At first glance, you might be a little disturbed to see tattoo artist Benjamin Lloyd inking kids. But if you read the backstory, your surprise will quickly turn into soppiness; his story is pretty incredible.
Lloyd is a 25-year-old artist from Auckland, New Zealand, and his fascination with art began at a young age. As a kid, for instance, he’d doodle all over his hands and arms.
As he got older, though, his art began to receive critical acclaim. Early in 2016, for example, his work on an iconic mural in Auckland was featured in a local newspaper.
It was in May 2016, however, that his art suddenly took a very different route. This was when he posted pictures on Facebook of what appeared to be him giving five-year-old Jin Whitehead a tattoo. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the post went viral.
Overnight, the post had received 400,000 likes and 11,000 comments. Understandably, many people were shocked by what they were seeing – it’s not cool to tattoo kids, right? But all was not as it seemed.
Rather than using real tattooing inks and needles, Lloyd had created the artwork using an airbrush. “I use organic non-toxic ink, so it’s completely safe,” he wrote in a Facebook post.
As a kid, Lloyd was bullied at school for a burn he had on his hand, which is why he used to draw over it. As an adult, though, this inspired him to want to help other kids who were suffering in one way or another. Indeed, he wanted to give these kids a reason to be cheerful.
Before Jin, Lloyd had tattooed other friends’ kids and his stepson Lincoln. Sadly, Lincoln passed away two years ago aged just seven, but Lloyd believes that the temporary tats had given him a real boost. Now, then, Lloyd wanted to help more kids get the same boost.
In fact, in his original Facebook post, Lloyd wrote that if he got 50 likes, he’d tattoo all the kids at his local children’s hospital, Starship Children’s Health. Well, the post did a lot better than that – around 8,000 times better – and Lloyd was determined to keep his promise.
Starship Children’s Health is a major children’s hospital in Auckland. As well as offering state-of-the-art pediatric care to children in New Zealand and beyond, it also serves as a major teaching hospital.
And, of course, the children’s hospital deals with a lot of very sick kids, and some of them suffer from life-threatening, debilitating illnesses such as cancer. If any kids deserve cheering up, then, these guys do.
“Nothing brings me more joy than boosting a kid’s confidence with a custom tattoo,” Lloyd posted on Facebook. So, as promised, he did make his way down to the children’s hospital to give some of the kids there a real treat.
Interestingly, Lloyd has the airbrushing process down to a fine art and can finish a single tattoo in just nine minutes. That’s pretty handy, as not many kids would be able to sit still for hours in a tattoo chair.
Part of the reason Lloyd can get through the tats so quickly is because he uses stencils for a lot of the designs. For the hospital visit, he had prepared pre-cut designs of superheroes, such as Spider-Man.
“The kids are so amazed,” said Lloyd. “As soon as they get the tattoo it boosts their confidence.” And you can see why – the temporary tattoos he’s been giving these kids look totally awesome.
There is one downside, though. “The only bad thing is that they don’t want to take a shower afterwards,” he explained. To be honest, we probably wouldn’t want to either.
Other parents of children at the hospital wanted him to tattoo their kids too, and they posted pictures of the youngsters on Facebook. But Lloyd was already considering his next step.
The popularity of his Facebook post had, after all, gone far beyond his expectations. Indeed, soon after posting it, he was receiving around five private messages every minute from people asking for a temporary tat, and that got him thinking.
He wanted to help many more children through his art, so he set up a crowd-funding page to raise money for his cause. “I have been inspired to now travel the world and donate my talent to create smiles to those in need,” he wrote on the page.
He started his quest a little closer to home. In fact, his next stop was a local medical center that helps children born with learning difficulties. The beauty of Lloyd’s artworks, then, might only be skin deep, but their positive impact looks set to go a whole lot further than that.