Xavier Alvarez is a tattoo artist specializing in Realism, Watercolor, Linework, Dotwork and Geometry. He is the owner of Top Secret Tattoo, a private tattoo shop at One Eyed Studios focusing on custom tattooing with a friendly atmosphere. They also offer piercing services.
We interviewed Xavier to get a better insight into his world and the work he loves to do.
To learn more about the creatives who call Rockella Space home, head over to the People page for a full list of in-depth interviews.
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Xavier Alvarez, a Brooklyn born Native and tattoo artist.
How did you first get into tattooing and long have you been tattooing professionally?
I have been tattooing professionally for almost 14 years. Before that, I was a guitarist in a few heavy metal hardcore bands for 10 years. I always loved art, specifically tattoos. The music scene is filled with tattooed people and it only felt normal when the music didn’t work out, that I got deeper into the art form.
How long have you had a studio at Rockella Space? There are a few tattoo studios at Rockella Space. Have you all created community amongst yourselves?
I have had the space at Rockella for, I believe 3 years now, and we have created a dimly lit modern zen-like atmosphere to make the experience of getting tattooed more relaxed.
I know maybe half the tattoo artists at Rockella and have done a few tattoo conventions with them, which is cool, but there are a lot of studio rooms in the building, lol.
Who or where do you look to for inspiration?
I take a lot of inspiration from tattoo artists, painters, mondo art, photography, and pop culture movies.
What are your favorite and least favorite tattoos to do?
My favorite styles of tattoos are realistic and surrealist. I am trying to steer the work more toward pop culture movies and musicians as I enjoy doing that too. Least favorite? It’s hard to say. I do all styles of linework in black and grayscale and color, but if I had to choose one, I think it would be the simple designs. I don’t mind doing them but I feel underutilized.
What is the most challenging part of starting a tattoo? What tattoos won’t you do and why?
The most difficult part I would say is the stencil application. If it is perfect, then it is way easier for a tattoo process. If not it is more tip-toeing through the tattoo to make sure things are right
I don’t like doing a single line going down the side of the body or anything along the lines of that. It’s a lot of pressure. It has to be extremely precise and most people don’t want to pay the price for that kind of attention to detail. so not worth the sweat, lol.
What are your thoughts on the current state of tattooing as it is embraced by the masses?
I think if tattoos are getting popular, it’s a good thing. As an artist, you have to decide and decipher what path you want to choose because eventually, what it will come down to is whether you want to focus on what’s trendy to make money or a style you’re more passionate about that may or may not be trendy/not a money maker or possibly a fusion of things.
Historically, which tattoo artists have had the greatest influence on you?
In the beginning, it was always traditional American style like Sailor Jerry and Bowery Stan legends but Nikko Hurtado was also one who stood out to me when I first started. He was one of the pioneers of realism and created a lot of techniques work.
Did you watch the tv show “Ink Masters”? If so, who was your favorite “judge”and “winner” and why?
Yes, it’s a cool show. The winner from Season 7, Anthony Michael’s style I can relate to my work. The show is not catered to realism artists. They have a very traditional tattoo-style approach so it is good to see him push through that.
What should you ask your artist before booking a tattoo session? And how should a client prepare for their tattoo appointments?
Availability and pricing of your tattoo concept are the 2 biggest factors, I think
They should definitely not drink the night before. Make sure they have eaten before coming to their appointment and have some snacks and drinks if they’re doing an all-day session.
Outside of drawing on skin, do you have an arts practice on canvas, paper or any other medium?
I do some oil & watercolor painting but it is very time-consuming so it’s a little tricky. Most of my art would be digital, but they’re mainly related to tattoo designs.
Do you attend tattoo conventions? If so, tell us the ones you have attended so far and any in the future that you will attend.
I just finished a tattoo convention in New Jersey Meadowlands Expo Center this past month. It’s the 5th time I have done this specific show. I also attend the New York Tattoo Convention that happens during the last weekend of September.
As far as future shows go, I should be attending the Philadelphia Tattoo Convention, which is the largest show on this side of the USA and most likely the DC Tattoo convention.
Tell us about your best experience as a tattoo apprentice and what advice would you give to a budding tattoo artist?
I wasn’t able to get a traditional apprenticeship, so I am self-taught.
The best advice I can give is to set goals and set goals higher than you think u’ll reach. Too many tattoo artists are in limbo trying to survive. You have to do a lot just to get a little bit back.