I meet Elvia Guadian during her NYC guest spotting at the famous Grit N Glory Tattoo (Megan Massacre trendy shop), where she is tattooing for just a few days. I was immediately struck by Elvia’s work and I’ve been following her for some time, always amazed by how clean and beautiful her tattoos are… a mix of realism and chicano style, translated into skin with a beautiful and soft black and grey wash and a precision of fine details.
Elvia is very talented, she can bring to life any design she puts her mind into, in a perfectly executed tattoo, both elegant and timeless. She is especially known for her chicano-clown ladies that are really stunning, as well as the Day of the dead-Catrina ones! This style of tattooing is originally part of the male biker/gang/prison tattoos subculture, and has its roots in the fine line black and grey tattooing… We see nowadays more and more women taking over this realistic style and really bringing new vibes to it and challenging the industry. Elvia is establishing herself as a part of the new generation of female tattoo artists, with an eye and love for the tradition, not to mention outstanding tattooing skills. She is now one of the few mexican tattooers to be recognized internationally for her work. I ask her a few questions and she is so nice to answer and to let me photograph her. (And yes we share the same name, making this interview a little more fun!)
How did you first get in touch with tattooing?
My first encounter with tattooing happened when I was 15, I went to a tattoo shop with my friend to get her first tattoo. It was a very cool and inspiring moment.
Where did you grow up and what was the scene like?
I grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico. There wasn’t much of a tattoo scene there when I was younger, which made it really difficult to find a good artist. Through traveling and tattoo magazines I learned how big the tattoo scene was and now more recently it has become bigger and more acceptable here in Mexico.
What’s your artistic background?
I used to watch my father paint and it inspired me to get into the world of art. He exposed me to many different artists, and over time I grew an interest to become an artist myself. I have been drawing since I was old enough to hold a pencil.
I tried many different mediums of art throughout my life, until I was 20 years old I found tattooing and that was the medium that stuck.
How did you move your first steps into the tattoo industry and when..
I started my apprenticeship in a studio in Guadalajara when I was 18. It was a two year apprenticeship and I learned the basics of tattooing, It wasn’t until I started traveling and doing conventions that I really began to learn more and start to develop a personal style.
There are a handful of amazing women nowadays doing black and white realism tattoos..do you feel like you are part of an elite?
I feel like there are so many amazing women out there dominating the black and grey world and I don’t consider myself elite, just happy to be part of that.
How do you see the evolution of women’s role in the tattoo industry?
I feel like the tattoo industry is constantly changing and women are taking a big step forward. There are women in the industry that are as respected as men, and dominate.
When did you decide that’s the style you wanted to explore?
I am very inspired by both Mexican and West Coast Californian culture. I started listening to hip-hop and watching music videos from California and the west coast area. The whole idea of Chicano-Mexican style fascinated me. Then I started really looking forward to making a trip to California. When I lived in Mexico I first started doing tattoos in color, after I moved to Canada where I decide that I wanted to change my style completely and what a better time than moving to another country and starting over. I started doing predominately black and grey tattoos while in Canada, and eventually moved to California in order to get the inspiration that I needed to really evolve my style. Now I am back in Mexico, and I have the whole mix of styles and inspiration that I wanted.
Which tattooers you looked up to? Who inspired you yesterday and today?
EG-I don’t want to be throwing names but in general mostly Californians and Italian black and grey artists. More than being inspired by a person, I get my inspiration from the lifestyle of the country I’m in and the essence of the places I’ve been are my true inspiration.
How do you think working in Mexico is different from working in other countries?
EG-Tattooing has been more exposed to the public and for longer in other countries then Mexico, like in the USA. So non-artists are more educated on what goes into getting a quality tattoo.
Do you travel often? Tattoo conventions?
Yes, I do travel often, sometimes for conventions, and guest spots but I do also love to travel just for fun!
Technically how you approach a realistic tattoos? Which are your tools of choice?
When I do realistic tattoos, I like to research references. For instance, for my clown girls I try to find the most references that I can. I think about how the hair is going to look, how the makeup will translate on the face, the lighting, etc. My tool of choice is a rotary tattoo machine, I like this because of the soft shading I can make with it.
What do you like to do when you are not tattooing?
Apart from tattooing I like to work on my other art projects, drawings, and doing yoga.