A former office worker turned tattoo addict has covered 90 per cent of his body – including an eyeball – in more than 100 inkings to treat chronic pain syndrome.
Tattboy Holden, who changed his name legally in 2014, claims he was left bedridden by pain after suffering side effects from a routine operation in 2000.
Ironically the 48-year-old found relief in going under the needle – and has since invested nearly $100,000 and 1000 hours in body modification.
Colourful character Tattboy, from Adelaide admits his head to toe inkings are a stain on his mainstream job prospects – leaving him unemployed – and have even seen him branded a criminal.
But the former credit officer has no regrets about turning his body into an artwork since his health fell apart – and is planning to keep going to make his mark on the world.
“I was on some medication that gave me side effects and I needed an operation," Tattboy said.
“After a few operations I was left with nerve damage that cannot be repaired.
“I had already had some tattoos in the past, but through the course of this I found tattoos were a form of pain therapy. I call it ‘pain distraction’. I look forward to it.
“If the tattoo is big enough, it distracts the pain for about a day. It still hurts, but it’s on your terms.
“The chronic pain returns eventually, but it’s a release.”
Tattboy first fell under the spell of inkings as a child when he became fascinated with tattoos, but waited until Australia’s legal age of 18 to take the plunge and go under the needle with an eagle on his arm – a coming-of-age symbol.
Over the course of the next 13 years he got some more work done, but it wasn’t until a cruel twist of fate left him struggling with pain that he decided to take his obsession this far.
He is proud almost every part of his body is marked - including his manhood and his right eye, which is coloured red after his surname and love of Holden cars.
“I decided to get fully covered, that’s my goal," Tattboy said.
"It’s a long journey, it will take me all my life. I’d probably never say I’m finished.
“You can always start over. Some parts of my face have three layers. I’d never really say I’m finished.
“The skin between my eyelids and nose is probably the most painful. It feels like eye surgery, your eyes just pour water. Lips felt like razorblades.”
Tattoos reflect an extraordinary life
Tattboy’s body paints the picture of an extraordinary life – from a car on his back as a reminder that he was held hostage for by armed bandits, to a rainbow on his calf that pledges support for equality.
And it doesn’t stop there: he had his tongue split – known as bifurcation – and transdermal bolts implanted into his head in his quest for self-decoration.
But Tattboy’s inkings have even seen him mistaken for a criminal more than once and he admits his love of tattoos have been damaging for his career.
He now hopes to find work as a DJ and is set to star in an upcoming horror flick, but admits it will be a challenge to return to the corporate world anytime soon.
“I used to have a very sought-after car. One night I was ambushed for it and held hostage for about seven hours. I had to sell it after I escaped, but I got it on my back to remember.
“My most recent in June this year is a rainbow on the back of my leg. I’ve been through some storms, but this represents brighter days ahead. It’s also in support for gay marriage equality.
“I have definitely been mistaken for a criminal and even a standover man once, but the tides are changing. People are becoming more accepting.
“It has definitely spun my life in a different direction. I might not be able to work in an office again, but I would be open to doing it with the right boss and a way to manage my pain.
“But I haven’t got a boss to tell me what to do, and that’s fine with me.”
Tattboy's obsession by numbers:
- More than 100 inkings covering 90 per cent of his body (he has lost track of the exact number).
- Almost $100,000 AUD spent on all his body modifications (again, he has lost track of the exact figure).
- 1,000 hours of body modification in total.
- Changed name legally to Tattboy Holden in 2014.
- One of Australia’s most tattooed men.