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Behind the #gram: Chester Lee of @OddTattooer

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This tattoo artist loves ink so much, he had his eyes tattooed.

At a glance, Chester Lee comes off as an intimidating man. Dozens of tattoos cover him from head to toe, and the sclera of his eyes are tattooed pitch-black. That's right – this man got his eyeballs tattooed. 

However, as I spoke to the burly tattoo artist behind Instagram account @oddtattooer, I discovered that despite his unorthodox looks, Chester, 30, is extremely friendly, well-spoken, and seemed like a chill guy. 

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Business as usual at Oracle Tattoo.
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/MARK ONG

Youth.SG met with Chester at his workplace, Oracle Tattoo – a cosy tattoo parlour nestled in the middle of Upper Thomson. When I walked in, Chester was in the midst of tattooing his wife's sleeve. #couplegoals 

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Armed with a rotary tattoo machine, the recently married Chester
confidently free-handed most of his wife Sera's blackout tattoo.
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/MARK ONG 

Chester's journey with ink began at the tender age of 13, when he gave himself his first tattoo. 

"It was just some stupid lines and dots that I did with my friends lah, there was no machine so we hand-poked the ink," he recalls. 

By the time he was 17, he was tattooing clients, although he did not have any formal training. 

"It was one of those dodgy shops that were unequipped for a proper apprenticeship programme. You just walk in, buy the equipment, and can begin tattooing there," he said matter-of-factly.

Without a formal apprenticeship, Chester spent the first few years of his career slowly honing his skills through trial and error. His clients at the time were mostly friends who were sporting enough to let him experiment on them.

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Chester shared that his favourite tattoo piece on himself is his
blacked-out arm (complete with a subdermal implant).
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/MARK ONG

Today, Chester specialises in a style called blackout tattoos, and his art has been well received by tattoo enthusiasts both locally and internationally. Some have even dubbed him the pioneer of blackout tattoos. He is in such high demand that his schedule is fully booked for the next four to five months, and his Instagram boasts an impressive 49,300 followers.

"To be honest, I never expected @oddtattooer to blow up so much. In fact, now that it has so many followers, most of my clients are very eager to be featured," he chuckled. 

And rightly so, Chester's pieces are mesmerizing to look at. Scrolling through his Instagram profile, I could see the painstaking effort that went into each piece.

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Chester never shares pictures of himself or his private life on his
Instagram account, only adding to the sense of mystique.
PHOTO CREDIT: SCREENSHOT FROM ODDTATTOOER'S INSTAGRAM 

Besides tattoos, Chester is also interested in body modification. Three years ago, Chester approached American body modification artist Luna Cobra to get his eyeballs tattooed. Luna Cobra is the pioneer of eyeball tattoos and invented the irreversible procedure in 2007. 

"For a long time, I was quite into body modification. I had subdermal implants that I would constantly remove and change, stretched earlobes, and a split tongue. An eyeball tattoo was just something I really wanted, so I went and got it done," Chester said. 

It is worth knowing that if botched, this extreme modification could cause permanent effects such as blurry vision, spots or even blindness. 

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Chester's eyes have been tattooed pitch-black, and he is aware that having such
tattoos drastically reduces anyone's chances at landing an office job.
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/MARK ONG 

Naturally, he receives a lot of stares and judgement from people on the streets, but Chester shrugs it off. 

"I don't really care what people think of me. If you are going to look like this, you have to accept what comes with it - people will always judge. However, these days the younger generation seem to be more accepting and understanding," he shared.

Chester says he feels a sense of satisfaction and happiness when "clean skins" trust him enough to devote large areas of their body to his strikingly distinctive tattoos. "I'm always trying to outdo myself and experiment with ideas, and they give me space to become better and more creative," he explained. 

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The desk where Chester pens down his designs and brings them to life. He works at least
28 days a month and is constantly conceptualising newer and better ideas.
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/MARK ONG

So what are Chester's plans next? 

He puts it simply: "I want to continue tattooing for as long as possible, and travel the world to see what other tattoo artists are capable of. To live and learn lah."

This is part of Behind the #gram, an ongoing series on Instagram influencers. In this series:

1. Naomi Anneliese of @nehohmee
2. Xavier Lur of @xavierlur
3. Leonard Giam of @leotomatic
4. Stanley Tan of @windflowerflorist