Interview with Lena Aleksandrova

   Hello Lena Aleksandrova! Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. It really means a lot having you here. Please start by telling us something about yourself and your background. Are you a self taught artist or? When did you discover your talent for arts? I have been working as a tattoo artist since 2015. Before that, when I was a teenager, I went to an art school, because I drew a lot in my childhood. After that I graduated from University as an architect-designer. I always knew that my profession would be related to art since I was a child.

Q: Do you have any favorite artists that inspired you to try tattooing? How did it all start?
A: When I was 25, I was still working in interior design. Then I met cool people from a tattoo team, who taught me tattooing and helped me to start working in this business. That’s how my creativity turned towards tattoo art, and the decision to become a tattoo artist was the best one. So, at the beginning of my career path I was also really inspired by the New School tattoo artists - Jamie Ris, Victori Chill, Timmy B, Amir Hisky, Kelly Doty etc.

Q: Tattooing is not an easy thing to lean. It's truly a special skill that requires not only patience and dedication but also constant curiosity. You gotta be creative, you gotta keep learning and advancing your skills. Especially, nowadays it's so important to have solid portfolio and stand out. The quality and the demand is on a completely different level, unlike just ten years ago. Your thoughts?
A: Well, I totally agree. Now tattooing has reached such a high level and it is becoming increasingly difficult to meet it, however I am very excited that this industry is developing so quickly. Also tattoos have become safer and more comfortable for artists and clients. And, of course, we have to learn a bunch of other related skills - communication skills, CSS management, targeting, content creation, pharmacy, first aid (besides ability to draw, good taste, creativity) etc.

Q: Was it hard to learn the basics and develop a unique style?
A: It happened naturally for me. I already knew how to draw when I got into tattooing. But I only draw what I saw, I mean the realistic stuff - nature, people, architecture. And I didn’t know how to fantasize at all. That's why my first characters were clumsy and ugly. Observating the actions and emotions of animals and people helped me to stylize them, and the ability to analyze the other artists’s work helped me to develop my style step by step.

Q: Talking about the style... Oh I love it!! It's so unique and interesting! Very playful and vibrant, some designs are like a crazy cool caricature, new school style or ah... Guide me! I love every piece, literally!! How would you definitely your style?
A: Thank you! Yes, it’s called the New School Style. Like a modern evolution of traditional tattooing (Old School). But there are so many new styles in the tattoo sphere, including combinations of different styles. And, actually, I can’t call my works the “new” style. Moreover, it’s difficult for clients to get the idea, so I just say “I’m making cartoons”.

Q: Why this style? What do you like the most?
A: As you already told before, it is playful, vibrant, crazy and cool. I think so! Creating each design makes me happy. There are so many ideas, fantasies and motives, so the sky id the limit.

Q: I bet your clients are also very creative and want that 100% unique masterpiece from you. They see your portfolio and want something interesting and personalized. In few words, how the creative process goes? Do you allow your clients to bring some reference images or?
A: Oh, yeah, I really love my clients, most of them are very creative and open-minded. I draw a lot of available sketches, because some of my customers don’t have their own ideas, they just check my sketchbook and choose a design from there. Other clients know for sure what they want, they explain what the want, bring some references images (if they have some). After that I send a simple design, they can change some details and then I finish it fully. Anyway they are always surprised. I think, most tattooers do the same things?

Q: Are there any "stubborn" clients that are difficult to work with?
A: I guess, every artist has such difficult experiences, me too. I try to solve the problem before they come to the session - it’s better to discuss everything beforehand. If I feel that they are troubled, rude, change their idea every 5 minutes, can’t make a decision and just waste my time, I cancel the session and don’t start making a design. I’m sure it’s really important to feel comfortable for each other. Otherwise, the result will not please anyone.

Q: The craziest request for a tattoo design? How did you negotiate that? Hah!
A: That’s a good question. There are two types of crazy requests. The first type is just some weird pranks from scammers. And the second type is crazy, but interesting ideas, from real customers. Such characters as a giraffe as Britney Spears with the MTV award in her hand, or, for example, a zombie-unicorn with a realistic heart strung on a horn, or a drunk mermaid in the martini glass on the customer’s buttock.

Q: I believe every day is a good day in the studio. You meet many people, share stories, and experiences and most importantly "mark" them for life... What a privilege! Many want that tattoo artist lifestyle! What do you like the most about being a tattoo artist?
A: To be honest, not every day is a good day. Yes, we work in the art sphere, but I don’t think we have kinda “specific lifestyles“. We also have hobbies, families, friends, daily routines and troubles. Speaking of me, I do like meeting new people from different countries and sharing experiences with each other, I enjoy the process of drawing and imagination.

Q: The most interesting thing that happened during a tattoo session?
A: I can’t remember. I could say is the time when clients pay for the tattoo they got. But my favorite story is when a client came to get a tattoo and brought his friend (she’s a beginner tattoo artist) just to watch how I work. Later it turned out that he took money from her for that “lesson”. Some people make money everywhere.

