In May 2024, we have the pleasure of sitting down with an incredibly talented self-taught tattoo artist hailing from Brazil – Ana Mendes. With sheer passion and determination, she has honed her craft, transforming skin into breathtaking works of art. Let’s dive into her story!

Ana Mendes

For the readers who are not familiar with you, how would you introduce yourself?

Hello, my name is Ana, and I am a Brazilian tattoo artist from Belo Horizonte. I’m 32, and I started tattooing when I was 19. I admire many tattoo styles, but I am definitely passionate about traditional tattoos, and they are the ones I dedicate my work to!

Where did your fascination for tattoos come from?

I don’t know exactly when I started to love tattoos. The only thing I remember is that, since I was very young, I was completely fascinated by tattooed bodies. I think this was due to the fact that I started to listen to punk rock when I was very young. I enjoyed everything in that context, and definitely, at the time, music was the space where tattooed bodies were more accepted! The tattoos on them brought exactly the rebellion and the desire to express myself as different in a society that I loved and identified with.

Ana Mendes • A Brazillian Self-Taught Tattoo Artist 3 May 2024

How and when did you start tattooing?

Well, for me, things happened almost unintentionally. In short, I already liked body art, so I started piercing friends and going to tattoo studios as a friend when I was a teenager. As soon as I graduated from high school, at 17, I started working as a receptionist at a studio, where I had more direct contact with tattoos and met other people who I worked with after that. In this context, I started wanting to tattoo without any expectations; it wasn’t something I started doing because I believed it would be my future. I didn’t see myself as very capable at that time; I didn’t draw, and that prevented me from believing that I could learn.

So when I stopped working as a receptionist, I started making some simple tattoos on my friends, and I don’t know exactly when I realized that I would actually do that from now on. I worked hard to learn to draw at the same time as I learned to tattoo. I spent almost a year doing this by myself in my house, and that certainly made things very difficult.

Learning alone is very hard, but that’s what I had at that time because I was going to college and I also needed to dedicate myself to it. A while later, a friend who I had met at one of the studios I worked at had just opened his own studio and invited me to work with him. He trusted me, and I am forever grateful to him for that! There, then, was where I started to see that I had really become a tattoo artist. At that time, it wasn’t so much about money; it was about doing what we really loved!

Where are you based?

I am currently living in Los Angeles, California. But I’m proud to be from Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

How would you describe the tattoo scene in your country these days?

I’m very proud of the Brazilian tattoo scene, and without a doubt, I would say that we have many of the best tattoo artists in the world. Even though everything has been more difficult for so long. Good tattoo supplies are expensive in Brazil. (This includes our national brands, which are definitely as good as imported brands.) Without a doubt, it takes us longer to have access to many things because we are outside of Europe or North America. So just like any country in Latin America, we must be proud to have such good representatives in the tattoo world!

I’m also happy that we are a country where we have so many tattooed people. Tattoos have broken almost all conservative barriers and we have more and more people with tattoos in Brazil. When I look outside the country, I see how we are a tattooed population. And that delights me!

Ana Mendes • A Brazillian Self-Taught Tattoo Artist 3 May 2024

How would you define your tattoo style?

My work is basically American traditional, but not too classic! I like to always feel free to explore new ideas within the style, respecting it but not feeling that it is a prison.

What’s the main source of inspiration for your tattoos?

Listening and connecting with people’s stories who are getting each piece.

What’s the most challenging aspect of being a tattoo artist in 2024?

Worldwide tattooing has reached an absurdly incredible level, so I think that today we need to dedicate ourselves more to have a prominent place; we need to be better and better. This is incredible because it always makes us want to learn and improve more.

I would also say that a lot of people have problems with social media, I totally include myself in this, Sometimes we feel that nothing we do is good enough to meet what social media has imposed on us.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of being a tattoo artist?

With the recognition and affection we receive from our customers, there is nothing better than seeing that we have done something that that person will be proud to carry.

Ana Mendes • A Brazillian Self-Taught Tattoo Artist 3 May 2024

What’s your experience at tattoo conventions so far?

At the beginning of my career, I used to participate in conventions in my city, I liked that, but at a certain point, I started to see myself at another point in my career. After I became a mother, I started to dedicate myself more to my children, and that took me away from tattoo events a little. Now that I’m living in the USA, I’ve been wanting to return to these spaces and soon I want to be able to participate again, now with different eyes and more maturity!

Do you remember the first tattoo convention you have ever been to?

Yes, I won first place in my category and at that moment I was so happy and so grateful, I was at the beginning of my career and that award certainly gave me more confidence and encouragement to continue. It was very important to me at that moment.

What’s your primary reason to attend a tattoo convention?

Today I want to participate in conventions again, mainly to make connections with other artists, I think this is a crucial point for my development and evolution as an artist!

Ana Mendes • A Brazillian Self-Taught Tattoo Artist 3 May 2024

How do you think tattoo conventions could get even better for artists and the public?

I see that some conventions only care about making money, preferring to sell spaces to artists who don’t have such good work instead of inviting incredible artists from around the world, making the artistic level of the event higher. I think there can be a balance between opening doors for new artists and, at the same time, valuing more artists who inspire them.

Conventions in the northern Hemisphere could also seek to make more connections with artists in the Southern Hemisphere. I say this because in South America, for example, we have incredible artists who need to work much harder to achieve international success. I see that they are the ones who strive to be at major conventions in the USA and Europe (believe me, there is a financial barrier for us to be able to access these spaces.) Artists should also care more about going to conventions in the south of the map. I’m sure they would love the way they would be received in countries like Brazil!

What advice would you offer to someone considering a career as a tattoo artist?

First, love and respect the tattoo. Get tattooed by artists you admire and always try to learn what you can from them. Draw a lot. Study and dedicate yourself to the style you identify with. Learn and apply biosecurity. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and who can contribute to your learning process. Initially, just worry about improving the quality of the work you are delivering; the money will come as a result of a well-done tattoo and respectful service. Have humility and don’t give up! <3

Ana Mendes • A Brazillian Self-Taught Tattoo Artist 3 May 2024

Who are the people you admire the most within the tattoo community?

Female tattoo artists. Other women inspire me in all aspects of my life, and the tattoo would be no different. I’m excited about every achievement made by women in the tattoo world. We all know how hard it was to get where we are.

What’s your biggest accomplishment as a tattoo artist?

The connections I made during this time, tattooing allowed us to be close to clients and other artists, making friends that we will keep for the rest of our lives. The affection and recognition of these people are definitely greater than any financial achievement or status.

Do you do other forms of art besides tattooing?

Unfortunately, no, I’m lucky to have managed to develop myself doing tattoos, as I feel terrible trying to do anything else artistic! Haha..

Ana Mendes • A Brazillian Self-Taught Tattoo Artist 3 May 2024

What are your goals or dreams for the near future?

As I’m living in the USA, I really want to be able to build my career here soon and maybe even have my own studio. I also really want to travel to other countries, meet more people, and be able to take my work to other places.

Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers?

Thank you for being interested in my work. If you are a tattoo artist, let’s connect, and if you are looking for an artist, I invite you to follow my work on Instagram! Stay at peace! Love <3

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