Geoff Ostling says of his tattoos, “it’s like having children.”

But even though it was love at first sight, when he saw his first tattoo, Ostling held off from getting his first ink for many years, due to disapproval from his family and also societal stigmas.

“I decided, when I eventually retired, I could get some work done,” he told Urban Village.

Ostling is one of the models at the upcoming Skin Deep exhibition at the National Art School. Running from 18 February to 7 March 2021, the exhibition showcases the intimate stories LGBTQI people often have on their tattooed bodies.

The exhibition is curated by NAS Executive Producer Terese Casu and will present a number of narrators, models, performers and story tellers.

Geoff Ostling was first tattooed by artist eX de Medici and is now covered from head to toe of tattoos in Japanese tradition, featuring native and exotic flowers that grow in a Sydney garden.

Since his first inking, Geoff has fallen in love with tattoos and tattoo culture.

“The culture is interesting because it’s only for the initiated. Like many things it’s one that you get to know and enjoy and live in, but certainly for those who are initiated into the group,” he says.

Ostling has previously appeared in exhibitions in various countries, such as the UK, Japan and New Zealand. His love for tattoos has taken him all over the world.

For Ostling, having a tattoo is much like having a child. He says: “I think when people say, ‘Should I get a tattoo?’, no! The same as ‘Should I have a baby?’. You’ll know when the time is right for you to do it… You’ve got to know that you love it.”

The exhibition will feature the work of celebrated Sydney fashion photographer Waded, as she uses fashion portraiture to capture the artistry and personal stories of a series of tattooed bodies.

The exhibition will also include historical images and the background of LGBTQI tattooed symbols. Additionally, there will also be performances by Director and Choreographer Meryl Tankard, working with community members and acclaimed aerialist The Amazing Ari.

Skin Deep will also build an online community of LGBTQI tattooed bodies, photographs and stories of their first tattoo.

Geoff Ostling, like many believes that exhibitions like these hold great importance as a showcase of art and expression of individuality.

“I think that the exhibition is important to see what sort of work people are doing and what is on around and what you can achieve with body art in various ways. And it is quite wonderful to see the work that people have.”

“At the age of 70, of all the things I have, I love the tattoos more than anything else I have. They’re wonderful.”

The National Art School’s Skin Deep Exhibition will run from 18 February to 7 March and ticket prices are $15-$30. To book go to

Photo credit: Waded