Q: Some tattoos take longer not only because of their size but sometimes complexity and color choice. The longest session? What was the design?
A: My first tattoos took much longer, I could make one average size tattoo in a few sessions. And I used to work for 10-12 hours a day. But the longest day was for about 14-15 hours, when I did three average size tattoos for different clients. It was self-destructive, so I’ve never done that challenge again. Now I try to work at a comfortable pace, I don't want to torture my clients and myself.

Q: I like your digital art too. I think you should design some cool t-shirts or try your luck as a graphic designer/illustrator after you get "bored" of tattooing - which probably will never happen, but as side "huste" at least. Your thoughts?
A: Now I try to concentrate on tattooing. But If I get tired of tattooing I’ll do something related to art, illustrations. Maybe, graphic design, illustration, game design, paintings in high demand, or art teaching.

Q: I can't pick a favorite, honestly I love all! Well ok, probably Salma Hayek illustration. Amazing!! There's that sensuality and femininity nicely packed in a nice way. Almost as... Trying highlight the beauty of the "model" so the artwork on itself is more memorable. I love it!!! Do you draw a bunch of sketches before you get the final look or the inspiration comes naturally and spontaneously so you just draw it and boom you got a masterpiece! I believe so!
A: Thanks for careful studying my works. It’s different, depends on the idea. Sometimes I know exactly what I want to see, I have a design in my head and I need less time to implement that. Otherwise, if I don’t really know what I want to get, I can “torture” the idea, try different positions, tempers, and get a result in weeks, months or years.

Q: About inspiration... Sometimes we might feel stuck because of busy schedule and too much work. What do you do those days? Do you feel pressured to "deliver" your very best every day no matter if you feel tired, overwhelmed?
A: I don’t feel pressured. If I feel like I’m burned out, I know it happens at least once a year and leaves as well. It’s ok not to be productive or creative constantly, to make good quality content every day. Just need a little rest without any drawings. I know it will end soon and I will be able to make art again.

Q: Procreate app and similar apps and software are really a helping "hand" if someone wants to explore digital art and drawing in general. I think the tattoo artists save a lot of time and energy having these options, unlike back in the day, when you gotta have drawn all on paper... What do you use the most and would you recommend something "basic" for the beginners?
A: I use the Procreate app for drawing. Yes, it really helps to save time to prepare sketches for customers. I had drawn on paper a lot (even tattoo sketches) before I discovered the tablet, and I’m glad that I have that experience and skills. It’s ok to learn drawing right on the tablet, it’s ok to make your work easier.

Q: Honestly, are the drawing skills crucial when it comes to tattooing? Or tattooing can be learned as a separate skill even though, one might not be good at drawing?
A: In my opinion, it’s necessary to know at least basic drawing skills (the laws of composition, balance, contrast, form, perspective, proportions, motion, rhythm, focus, etc.). That makes your art quality much better. I mean, yes, there are some really good artists without that basic knowledge, but if you feel like that’s not about you, so take some lessons, it’s never too much.

Q: We have a lot of new artists, styles, advanced equipment and I think social media and the seminars, online courses even YouTube videos are a great resource for those who want to try their luck in getting into professional tattooing. What's your opinion about the local and the global tattoo scene?
A: I think that’s really great to have so much information (online courses), but it’s important to get a few opinions, to be able to think critically, just to make your own decisions about the tattooing and everything. Anyway, I’m super glad that the tattoo industry is not “underground” profession anymore. I remember the time when tattooers scared people, because they looked unusual.

Q: Do you have any favorite artists you would like to work with?
A: Yeah, I do. Most of them are new school or cartoon style artists too - Victor Chill, Jamie Ris, Kozo, Sergey Shanko, Kelly Dotti.

Q: What are the top three career highlights and many the top three career goals for the future? What's next?
A: Hm, I would say, the first top highlight is my starting. Also my first award at the Tattoo Convention (in Kazan, Russia) and meeting great, talented artists. About the goals, it’s hard to say. I think I can’t say three tops. Because everything changes every day in the world. Of course I’d like to be a more well known artist and get more awards, but at the same time I’d like to work at a comfortable pace with nice people, and not jump over my head. I’m not sure if it’s possible to mix both parts :)

Q: If you are starting today what would you do differently?
A: That’s a good question! I would visit as many conventions as possible, to see how many styles and artists we have. I think I was not socially active enough. Also I’d try to work next to many great artists. Because It’s better to be a mediocre artist in the studio among professionals and develop your skills and grow. Yes, I worked with good artists, but sometimes it was easier for my ego to work with less quality artists. I wouldn’t avoid promoting myself on media and social media. I thought I didn’t need it, but I was wrong. I would definitely choose another nickname, so I wouldn't have to change it later :)

Q: Where are you currently located?
A: Currently I work in Moscow, Russia, the Pont Royal Tattoo Collective

Q: Are you available for bookings? How long people wait to book?
A: Yes, sure, I am. I try to book appointments for a month. Because it’s not easy to plan further. And I have a kind of “waiting list”, if customers can’t come next month.

Q: Any advice for those who want to try getting into professional tattooing?
A: Just more practice. Try different styles, look how your favorite artists work, learn basic drawing skills and practice a lot.

Best regards, Lena Aleksandrova
Thank you for the interview Lena,
Fredrik Lindstrom
Editor at Skin Artists Tattoo Magazine