Chicano tattoos are iconic. Deeply ingrained with the powerful history of Mexican-American culture, each image is imbued with a myriad of symbolic meanings. It's an aesthetic that resonates with many, which is why, in part, the style has garnered so much attention from tattoo collectors and tattooists around the globe.
Alejandro Lopez is the only tattoo artist in Argentina that does this particular style and with Traditional and Realist touches, he's made the style his own. In this interview, Alejandro talks more about his inspirations and how street culture has influenced his awesome tattoos.
What is your artistic background? Did you always want to be a tattooer and how did you get into tattooing?
I don’t have an academic formation in arts, but I have studied drawing and oil painting with international renowned artists. Regarding tattoos, I was lucky to meet great artists which had no problem in showing me how they did their job and when I asked about some technique or how to solve some designs, they always showed good predisposition to teach me their secrets.
I got into the tattoo world when I was 6 years old. In 1991, Guns n’ Roses visited Argentina and that was the first time I saw a person with tattoos. I remember all the tattoos that Axel has on his arms and it had so much impact that I knew in that moment, that when I grew up, I was going to get completely tattooed. I got my first tattoo at the age of 13 on my neck, and since then I never stopped being in touch with the tattoo world. When I was 16 years old, I left my parents’ house to live in a tattoo shop, where I spent 3 years watching how the owner drew, tattooed, attended to clients among other important things. Two years later I decided to start tattooing.
Who are your artistic heroes, tattooists or not? Are there any films, books, visuals, that inspire you?
I have some classic references, which I always look at, and I like all their works and, also, I have others which are changing with time or I like a certain period of their careers. In general, movies of the 80's and 90's was what I most consumed and the music of those years are things that inspire me and keep doing it. Regarding paintings, the period of renaissance was always my favorite.
In my opinion, Caravaggio was the king (and he is still) in painting and I also really like William Bouguereau's art. In the tattoo world I follow closely the work of Eli Quinter, Big Steve, Daniel Albrigo, Oliver Machintosh, ‘’El Grone’’, Chris Garver among others. Today there are a lot of tattoo artist making great works. When I meet a tattoo artist and I see that his work is serious, and he is an artist who studies and creates new works, whatever his style, that inspires me.
Many tattooists, I think, have a specific idea or philosophy behind their work. What would you say yours is? How would you describe a good tattoo or shop? How would you define success?
My philosophy of working is pretty simple. I believe that studying and training to be the best possible, plus dexterity and doing my job responsibly are things that will take me to the next level. A good tattoo is any design that is well made on the skin and once healed that design looks well defined, whatever the style. The rest is a matter of taste. I like tattooing a variety of things. Beyond that in my Instagram I show traditional tattoos or fine line in black and grey.
Tattoo styles like Traditional, Japanese, Tribal and some newer are to my liking as for example water olor, but like I said before it's a matter of taste.
A good tattoo shop is the one that has a good team on it. If the members of that team in the tattoo shop are kind, good people and workers, if they are difficult the shop doesn’t work. Also, I believe that with success it is a matter of taste, because for some it is the recognition, for others how much money they earn, and for others it’s related with family, friends, etc. For me, success is living off of what I like to do. Doing something that you don’t like just for money or for the recognition… I don’t think that is to be successful.
Chicano style has become a huge trend, but can you talk about what the style means to you? What are your favorite designs, and why, from this cultural aesthetic?
Chicano style in Argentina is almost unknown. The United States and Argentina are countries which are too separate from one another and the cultures are very different. I got to that style through movies and hip hop. I've honestly like it since I was a child and I almost do not understand why it caught my attention from such a young age but I feel a great attraction for all the street things like rap, skate, bikes and lowrider cars and everything culturally related with street culture. Generally, these are things that are created without resources (that’s why they are street) but in spite of that they managed to impose themselves strongly by marking a presence and people clearly accepted it, supported it and made it grow. I believe that all things that come from the streets have a strong personality and that is something that attracts me a lot.
My favorite tattoo designs are the classic ones, like pin up girls, skulls and roses. I could draw that forever and never get bored.
Beyond art and tattoos, what are you really passionate about? What can you not live without? What would you be doing if you weren’t tattooing?
I am a pretty simple person. Nowadays what I love is spending time with my family. I have two children and generally when I’m not working, I’m with them and my wife. I enjoy watching them grow, play and how they develop in this world day by day. I imagine that if I were not a tattoo artist, it could be another kind of artist, I really like what it is to draw or paint and if I was not tattooing, I guess I would be quite dissatisfied with any job.
Do you have any travel plans, projects, collabs, merch, etc. coming up that you’d like to share? Any hopes for this year or the next?
I’m always active with travels, new drawings and paintings, merchandising, etc. To see any upcoming news I suggest following my Instagram since I am very spontaneous when traveling and doing merch. This year I started some back pieces which I expect to finish them soon.
In November I will be present at the last tattoo convention in Paraguay of ‘’Tattoo Down Babylon’’ which is the tenth and last edition (I recommend that nobody miss it). I also received job offers from New York, Connecticut and Atlanta among others, so I am doing the corresponding permits that will allow me to work in those cities. I hope to visit soon Brazil and Chile since I travel every year and I make tattoos and visit friends.