We have been observing this artist for a very long time. Style, audacity, uniqueness, novelty - it's all about him. His personal image, tattoos and his whole life are saturated with a single style of street culture. His experiment with classic portrait realism resonated with the hearts of tattoo fans across the globe. Please meet - Alexey Mashkow.

- Hi Alexey. Tell us a little about yourself and how and when you decided to be a tattoo artist?

- Hello. I was born in Moscow region, near Sergiev Posad, in a family of artists. So I didn’t really have to choose, whole my life I just painted.

Tattoo artist Alexey Mashkow, graffiti realism, portrait tattoo | New York, United StatesTattoo artist Alexey Mashkow | PH: Oksana Senicheva

- And what did you do before tattoo? What career have you left for tattoos?

- I graduated from the faculty of painting at the Abramtsevo Art Industrial College named after Vasnetsov (I'm master painter, teacher of fine arts). In the last year of study, a friend came to me with a request to finish the old tattoo, he also brought me a tattoo machine, inks and a couple of needles - so, from that moment all this started. So at the end of study in college I was already «sitting on the needle».

- What does the word «tattoo» mean to you?

- For me, tattoo has no sacred meaning. It is rather an aesthetic pleasure. I’m not one of those who sweats and thinks whether I should fill a clock with arrows on the dial, that meaning the seventh moon of the zodiac sign in the wolf, because the wolf is not a lion and not a tiger - he does not perform in the circus. If you like the picture - do not sweat. In my opinion, tattoos should be treated simply and easily.

- Do you remember your first client and your feelings when you took a tattoo machine in your hands for the first time and started to make your the very first tattoo?

- As I said before - the first client was my buddy. Despite this, I was worried and, frankly, the worry began to disappear only after a few years of work.

Tattoo artist Alexey Mashkow, graffiti realism, portrait tattoo | New York, United States

- How did your professional path begin? Which styles did you work?

- After college, I moved to Moscow, where we rented an apartment with friends. One of my roommates became my best friend and mentor - Sergey Parshin. While moving from apartment to apartment, for almost 5 years, we continued to draw and make tattoos together, working in the Moscow tattoo studio in this time.

- Now you have very unique work. They cannot be confused with anyone else. In my opinion, your style has echoes of street art of the 90s and 00s. Is it true? How did you come to this style and how do you call it yourself?

- From the moment I started practicing tattooing, I tried myself in many styles, but in the end I preferred something close to realism. This is the most interesting thing for me. I don’t call my own style somehow, but it already got a few rattles (nicknames) - «Mashkowed», «Mashup», «Graffitiface».

- Where do you get inspiration?

- Inspiration is a loose concept. Therefore, I can’t list any specific things, but in general - the streets, no matter how it sounds. Especially if you have the opportunity to travel and observe the atmosphere of different countries and cities. Music, films, sometimes I find interesting ideas from other artists. I am always happy if someone comes up with really cool stuff. It inspires and makes you think about something new for yourself.

Tattoo artist Alexey Mashkow, graffiti realism, portrait tattoo | New York, United States

- Does music help with it? What do you listen on the sessions?

- In general, I have a very warm relationship with music. I collect vinyl, and in absolutely different directions, from the Norwegian DeathMetal to the 90s disco and modern trappers. I can’t do anything without a music, this is a prerequisite for a pleasant and useful day. In childhood I was a fan of ONYX - are very impudent guys from Queens, NY. And even so far I love hip-hop of the 80-90s.

Tattoo artist Alexey Mashkow, graffiti realism, portrait tattoo | New York, United States

- Which modern tattoo artist do you consider worthy to be called «the best»? And do you have any idols?

- In the tattoo industry, it is impossible to name someone the best. Just because many work in different styles, which implies a different technique and content in general. This is how to compare a car with a motorcycle. Of course, there are authorities, such as, for example, the above-mentioned Character is not Sugar, dinosaurs like Denis Sivak, Dan Yakovlev and Uncle Dima Rechnoy. A special influence, at one time, was exerted on me by the artist of horror tattoo - Paul Acker. Brando Chiesa is also wildly pushing me with his own stylish approach to work.

- And when did you realize that you became famous? How do you rate your popularity? And how do you think it can be measured?

- Fame is relative. If we take specifically the tattoo industry, then this is a very small segment among humanity. Cinema, Music - this is where the real celebrities are. In our sphere, it is more likely to be “known in narrow circles”. Feeling is pleasant. Especially when at tattoo conventions people began to come up with a request to take a photo, observe the work process and ask for autographs. And, of course, when the mass copying of my style began.

Tattoo artist Alexey Mashkow, graffiti realism, portrait tattoo | New York, United States

- Some of collaborations periodically appears on your Instagram account. With whom have you already worked and with whom would you like to work in the future?

- I had only 3 collaborations and, it seems to me, at the moment this is enough. Although it is possible that in the future I will make a collaboration with someone who works in a completely different style. It is interesting.

- Have you gone to the United States for good? And why exactly the States? How vast is your working geography? Where did you manage to work and where are you going in the near future?

