While some tattoo artists go through fancy art schools before landing their first real gig in the industry, others take a slightly grittier and more street-savvy approach. For one tattooer named Alex — better known as Tattoo LX at Envisions Tattoo Collective — the latter is most definitely true. Although he’s now an established veteran with over a decade of experience under his belt, it doesn’t seem like all that long ago that Alex was using his artistic skills as an alternative to getting into some serious trouble.
“After high school, I was going down the wrong road, so I started focusing on my art and that helped keep me off the streets,” Alex says. “It kept me from getting into trouble because instead of being out there running the streets, I was in my mom’s garage trying to tattoo friends. It kept me at home and helped me grow into a man as I had my kids. I had a lot of things hitting me, so I had to get my stuff together and be more serious about my artwork.”
Now 33, Alex can look back and appreciate the early days of his career in ways that he couldn’t when he was going through them. The artist’s love for drawing maintained strong and consistent enough for his friends to take notice even when they were all children, and that quickly turned into interest in having him tattoo them once they got a little bit older. Of course, back in the days before tattooing was on TV every week, the industry was quite a bit harder to get into — even after Alex managed to pick up a cheap tattooing kit online and had plenty of willing canvases.
“Ever since elementary school I’ve always been into drawing,” Alex says. “Over the years, I just started seeing I was good at it, and I had friends pushing me toward tattooing. I had a lot of friends volunteering to be my guinea pigs, so I just started on my friends and family. Back in those days, the industry was a lot more exclusive. There was nobody to guide you or teach you much, and there wasn’t much out on the market.”
Even before he started tattooing as a career, Alex already drew inspiration from some of the founders and legends of the tattooing world. The work of artists like Freddy Negrete showed him what was possible in black and gray realism through the pages of magazines, and the generations before him are still some of his biggest influences. These days, Alex and Negrete don’t only share a style, but also successful careers that have helped each of them prioritize fatherhood over a life of partying and violence.
“I’ve looked up to a lot of artists in the black and gray genre for a while,” Alex says. “That black and gray fine line work is just so California, and I’ve always admired that kind of work. Those guys are my inspiration, and I’m grateful for all of them. I remember looking through tattoo magazines as a kid, and their names still stick out to me now. I studied their work and their styles just by looking at their portfolios. They’re the pioneers of black and gray here.”
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But what Alex is most excited about is the present and the future. As he sees it, the technological and societal advancements of tattooing over the past decade have brought tattooing into a better place than it’s ever been before. While some older artists lament the loss of the rugged good ol’ days of their beloved industry, Alex believes tattooing’s current popularity and success will only continue to grow — which means he’ll be able to do a lot more of what he loves most.
“The most rewarding part about tattooing is that you feel valued and you change a lot of people’s lives with just a tattoo,” Alex says. “You come across people with some stories, and just to be able to do something for somebody using my artwork — to bring peace to their mind or their heart — it makes me feel good about what I’m doing.”
Envisions Tattoo Collective, 9131 Citrus Ave., Fontana, 909-333-1082, @tattoolx