Today, we have a special interview with one of the brightest and most talented tattoo artists of our time - Andrei Stepanov. His tattoos impress with their quality and realism, adorning the skin of people from all over the world. Andrei is a multiple prize winner and champion of top international tattoo conventions, and his professionalism and unique style evoke admiration not only among clients but also among colleagues.

In this interview, we will learn how awards and recognition affect the life of a master, how their perception of the industry changes, and their plans for the future. We will also discuss the significance of joining the Proteam of famous tattoo industry brands and the opportunities it opens up for the artist.

So, dear friends, let's dive into the fascinating world of tattooing together with Andrei Stepanov and learn more about his art, passion for tattoos, and future plans!

Can you tell our readers a little about yourself? Where are you from, and where do you currently work?

- Certainly. My name is Andrei Stepanov, I am 32 years old, and I have an engineering background. I am originally from Samara (Russia), and currently, I live and work in Almaty (Kazakhstan). I have been practicing tattooing for 10 years.

Tattoo artist Andrei Stepanov

When and why did you decide to become a tattoo artist? Who were your teachers, and how did it happen?

- When I was around 16 years old, I bought a magazine dedicated to tattoos. It featured works by artists like Dmitry Samokhin and Denis Sivak, which amazed me because I had never seen anything like that before. That's when I became interested in this culture.

However, I only did my first tattoo for a friend after 5 years. At that time, I was studying at the university and working on piercings in a tattoo studio in my city. I observed the artists working there, gathered knowledge from tattoo forums, and tried tattooing on artificial Chinese skin. I thought I was ready, but I was mistaken (laughs), although in the end, my friend liked the tattoo.

Tattoo artist Andrei Stepanov

Do you have a formal art education? Is it possible to do realistic tattoos without an academic background?

- I don't have a formal art education; I simply loved drawing since childhood. Perhaps, judging by me, it is possible to do realistic tattoos without this background. But it's challenging (laughs). In the early years of tattooing, I keenly felt this gap in knowledge. So, I am gradually filling it, trying to study this aspect.

Tattoo artist Andrei Stepanov

Why did you choose color realism as your style? What attracted you to it? Can you highlight the unique features of your works?

- From the very beginning of my journey in tattooing, I was greatly impressed by works in realism. Like everyone else, I was drawn to the reproduction of color, form, and all the elements that make a tattoo look realistic. It's visually striking, and that's why I gravitated towards this style. Additionally, the complexity of the technique involved in realism sparked even greater interest in pursuing this form of tattooing..

In my works, I particularly emphasize the level of detail, color reproduction, softness, and density of the shading.

I am a perfectionist by nature, and I pay a lot of attention to these aspects. Sometimes, it becomes a challenge to simplify something in a drawing (laughs).

Tattoo artist Andrei Stepanov

What is the most important aspect of tattooing for you?

- The most important aspect for me is its quality, both in terms of the application technique and the composition and placement on the body. Naturally, it should also bring joy to the person wearing the tattoo.

There's a common belief that realism limits the creative potential of the artist. What are your thoughts on this? Tell us about how your projects come to life.

- I don't feel restricted by realism at all. At least, in my 10 years of work, I haven't noticed any limitations caused by this style. There is always room to find a new approach. Moreover, nothing prevents one from blending different styles.

Tattoo artist Andrei Stepanov

Most of my projects are born spontaneously, while I work in Photoshop or Procreate, experimenting and trying to add some new twists. I also work based on the clients' ideas. I take their concept as a foundation and then choose the references, sizes, and other elements myself. It's rare that a client comes in with their own picture, and I say, "This is great, let's do it" (laughs). I always adapt it to my own style and preferences.

Tattoo artist Andrei Stepanov

Do you have favorite tattoos, clients, projects, or perhaps some unusual stories in your career?

- Absolutely! I put a piece of my soul into every work. For instance, an immense amount of effort and dedication was poured into a sleeve featuring a Jurassic Park theme. It was quite challenging to work on all that skin and scales on the dinosaur (laughs).

Tattoo artist Andrei Stepanov

Also, it brings me great joy when a client says, "I love your work and your taste, so do whatever you want."

For example, one client wanted a tattoo inspired by Marvel comics, leaving the rest to my discretion, and he had complete trust in my decisions. We did Thanos, and he was thrilled with the result. When there are no limitations and you have artistic freedom, that's when you create the coolest pieces, in my opinion.

Tattoo artist Andrei Stepanov

Are there tattoo artists or artists who inspire you? Whose work do you follow? Do you have favorites?

- Of course, I constantly keep an eye on the industry. I can highlight Denis Sivak, Den Yakovlev, Igor Mitrenga, and Dmitry Samokhin. There are so many talented artists, and new young talents keep emerging, which shows that the tattoo culture is always evolving.

Tattoo artist Andrei Stepanov

Do you travel a lot? Where have you been, and where do you plan to go in the future? Is there a place on this planet where you always want to return?

- Yes, I travel quite a lot. I've been to many countries in Europe and beyond. I'd love to visit Norway, the USA, Canada, and Switzerland again, which I've already been to – it's a stunning country. As for a place I always want to return to, perhaps it's my childhood, but unfortunately, that road is closed forever (laughs).

Tattoo artist Andrei Stepanov

You are a winner and awardee of international conventions. Tell us about the most significant awards you have received and from which events. Also, how many awards do you have in total?

- The most significant award for me was from a tattoo convention in Milan, which is considered one of the top conventions in the world. There were so many incredible artists from all over the globe, and I was truly impressed. I competed in the "best large color" category and, although I took third place, I'm still very pleased with it, given the fierce competition. I also received an award from another Italian convention and from a tattoo convention in Warsaw, which were both significant events. In both cases, I won first place in the "best realistic" category. So, in total, I have three awards at the moment.

Tattoo artist Andrei Stepanov with awards from international tattoo conventions in Italy and Poland

What do you think changes in a tattoo artist's life when they receive their first award? How was it for you?

- Oh, it was a very thrilling moment. It was my first time at a convention, and it was such a major one in Warsaw, Poland. It sparked a strong desire to attend other conventions. It was an amazing experience to see so many artists whom I had previously only seen on Instagram, to see their works in person, have conversations, and make new connections. I really enjoyed it.

Tattoo artist Andrei Stepanov

You are part of the Proteam for some of the most famous tattoo brands. What does it mean to you, and what opportunities does it provide for you as an artist?

- Yes, I am part of the ProTeam for FK Irons and Kwadron. It's a great feeling when a representative from the company reaches out to you and invites you to join. Being part of the ProTeam gives me the opportunity to be one of the first to try out new products and provide direct feedback to the manufacturer, which is crucial. Additionally, it allows me to attend various conventions as part of my proteam, which is a fantastic opportunity.

Tattoo artist Andrei Stepanov

What is the most important thing in a tattoo artist's career for you? What goals do you set for yourself? Can you share your plans for the near future?

- Constantly evolving and reaching new heights in my career is the most important thing for me. My plans include attending the largest conventions in the USA and in Germany, which has replaced the London Tattoo Convention, which was rightfully considered the number one convention in the world.

Tattoo artist Andrei Stepanov

Many aspiring tattoo artists consider you their idol. What would you say to them, or do you have any advice for those who want to follow in your footsteps?

- Always work with diligence and focus on quality. Don't rush your work unnecessarily. Also, continuously develop and learn something new, don't stay stagnant, and don't be afraid to experiment. Wishing everyone sharp needles, clean outlines, and solid shading (laughs).

Tattoo artist Andrei Stepanov