Local artist aims to create timeless pieces while drawing inspiration from 'burque.

by brenda paiz


For many artists, the separation of art and income is often a real life struggle. In fact, it’s where the term “starving artist” comes from. Whether it be an aspiring musician or a struggling actor, not all of us are able to make a living from doing what we love. Alex Atencio, 25, is a local tattoo artist from Norfolk, Va. who is living out his childhood dream of being able to express his art as a career.

Raised here in Albuquerque, Atencio says that the desire to pursue a career as a tattoo artist stemmed from several different areas dating back to when he was just a child seeing, “old-school tattoos on family members.” As he got older, Atencio says that the skateboarding and music scene had a huge influence on him. “I used to draw on my own skateboards and I used to love to see all the hardcore band members with all their tattoos,” he recalls, “it was super awesome to me, so I would say that the hardcore scene had a big jump on tattooing for me.”

Tattoos parlors have increased in popularity as demand for tattoos has grown dramatically over the last decade. So in a highly competitive industry, how does Atencio separate his art and himself from other tattoo artists? He doesn’t. “I’m just trying to be me,” he says, “I’m not trying to be any different from others, I just want to show my style. I’m trying to do my best, learn as much as I can, and respect the craft that has given me so much.”

Like other forms of art, tattoo artists create pieces that will last forever, using the biggest organ on a human as a walking, living canvas. The possibilities are endless but Atencio says the idea of finishing a tattoo and knowing that he and his art will be with and on that person forever is a very powerful thing. “Being a tattoo artist means everything to me, it’s all I know and it’s all I’ve ever done. It’s something I fell in love with at a real young age,” he explains. Atencio knew he was an artist pretty early on, reminiscing about when he wasn’t paying attention in class, but rather drawing and illustrating things for his classmates as well.

Atencio was only sixteen years old when he started tattooing, and got his tattoo license a year later. He gives credit to several other Albuquerque tattoo artists and parlors for helping him get his foot in the door and teaching him “basics and all the good stuff in tattooing.” From a family friend at Duke City Ink, to the teachings and guidance of owners at Black Rose Tattoo, Atencio does not hesitate to share where he draws his influence from. However, he says that the crew at Por Vida Tattoo, has had the most influence on him to this day.

Having about eight years under his belt, Atencio admits that his style has definitely changed. “I used to try to be real technical,” he says, “but now I try to do more simple tattoos. I like to be able to see a tattoo from a mile away and know what it is.” And as far as his favorite pieces go, Atencio is not biased when it comes to size or theme, “I have so many favorites: small, funny collector stuff are so fun but I also like to do big scale tattooing like full back pieces,” he adds. As his style and technique evolve, one thing remains constant and that is the appreciation of timeless art and genuine passion that Atencio puts into every tattoo. “[I prefer] More simple and solid tattoos, they last forever to me. And I want my tattoos to look the same 30 years from now.”

As for the future? Well, Atencio has a very modest outlook on his career, stating that he just wants to make a name for himself and give back to tattooing. He does, however, want to travel the world and be able to share his art on a global scale. Meeting new artists and learning new techniques in order to become a better tattoo artist, is an ultimate goal for Atencio.

In the meantime, however, Albuquerque serves as home for this young and promising tattoo artist. The work of Alex Atencio can be found on his Instagram @LILALEH, where he has thousands of followers and hundreds of pieces on display. Or check him out on snapchat: LILALEH. Clients can find Alex at Por Vida Tattoos on 10th street and Central.

Published December 2016, ABQ-Live