Alejandro Acosta's journey into the tattoo world follows a unique path. Unlike the stereotypical tale, this Panama native didn't grow up amidst tattoos and an edgy lifestyle. Instead, it was his passion for basketball that sparked his interest in tattoos.
Ever since I was a kid, I've loved basketball. I started noticing that the basketball players had tattoos. I thought, 'Oh, man, I really like those. I want those for me.'
This childhood fascination persisted into Alejandro's early twenties when he decided to explore tattoo shops in Panama.
I liked the culture—everyone was drawing and hanging out.
However, one tattoo shop he visited didn't reciprocate his enthusiasm.
I was just stepping out, gaining knowledge. A friend of mine, who owned a tattoo shop called Crazy Monkey, bluntly told me, 'You're really terrible at this. Stick with your actual job.'
Alejandro's "actual job" was graphic design. The youngest in his close-knit, highly-educated Panamanian family Alejandro was the wild card. Graffiti drawings marked Alejandro's rebellious spirit, standing out in a family of academic achievers.
I was never focused on school or academics. I was out and about, doing graffiti—just breaking my family’s rules a lot.
My family is very educated. My sister is a dentist. My brother owns a business, my dad is a civil engineer. I stood out as the one that just went my own way. Because I was the baby of the family, they let me do my thing. But, I still felt pressure to go to college. My family recognized that I was always finding a way to represent myself artistically and creatively, so they made me go to school for graphic design.
Two years into graphic design school, Alejandro decided to leave and pursue his true passion—tattooing. And, his “friend’s” suggestion to stick to his actual job? Well, that just fueled Alejandro's drive to become a tattoo artist even more.
I thought about what my friend said and was like, 'Wow. No. I really want to do this.’ Panama is pretty small. You don't have all the tattoo shops. I dreamed of becoming a tattoo artist, coming to America, and becoming the best I could be.
With no formal apprenticeship, Alejandro found his own way to make it in the industry.
I got the equipment and would practice while watching YouTube videos. I would go to seminars and expos and learn techniques. If there were a style I liked, I would watch the artist and see how they created the tattoo, and then I would go home and practice.
The practice. The hard work. The dedication. It all contributed to the skillset that Alejandro needed to give him the courage to make the move to the U.S.
I was ready to see the world. Panama is small. I decided to come to America and see what it is like.
Not only did he like what he saw, but the tattoo industry liked him. His self-taught skills and years of practice solidified him as a tattoo artist—landing a gig at Hart & Huntington made it legit.
I felt validated when I left my country, came to America, and got hired by a reputable team and company. I knew I made the right decision.
I like the Hart & Huntington brand—everything that it represents. When you walk in, it's clean, everything looks nice. It's "professional," but the motorcycles and style of the shop reinforce the tattoo culture. It looks very American. And the artists at H&H are great. I like being part of a team—the camaraderie.
Hart & Huntington is just as lucky to have Alejandro on the team. He brings a world of versatility to his craft—and clients like that.
I really like the intricacies of fine lines and Neotraditional. I also incorporate a lot of Watercolor. But, I have no problem combining different styles, giving clients exactly what they want. I'll put Black and Gray with a splash of color. I'll incorporate Neo Traditional with Linework.
It's this "can do" attitude that has earned Alejandro a stellar reputation.
When someone walks in, I just want to give them the best tattoo possible. It makes me feel so good when someone says, 'I got a tattoo by Alejandro. He's really good.'
And that's what drives Alejandro as a tattoo artist.
I don't want to be an average artist. I want to be better, always.
How'd you like him now, Crazy Monkey friend?