- I grew up when the American wave just swept Russia. And this, of course, influenced to my creativity, style, taste, and indeed in general. I really like American movie, music, architecture. New York has its own special romance. In addition, this country helped me make a name. In Russia, this would not have happened at all, or it would have taken a lot of time before I wrote this interview. We do not know how to rejoice in other people's successes, and are not ready to accept something new. Nobody wants to develop, but with pleasure criticizes. There is no freedom of perception. In the United States, people are open to any kind of creativity, which is why you can feel free to try something unusual for the majority. No wonder they say that this is a country of opportunity. If you work hard - something will succeed.

Tattoo artist Alexey Mashkow, graffiti realism, portrait tattoo | New York, United States

- What differences do you think exist between Russian and Western tattoo culture?

- Western tattoo industry is Dad, and our Russian is a teenager. Abroad is a large part of people's lives, it is part of the general culture. No one will shit where they eat. But in Russia it looks more like hype. Too many tattoo artists, many people open tattoo schools, give classes (without having any experience) for beginners, etc., which ultimately undermines the market.

Now in Russia it’s more like another mass market, where everyone wants to grab a piece. Anyone who has not figured out what to do in life becomes a tattoo artist, in pursuit of easy money. Thus, it is possible that after 5 years the tattoo industry in Russia will fail. The tattoo will be worthless. Any profession needs healthy competition, on the Russian market - it simply does not exist, because there are too many «teachers and students».

- Where do you work now?

- The main place of my work is «L.O.V.E. Machine» NY, but I try not to stay too long in one place and visit other countries and states where I am invited.

- And now - a piquant question that people love so much. How much does your session or hour cost?

- I do not take hourly pay. The cost of the session depends on the size and place where you have to place the picture, plus, in what country you have to work. It can be both 30 thousand rubles and $3000.

Tattoo artist Alexey Mashkow, graffiti realism, portrait tattoo | New York, United States

- You have a very eccentric look. Is this you real or is it just an image? Tell us about one of the typical days of Alexey Mashkow.

- My image is real me. I open my eyes at 9 a.m., breakfast in bed, put on all my bling, jump into a Lamborghini, rush into a shop, paint another face with tags, take an inch of money and rush home for dinner with my beloved wife.

- Now, with your creativity you have scored a hype wave in the global tattoo community. How long did it take? I mean, how much time has passed from the moment you started working in your current style to the moment when everyone suddenly noticed you and realized how cool it is?

- It accumulated like a snowball. I began to experiment with graffiti faces, people quietly started to understand this topic, after about half a year I made a tattoo for the English tattoo artist Kirsten Pettitt, who came to me for a session in Germany. From that moment it all began. And then it started to increase.

- Do you plan to come to Russia?

- If we are talking about professional activity, then more likely no than yes. I do not see my development in Russia.

Tattoo artist Alexey Mashkow, graffiti realism, portrait tattoo | New York, United States

- What about clients? How much time is everything planned ahead?

- A section of people is come to me who know perfectly what I do, in which style I work. Therefore, in this regard, my head does not hurt. The booking an average of 3 months ahead in advance, depending on which country or state I'm in.

- Do you work in the pro team of any tattoo brands?

- I work only with those whose products I really use.

- How do you feel about this trend? And what does it give the artist besides the free expendable materials?

- I sign up for sponsorship very selectively and not for the sake of a free expendable materials, it’s not a problem for me to buy everything I need for work. Rather, for the sake of relations and mutual help in the future.

- What about conventions? Where was you already, which one was remembered the most? What is ahead?

- I'm not a big fan of conventions. In most cases, I participated for the sake of hanging out and to communicate with top artists. Well, at first time it was necessary to make documents to the States. The only convention that interested me was London, where you can’t just buy a box, you should be invited. It finally happened.

Tattoo artist Alexey Mashkow, graffiti realism, portrait tattoo | New York, United States

- Do you have many awards? What do you think give awards to the artist?

- I do not think that all awards are given deservedly. I am very skeptical of refereeing, because I have never had a chance to see such a composition of the jury, which were actually indicative.

- What else do you do in life except for a tattoo?

- I have many different hobbies, trips to various concerts, cars (especially stance culture), painting, graffiti.

- How do you see the future of the global tattoo in the next 5-10 years?

- Nothing stands still. There will be new cool artists who will sooner or later become more known than the elderly.

Tattoo artist Alexey Mashkow, graffiti realism, portrait tattoo | New York, United States

- Do you plan to organize master classes? Now it is very popular among tattoo artists.

- In the near future, I definitely do not plan anything like this. It's just not interesting to me. At least I think that putting this kind of activity on the line is silly.

- And finally - what advice can you give to beginners tattoo artists?

- If we are talking about realism and around it, then my only advice is to go and get an art education. People, for the most part, simply take a picture, good or bad, and copy everything from it, while not cutting into tone, color, or composition. Subsequently, they turn out to have twisted nostrils, a left eye instead of a right one, crossed ears and a bunch of other jambs that even tattoo artists themselves have no idea about it, although it would be worth it.

Tattoo artist Alexey Mashkow, graffiti realism, portrait tattoo | New York, United States Tattoo artist Alexey Mashkow, graffiti realism, portrait tattoo | New York, United States Tattoo artist Alexey Mashkow, graffiti realism, portrait tattoo | New York, United States