Alex Gotza

Artists - Studios - Issue 5

The exceptional and perpetually progressive Alex Gotza, spoke to HeartbeatInk about the timeless value of New Traditional tattoos, the tattoo heyday in Greece and the importance of conventions. 

How did your initiation into tattoo begin?

It happened eleven years ago, after I had faced a very difficult personal situation. Till that time I used to have another job. But after that, I decided to go to George Mavridis as an assistant - learner. Of course, that wasn’t new for me. I had been thinking of getting involved with tattoos since I was fifteen. So the thought pre-existed, in a way, but the right time had only come then. Everything happens for a reason.

When did that happen exactly?

In 2002.  A year later I became more active. I went to my first tattoo convention as an apprentice in 2003, in Athens, which had been organized by Medusa Tattoo. I stayed with Geroge Mavridis until 2006 and then I went to Nico Tattoo for the next three years, where I met Kostas Tzikalagias. Kostas helped me a lot, so as to learn as much as I could. Κοstas taught me the most things about tattooing. George helped me through my first steps, like a baby (laughs) and Kostas showed me how things really are in the tattoo scene. This circle closed in 2009 and then Kostas and I opened Dirty Roses tattoo studio.


How did you decide on that name?

There was a period when we were looking for a name and we were completely stuck. We thought of many names, we couldn’t decide and in the end we picked Dirty Roses. It was on a spur of the moment. It doesn’t have any of the key tattoo words like ink, skin or tattoo. It’s something different. I also think that there is no other tattoo studio in the world with that name. 

When did the studio open and what’s its “philosophy”?

Dirty Roses opened in September 2009 after many difficulties. It was our first attempt to make something of our own so there were many things to do. Our experience in different studios helped us keep all the good things we had learned and stay away from mistakes in order to achieve something special.

What we believe are the following: no tattoo sketches in the studio, no ready sketches, not the same tattoo again and again. Each one of us can work freely with their own pace. Only when I worked in Dirty Roses was I given the opportunity to do what I wanted in terms of style and design and as a consequence to develop.

Kostas and I help each other. We push each other so as to become better. There’s a good competition between us. The atmosphere in the studio is friendly, it seems like we are a family. And all people who work with us became part of this family as well. There are no fights or discriminations. Each one have their one personal style and this is something we all desire.

It’s in your hand if you really want to evolve artistically. As far as I’m concerned, during the last two and a half years I have found a style which I like and also suits me, so I’m trying to become better at it. It’s up to me to achieve this. The same happens with everyone. If you work hard you will evolve.


How would you describe your style right now?

When we started with Dirty Roses, I was given the opportunity to work on something different (from comics to realistic) and I managed to do it. I kept it for a year, then it tired me a bit, cause I had to use the already existing Marvel or DC heros and what I really wanted was to create something of my own. Truth is that I prefer staying in my home for three days working on a special sketch to copying a ready sketch or photo. So I ended up in New Traditional tattoo, which combines forms of realism, Old School and it’s also classic. All New Traditional tattoo designs I make are mine.

I believe that New Traditional is the evolution of tattoo. At least, that’s how I still see it. Artists all over the world have changed their style from Realistic or Old School to New Traditional. Even some artists who used to make mainly Oriental tattoos. That’s why I don’t really believe it’s something temporary, a hip like Realistic tattoo with its many colours was few years ago. 

Which styles do you consider as classic?

The most traditional (Tribal) ones; like Maori, Japanese and Old School as well.


Do you believe that the art of tattoo is in full bloom nowadays?

Yes, of course I do! Especially in Greece; and despite the economical crisis, there’s been a big increase. When it comes to tattoo, people are more educated now. They will ask for a specific artist in order to have their tattoo. There tend to get more quality tattoos now, mainly the big pieces. You can find quality tattoos among new artists, too. There are many talented new tattoo artists nowadays.

What about experience? Isn’t that an important factor?

All these good artists need to work harder and harder in order to become even better and not remain static. Talented hands are not enough. Good use of them is needed as well. Plus, people who are close to a new artist, are very important for their evolution. If you help young, talented artists, you help the art of tattoo in general.

How do young artists “handle” their art?

The ones who love tattoos and also acquire real education, they’ll take it a step forward. But there are also the ones who think they became rockstars. It reminds me of the period when everyone wanted to become barmen and DJs. Now they want to become tattoo artists. These people do not respect tattoos; they don’t see it as a form of art. Tattoo is not something easy or occasional.  It requires devotion and hard work every single day. 


Why do you think people get more and more tattoos nowadays?

People do what they see. They see there has been a liberation concerning tattoos. They see that all artists, young and experienced, have evolved, the same happens with their technique. The supplies (colours, machines etc.) are now more advanced. Nowadays you can come across tattoos that are works of art.

Do you believe that besides liberation there is also imitation?

Of course there’s imitation; people ask for exactly the same designs as the ones they have seen on another person or they know in general. Not all of them know why they get a tattoo. It’s also important to say, that before the liberation of tattoos, most people used to get tattoos in more secret places on their bodies. Now people start with tattooing body parts that everyone can see. They start with their fists first... Those who really love it, though, stand out. Those people are the ones that are generally involved with the tattoo scene. Those people become collectors. I like the idea of collectors. Nowadays it’s easier to collect pieces from tattoo artists all over the world than it was before. Internet has helped a lot in that matter, mainly when it comes to get in touch with the artistic you wish to speak to. The new generation has everything on its feet. 


Every year you visit and give tattoos at many European conventions. This year you also went to Taiwan.

Since we opened Dirty Roses, this was our goal; to travel abroad. We needed it a lot. Only then did we realize how things are in an international level.

So how are things in an international level?

When we went abroad, we realized the significance of tattoos globally. It’s very important to visit tattoo conventions. For instance London or Milan tattoo convention are two of the best worldwide. You’ll meet artists from all over the world. You interact with different people, you even make friends. You get inspired. You return home and you want to sketch even more. You evolve. You become better as a person.

*Alex came up with the nickname “Gotza” when he was eleven, and started graffiti. He never stopped using it…


Photos & interview by Ino Mei.



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Alex Gotza Artwork

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