres, who makes an illustrated cameo on one of the book’s many colorful pages.
Greenacres says he hopes the book can foster a dialog between parents and children on the significance and permanence of getting a tattoo.
“Things that are popular in tattoo come and go really fast, with the Internet especially. People will get their inspiration for their first one from Pinterest or other tattoo websites, but then in two or three years their tattoo won’t be cool anymore,” he explains. “I’ve always thought it was really neat that people would get something that says they like being part of a family because inclusion in that family never goes away.”
He adds that the book is a humble suggestion to consider your first tattoo carefully.
“When I got one it was many years past when I was legally able to get one. I figured if I waited long enough I’d probably find something I’d be happy to live with for the rest of my life.”