“A Day in the Life” with Vancouver Tattoo Artist Leo Mortem

Leo Mortem is an up-and-coming Tattoo and Visual artist from Vancouver with a degree in Earth Science from SFU. After nine years of creating visual art in her home studio, she began tattooing clients at a private Chinatown tattoo studio. Her tattoo work is done in the etching style with designs adapted directly from her visual art.

Her unique aesthetic perspective draws inspiration from nature, scientific illustrations, fairy tales, illuminated medieval manuscripts and artists such as Albrecht Dürer, and Gustave Doré.

Exploring themes of suffering, transformation and decay as a vehicle for change and new life, her work is an alchemy of medievalist symbology and natural forms. Whimsical with a modern edge and often imbued with religious, celestial and occult influences; for Leo, the creation of art is a sort of magic.

Fascinated with the forms and textures of plants and the patterns found in the natural world, she loves to spend quiet time outdoors gathering inspiration and collecting natural objects for her art and herbarium. Rather than looking at the big picture, she likes to focus on minute details that might easily be missed.

When she isn’t tattooing, creating art or working on her herbarium she loves to cook and compose music for the piano.

– Written by one of her friends

Leo Mortem
A client with a healed tattoo poses for Leo’s portfolio.
Leo Mortem
Leo’s home studio, decorated with finished works.
Leo in the studio.
Sketchbooks and projects completed and in progress.
Leo at work, tattooing in the studio.
A close snapshot of Leo’s gallery wall.
Leo Mortem
Leo gathering samples in the wild.
Leo Mortem
A variety of Leo’s work, highlighting her tiny tattoo flash booklet.


Which ’hood are you in?

I tattoo in a private studio in Chinatown and I work on my visual art out of my home studio on Burnaby Mountain, where I am lucky to have access to a beautiful forest. It’s amazing living close to the inlet. I love to spend time near the ocean, especially when it is raining.

What do you do?

I am a tattoo artist working in blackwork etching style, and a visual artist working with mixed media. I primarily work with ink and graphite, I love the tactile sensation of etching on paper. I also keep a private herbarium which I use to reference my work, which includes wildflowers and wild grasses. I have separate collections of seaweed and moss specimens.

What are you currently working on?

I generally juggle several projects at once. I love coming up with new flash art to tattoo, as well as working with clients to complete custom pieces, which usually take up most of my time. When I catch a free moment, I also create whimsical little booklets and work in my sketchbook. Additionally, I am creating a series of larger graphite pieces depicting medieval demons and biblical angels, with sculptured frames.

Where can we find your work?

You can find my work on Instagram.


About Sabrina Greggain-Lord 34 Articles
My name is Sabrina Greggain-Lord and I am a Community Outreach worker for the Vancouver Guardian. I am passionate about writing and bringing recognition to those doing wonderful work within their communities.