INTERVIEW WITH Alexis Vaatete | Vatican Studios California 06/10/2016

Please start by telling us something about yourself, how you got into tattoo art? How did you learn the basic skills of tattooing?

My name is Alexis Vaatete and I tattoo in Orange County, California. I've been in love with art as far back as my memory can take me, especially in tattoos, so it's an amazing thing to come across doing something that I am so passionate about, art and tattoos. Franco Vescovi offered me a position as an apprentice at his shop, Orange County Inkhouse, where I took a journey of a 3 year apprenticeship under Franco. It was Franco Vescovi who had taught me the fundamentals of tattooing and who introduced me into the tattoo industry. My apprenticeship was so meticulous and informative, that the skills needed for tattooing came very naturally. Having realized the value of the opportunity I was given, I worked harder than I ever had before. Almost 15 years later, professionally tattooing for 12, I continue to work alongside my friend and mentor, Franco Vescovi, at Vatican Studios.

Q: You have a really interesting style, what kind of art is your major creative source?
A: My style is really a fusion between the relationship of a bond between collector and artist. I try to learn as much as I can about the person I do that tattoo for to depict and manifest the best story that suits them. When story telling, I will normally utilize realistic, surrealism, and fantasy with as much detail as possible to tell the story along with my own interpretation of how I view all things.

Q: Drawing skills are very important for one tattoo artist. Since your tattoos are all custom made, could you please tell me more about the tattoo process and how clients collaborate with you before getting tattooed? Do you draw a bunch of sketches before the session?
A: As a storyteller, I try not to ever limit what I pull my ideas from, but more importantly I try to make sure that I am fully aware of who it is that I am doing the tattoo for. I really want what I depict on them to reflect who they are and how they feel. The beginning process with most of my collectors start with learning as much as I can about them and from that I see images and pictures as to how I will tell their story. In all my years of tattooing, most of my process starts with the very moment they sit in my chair, and then the images come organically to me so I may manifest my collectors dreams. I will normally start with a tattoo pen and begin drawing on them, the moment they sit with me. Most often, what I draw, is received well by my collectors and there it begins.

Q: Realistic tattoos seem to be very popular nowadays, as well as fantasy sleeves, seems like people are coming up with many interesting, ideas for a tattoo, it's not just a ready-made tattoo image from internet, but a lot more. How much this gives the artists (YOU) a chance for creative progress and defining your style?
A: Now with such in depth programs such as photoshop and photography, this allows artists to take their visions a lot further by adjusting what they see accurately and playfully.

Q: Do you have any favorite style to work on?
A: I'm always seeking to further my abilities, I has a high appreciation and taste for doing portraiture, realism, fantasy and surrealism work with a color fusion incorporated. I delve into to as many styles as possible, to become well rounded in each. A few years ago I developed a series called The Owl King, it's the most prominent body of work that I enjoy doing. This series satisfies a lot of aspects of my creative desires and seems to relate to much of how collectors wish to convey their story.

Q: Your profession seem to be very fun, you meet a lot of different people every day, you hear their stories... Do you feel sometimes overwhelmed of the busy schedule? How do you find motivation? Let's just not forget the fact that tattooing is also a very responsible job. :)
A: The tattoo industry has introduced me to so many influential and inspirational artists who inspire me daily. I don't feel overwhelmed by the busy schedule because I enjoy being an artist. Developing the series I have, allows me to be in no lack of motivation but always looking forward to a new project each day.

Q: The top five recommendations for the people who are looking for the "perfect" design?
A: I would recommend people to research the artist, give adequate amount of time to see if this is what they truly want, understand what your style is and finding the right artist to create your vision. Great tattoos come with a lot of time and dedication, I recommend for people to invest in this process.

Q: Tattoo artists travel a lot. Do you visit tattoo conventions? If so, which one left you the most memorable impression?
A: I've been traveling the circuit of tattoo conventions for the past twelve years but I highly recommend the London Tattoo Convention and Mondiual Du Tatuage in France, two of my favorites.

Q: So many awards, also to be mentioned, do you consider those things as progress and simply a push button for more in feature?
A: For me, competition are not as much about winning but to share the work I've done. If anything, it's more for my collectors to show that I'm a competent artist and just to make the experience more exciting. If we win an award...its just a perk for both I and the collector. There are so many great artists out there so it's an honor to have my work alongside other bodies of works and styles.

Q: Where are you located now?
A: I'm over at Vatican Studios in Lake Forest, ca.
For direct inquiries, please email:
Instagram: @alexisvaateteart

- How long it takes to get an appointment? What's the procedure?
I am typically booked five months out. To sit in my chair, please send a email to and my partner Nadia will help set collectors up once they establish what it is they are interested in.

Q: Any motivational words for the beginners?
A: Never stop studying and enjoy the process. Love what you do and you'll never work a day in your life.

Mr.Alexis Vaatete, Thanks so much for the interview,
All my best,
Ivana Kancheska