Artist Spotlight: Elias Santos – InkedMag


If you’re a fan of anime and manga, tattoo artist Elias Santos is probably already on your radar. Born in Brazil and currently working in Lisbon, Portugal, Santos has made a career out by creating some of the best black-and-grey anime-inspired tattoos you’ll ever see. We spoke with Santos about how he found his style, the ways in which anime has inspired him and much more in this Artist Spotlight.

When did you first become interested in art?
Since I was very young, I watched my father sculpt and paint plaster pieces, and that fascinated me. I started to be even more interested in everything involved in this process of creating, painting, modifying and the whole artistic concept that involved anything. I started drawing when I was about 6, recreating and copying everything I saw on paper, drawings on TV, magazines, animals, food. And that became frequent and at 14 I entered a professional drawing school, completing the course at 16. 

What made you want to become a tattooer?
Right after completing the course I had the opportunity to work in some completely different areas of the artistic universe.  Then at the age of 16 I decided to get my first tattoo, on my right arm, and I met a tattoo artist who, after the first sessions tattooing me, encouraged me to start tattooing after seeing all my drawings I made during the course years. With the support and encouragement of this friend, I started to study tattooing. Even though at that time I wasn’t very good at certain subjects, I was fascinated by that, and I decided to buy my first tattoo kit. At 18, I was already tattooing with this friend who encouraged me, and I have never stopped. 

How did you come to find your current style? What drew you to black-and-grey?
Early in my career, I did a little bit of everything, but I almost always preferred to work in black-and-grey rather than color. There was a time when I felt attracted to try color, but that didn’t last long [laughs] and soon I went back to doing only Blackwork. 

Since I was very young, I liked video games, drawings, anime, movies, and all of this is very present in my life. That is why, approximately four years ago, I decided to focus completely on the Geek style. Little-by-little I specialized more within that style. 

What is the most difficult aspect of creating anime and manga inspired tattoos?
Before starting with the Geek style, all the themes that were and could be done within Blackwork, I did. And today I’m a specialist in the Geek/blackwork/whip shading style. The biggest difficulty for creating projects within this area is the originality and visual identity that you can achieve and apply to your work, always trying to differentiate your composition from other artists’.

We work with existing characters and creations and that is why it is very common to use the same references, and this may not be very easy to deal with, but with a lot of study and dedication it is possible to create exclusive compositions for all your customers.

What are some anime themes or characters you’ll never get sick of doing?
Projects and compositions of Pokemon and the whole Nintendo universe, Naruto, One Piece, Hunter x Hunter, Bleach and among other works I think I would never get tired of. Although some characters are not so nice to tattoo every day [laughs]. 

What are some anime themes or characters you’d rather never tattoo again?
To be honest, I don’t have characters or works in mind that I would never want to tattoo again, every character has something useful and artistic that can result in a beautiful piece, if you always know how to innovate and create new ways of application for each customer. I love tattooing anime and games, I’ll never get tired of it [laughs].

What drew you to anime and manga initially?
Initially, tattooing anime and manga attracted me not only because I loved it since I was young, but because there are countless ways to present and create art with your favorite characters by mixing elements, stories, everything that is also important and has a feeling for the client. 

Have you ever considered working in color? Do you see yourself doing so in the future?
We often tattoo characters who have captivating and exciting stories and who are also examples for our lives. I have no intention of working with colors[laughs]. I admire and even like having colorful tattoos on my body, but for me, my style is what I really love to do. Of course I want to do some collaborations with artists who work with colors. 

How do you find your references? How do you find a way to make popular culture references your own?
My daily life is full of things related to pop culture. Be it anime, games, movies and series, I’m always visiting exhibitions too, so it’s not that hard for me to find great references for my work. After all, I live this every day. That’s why I’m always up to date on everything that happens and involves pop/Geek culture so it’s all very natural for me, although I wish I had more time to play games and watch anime. 

Where do you see your art going in the future? Do you work in any mediums other than tattooing?
I believe that all my effort and dedication to the Geek tattoo scene in the world is already being recognized worldwide, and that is very rewarding. It’s a style that has been growing more and more in the tattoo universe and market, and the style I do has been an inspiration for many artists and young apprentices. This really makes me very happy. I intend to continue tattooing for a few more years, but I really want to invest in something more commercial and inclusive within pop culture. I intend to invest in real estate as well.

What do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t a tattoo artist?
I believe that if I weren’t a tattoo artist today, I would probably be working with something related to body aesthetics and health, or other artistic pursuits other than tattooing.

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