LONDON, ONT. -- Some artists paint on canvas, some on walls, and then there are some artists who create their artwork on…skin.

Will Smink, a professional tattoo artist who specializes in realism and portraits, creates tattoos so lifelike, you may want to check to see if it's a photograph.

Smink became interested in tattooing when he was a teenager.

"I had bought a tattoo machine and never put it down. They weren't very common to see, and it was something I really wanted to be a part of," he recalls.

Starting young, he began doodling which progressed to his wanting to tattoo. Once he began, he knew his dream should become his reality.

In order to work in the field, Smink began looking to become an apprentice. Persistent in his search, he found someone to take him in and help teach him the trade. He quickly began to research books and videos, reaching out to artists for their advice and surrounded himself with positive and hard working people.

As an artist, Smink says, "I use the shape of bodies to picture my designs and the flow of my art. Whether it is tattooing or drawing with markers, skin in my most comfortable canvas. I am so used to it now that it's hard to visualize it just on paper."

Ink by SminkOf course, there's always been a stigma attached to tattoos, but does that stigma hold true today?

"I feel like the old stigma of tattoos has completely changed. They are no longer linked to biker lifestyles and/or frowned upon. People are more accepting of them," he says.

He feels that tattoos are now looked at as art rather than a defiant individual not following the 'rules'. Of course there are always people who will judge, but it's more common now than ever.

Tattooing in London for 10 years (and counting), Smink has heard a lot of personal stories along the way. That being said, while tattoos were once used to tell a story, it's not necessarily that way anymore.

"I feel like it's a real 50/50 when it comes to linking tattoos with a personal story nowadays. I do have a lot of clients who base their tattoos on past experiences, but I feel like the majority are leaning towards getting images based on simply the love of art," he explains.

He suggests more clients use tattoos as a kind of therapy, using the artwork to boost confidence rather than linking it to a specific reason.

As far a favourite tattoo, Smink says he's never been able to choose one.

"I always hope that the next tattoo I do becomes my favourite and that makes every day exciting, forcing me to work harder."

That being said, sleeves and back pieces are among the type of work he really enjoys, but does believe that a big tattoo doesn't take away from how powerful a smaller tattoo can be.

Ink by SminkSmink can be found at his private studio, Inner Circle Collective, in the heart of downtown London. Once an appointment is made, the address is provided to reduce traffic flow and create a more personal and comfortable experience.

As I write this article, his bookings are on hold as he catches up on existing projects from the previous COVID-19 lockdown earlier this year. He hopes to reopen in the spring or summer of 2021, but he is taking bookings through his website.

"The pandemic has definitely affected my work, but in more positive ways than not," he says. "Being able to be home without having to focus on what I was heading into tattoo the next day, I had time to sit down and work on nothing but my own visions."

He said he felt refreshed and it helped him to realize how much he enjoys working on his visions and dedication to the craft itself.

Ink by SminkThe shop itself was always clean prior to the pandemic, but wearing a mask was an adjustment.

Smink's passion shows through in each and every tattoo he creates. His incredible work can be viewed as "Ink by Smink" on Instagram and Facebook.

Even though his work looks flawless, Smink says, "I still continue to search for more ways to improve my skill and always will."