Subtle Side of Apro Lee

Dark, abrasive, and grave describe the work of tattooist Apro Lee. From satirical tigers to nebulous clouds, his art is heavy-handed, with purpose and very black. His works are a modern interpretation of the Korean folk style, the “painting of the people,” called “minhwa.” Produced by anonymous craftsmen without formal training but still adhering to styles of the past, the magical characteristic of minhwa was believed to protect its owner and family from dangerous forces. Apro is a self-taught artist and learned to tattoo during his 10-year travel tenure throughout the world.

Most may be intimidated by his work paired with his inked physique, shaved head, reserved demeanor and 50kg german sheperd Daoud; but once you get to know him, he is as sweet as pie. We take a tour of his hidden studio and reveal the subtle side of Apro’s world.

This is a ring I made in collaboration with from my friend Aaron who makes jewelry based in New York. I tattooed him and he gave me this ring as a token of appreciation.


I enjoy collecting objects from different countries and different cultures. Especially dark ones and antiques like handmade objects that are old and convey their own histories. I enjoy collecting religious art pieces although I’m not held to one religious belief. From centuries ago, religion has provided strength. And always, artworks from the hands of the greatest artists are offered to the gods.


If I were to pick my favorite flowers- there would be just two. The rose and the chrysanthemum. Anyone and everyone knows what a rose is- it’s pretty much the king of all flowers. A rose that has yet to fully bloom looks like a human heart. I actually don’t really like fresh cut flowers. I prefer flowers that have already been picked and dried. I feel less bad for those that have already died.


A gift from fashion designer Kye. She wanted to thank me for introducing her to a tattoo shop in New York.


I got these from Insa-dong. The old man who sold these said they were made by his son. I remember that day- it felt like the day was yet to be over and there was so much more to be done. It made me want to go above and beyond.


These are very old vintage ceramics from Europe. Not really what they’re used for. It could be a chamber pot or something to store something precious. As soon as I saw it though- it reminded me of an urn. Later when I die, I don’t think it would be a bad idea if I keep my ashes in here.