Born and raised in Bayamón, Puerto Rico, Benjamin Archilla, known best as Bengie, has been sketching and drawing since he was able to pick up a pencil. As he grew older, Bengie’s penchant for art grew immensely—however, not once throughout his teen years did he ever think about tattooing as a possibility.
It wasn’t until the age of 18 that Bengie was introduced to tattoos when he and a friend went to a shop to get a piercing. From the moment he saw the tattoo artists in the shop doing their thing, he thought it a good idea to apply his lifelong passion for drawing to this newly discovered art form. He got his hands on a tattoo machine, and after experimenting on his close friends for a few years, Bengie landed a gig tattooing at Cuttin’ Edge Tattoo in Bayamón, where he learned to master his craft.
These days, Bengie is a 14-year veteran ink slinger with his own shop, Ink Factory—located in Vega Alta, P.R., on the island’s northern coast—and is one of the most sought after artists in “la isla del encanto,” picking up numerous awards for his remarkable realism work.
Ink Latino: What was the tattoo scene like in Puerto Rico when you first ventured into tattooing? Was it as open and acceptable as it is today?
Bengie Archilla: Not at all. When I started tattooing there was still a lot of discrimination against the tattoo industry. Nothing compared to what it has become nowadays. People are starting to open their minds.
The style of tattooing that you’re most recognized for is realism. Was this always the style of tattooing that you intended to master since the beginning of your career?
Well, honestly, no. I went little by little looking for a more challenging style for me, and that’s why I like it so much.
You’ve done portrait tattoos of iconic figures like Michael Jackson and Albert Einstein in the past. Who is another icon whose portrait you haven’t done that you’d like to tattoo on someone one day?
The ones I like the most are the movie characters, actors and music artists. I’d love to do Denzel Washington and Robi Draco Rosa.
Does portraiture work add an extra level of stress to tattooing for you?
I wouldn’t call it stress—to me it’s more like a challenge. Every single piece has something that makes them special and unique.
What are some things that you’ve learned along the way about realism work that have helped you master the style?
Patience overall, and to go step by step.
What other styles are you interested in tackling down the line?
I think it’s fun to try other styles. I’m down to explore any of them.
What are your preferred tattoo machine and ink brands to use when you work?
At the moment, I use different types of machines and ink. I don’t have any specific kind.
Do you ever travel outside of Puerto Rico, either working conventions or doing guest spots at other shops?
Yes, I have done both. I always try my best to visit some conventions a year outside of Puerto Rico.
What are some of the major differences you’ve seen in tattooing in other parts of the world that differ from the tattoo scene in Puerto Rico?
Every single place I have visited has its own artistic culture. It’s really interesting, and there is always something to learn.
How far in advance are you booked nowadays?
I’m booked until late Spring 2017.
What advice do you have for anyone out there looking to get tattooed who aren’t really sure how to go about choosing a tattoo artist?
It’s very important to do your research. Ask for portfolios, and really choose an artist that specializes on the style you are looking for.
What advice do you have for any aspiring tattoo artist trying to get into the field?
Lots of practice, focus and patience above all.
Carr. #2 Km. 28.2 Int. 694, Barrio Espinosa
Vega Alta, Puerto Rico 00692
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