Alexandra Novotna isn’t the best tattooer in Newport Beach, and that’s exactly how she likes it.
After all, in her seven-year career, the young artist has switched her primary style multiple times. The Orange County School of the Arts product began her tattooing career as many do — focusing on simple American traditional designs — before moving on to more detailed and realistic fine art tattoos and now to one of the medium’s most difficult specializations: portraits.
“I love how hard portraits are,” Novotna says. “You have to be super-engaged the whole time you’re doing it; it’s not like a coloring book.”
While some tattooers may shy away from realism and portraits, Novotna believes it’s a perfect style for her skill set.
“When I was in art school, I was always super-sad that I was better at the technical side of art than I was a being creative,” Novotna says. “I was like a printer. I could see someone and draw them even if they were moving, but I struggled with creativity. That’s what people want for portraits and realism.”
Novotna’s skills as an artist are certainly developing as rapidly as any young tattooer, but she believes it’s her interpersonal abilities that help more than anything. After all, tattooing is still a service-based industry.
“There are so many good tattoo shops around. The only reason someone would keep going back to the same one is because you were nice to them and you made them feel comfortable,” Novotna says. “I think my strength is that I’m super-patient with people, and I genuinely like people. That, and I love to tattoo — particularly when people want horror-themed tattoos.”
Considering that portraits and scary movie-based tattoos tend to overlap quite a bit, it seems Novotna’s skill for realism and passion for all things horror are a perfect match. Even before she was doing realism, the English Tattoo Company artist started knocking out a monster-themed traditional sleeve for a client. While some young tattooers wouldn’t be capable of doing both realism and traditional work, Novotna thanks her hard-nosed apprenticeship at Sick Dogs Tattoo in Westminster for learning the fundamentals that make her versatile.
“I had a super-strict learning experience,” Novotna says of her apprenticeship. “First, I was only allowed to do solid black tattoos with no lines showing. Then, it took me a long time to prove to them I could do a color tattoo.”
But it’s not just the artistic skills that Novotna’s old-school apprenticeship taught her. As a young tattooer straight out of art school, it would’ve been easy for her to think she had the medium figured out, but a traditional apprenticeship will take that misconception away from anyone.
“I learned a lot about respect during my apprenticeship,” Novotna says. “Even with whatever art-school training I have, I learned so much from the guys who’ve been around for so much longer than I have. Even if they don’t have an artistic background, I’ll always be a student to the guys who’ve been around for so long. It’s the only way to learn.”
Novotna’s constant striving for improvement will only make her better. Considering she didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life less than a year before beginning her apprenticeship, Novotna has certainly come a long way in a relatively short amount of time.
“My senior year of high school, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do or if there was anything I wanted to do,” Novotna says. “Actually, I thought I might go and teach English in other countries.”
Instead, she’s tattooing at a shop owned by one of the longtime staples of Newport Beach’s tattooing scene, a man only known by the name “English.” It seems English is teaching her.
English Tattoo Company, 6000 W. Coast Hwy., Newport Beach, 949-650-3167, @alexandratattoos