Stefano Alcantara, owner and inventor of a unique realistic tattoo style. A multi-talented artist who dabbles between art exhibits, managing his four tattoo studios, and speaking at various tattoo conventions around the world.
Stefano has a background in Graphic Design and began tattooing at age 18. Opening his first studio back in 1999, in his hometown Lima, Peru. Since then, he’s managed to open another further three studios. Two of the studios are in Peru and one in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Oh, and let’s not forget in 2009, he also joined the talented artistic team at Last Rites Tattoo Theatre, in New York City!
Recently, during the 2017 Explorer Tattoo Convention, Stefano Alcantara spoke exclusively with Inked Cartel about his background, his life, his expectations for the future and how the hell he manages it all. For those who don’t know the Explorer Tattoo Convention, it is a tattoo conference for industry professionals held annually in Washington, DC.
At a young age, Stefano Alcantara started drawing. He simply states “drawing was a natural thing to do, like playing football or another activity any kid would do”. His family has always been involved with arts in general, from music and paintings to drawing. During school drawing competitions, he would draw for friends, and in exchange, they would do his homework. So fair to say his entrepreneurial spirit stated at a young age.
Inked Cartel [IC]: So Stefano, tell us how it all started.
Stefano Alcantara [SA]: Shortly after I started Graphic Design school, my friend brought me this tattoo magazine with these artistic tattoos and I was so impressed by them. I didn’t understand how people could do that. I was 17 when I told my parents that’s what I wanted to do, but they didn’t take me seriously and all I wanted was a tattoo kit. My parents didn’t want to buy it for me. So, I told them “I will pay you back, don’t give me the money. Let me borrow it and I will pay you back” and my dad said OK. I guess they wanted to see how responsible I’d be. I paid my parents back within 6 months of borrowing the money and since then I’ve been independent and never had to ask them for money again.
IC: You are a true artist. You dabble between drawings, oil paintings and tattoos. Which of these arts do you mostly identify with?
SA: I think right now, oil painting is something that I can challenge myself with, it’s like therapy but tattooing is more important. It gave me more than what I imagined as a profession. It gave me so many good experiences, self confidence and my capabilities, I owe so much to tattooing.
IC: The best piece of advice you received was…
SA: Mmmm… Do what you love and be the best at that! I mean, whatever it is, maybe you like sleeping [laughs], so you could be a professional sleeper [laughs].
Making a Masterpiece
IC: Can you describe a real-life situation that inspired one of your art pieces?
SA: Probably all of my pieces are personal experiences, though not literally, but they are metaphorically parts of my life. Recently during an Art Master Class in Massachusetts, I created a piece that represents where I am in life right now. Complete exhaustion but realizing that I need a break to pause, breathe and continue moving forward. It represents hard work, challenges, and even when they are hard to accomplish, I don’t give up and just stay strong [cheers to that!].
IC: Which artists inspire you? Who are your tattoo/ artists idols?
SA: Salvador Dali, Boris and Julie, but these are painters. Tattoo artists, I’d say my great friend Robert Hernandez. We’ve known each other for a while, and have shared booths at some conferences. I was on his waiting list for a while until I flew to Spain to get inked by him. I had to fly to Spain so it would happen! [laughs].
Work, Work, Work
IC: As a tattoo artist, what do you like about your work?
SA: People know me for a black and grey realism artist, but I don’t think of myself that way anymore. I have my own signature in every piece I do, but it took years to get there. You don’t search for a style you know. A style grows on you. I don’t think when I am tattooing, I let my mind flow freely. It’s like when you are on the phone and start doodling with a pen, it’s unconscious, meditative, almost as if you don’t know you’re doing it. Oh, I also like the travel [laughs], who doesn’t right?
IC: You own 4 studios: three in Peru and one in Florida. You’re a speaker at tattoo conferences and sometimes judge at the convention competitions. How do you find balance between managing your brand and having a personal life?
SA: Well, it’s really hard. I believe my profession is my personal life. I don’t know how it happened, but it happened. It’s my life. I wouldn’t change anything and I do this because I love it and I have fun. When I get into something I give 100%, why not give 100% right? I breathe tattoos, I think about painting all day. I am constantly thinking, my brain doesn’t stop.
IC: Who is Stefano Alcantara? How do you define yourself?
SA: That’s a hard one, thank you for that [laughs]! I am gonna give you two answers. The Stéfano artist is someone who is trying to go as far as he can, the Stéfano who is not an artist, is a kid who is having fun drawing. That’s what I do!
The future is bright
Stefano has a current waiting list of 2 years (WOW). When asked how he selects his clients and how they can possibly be bumped up the list he shares “If it’s something that catches my eye or I end up having a vision then you could be bumped up the list, but usually is based on a first come first serve basis. The easiest and fastest way to schedule is during conferences”.
Check out Stefano Alcantara’s schedule as he posts them on his Instagram page @StéfanoAlcántara