[singlepic id=175 w=320 h=400 float=left]To me, a tattoo is the ultimate collectible. This is not just because a tattoo is an expression of the wearer’s identity but also because it becomes part of a person’s life story: a visible milestone marking who that person was when he or she got “inked.”
There is something else I love about tattoos: They are, in effect, commissioned artwork. Two hundred years ago, before the invention of photography or even daguerreotypes, if you wanted a picture of your kid or your significant other or even yourself, you had to find an artist to either paint or draw it. Portrait painting was a profession, and you had to have plenty of scratch to hire a great artist, who might even live in your mansion or on your plantation while doing the work, which could take months. (Think of the presidential portraits that are commissioned by the White House even today.) For regular working folks, there were traveling artists – many of whose names are lost to us – who would do smaller drawings or paintings at more affordable prices.
Nowadays, motorcycle and hot rod aficionados still get custom designs painted on their vehicles; filthy-rich guys commission paintings of their trophy wives, their spoiled daughters, their yachts and/or their racehorses; old-money corporations commission portraits of their past presidents and chairmen of the board – but how often does the average guy or gal actually COMMISSION ORIGINAL ARTWORK? Well, a custom tattoo image is just that – a commissioned work of art – and I urge anyone considering getting a tattoo to select an artist carefully, be pretty sure of what you want and be prepared to pay the artist’s going rate.
Which is why I encourage tattoo connoisseurs and the unadorned alike to stop by the 31st National Tattoo Convention this weekend, Sat. and Sun., April 17 and 18, at the Doubletree Seattle Airport Hotel at 18740 International Blvd. The event has been organized, as usual, by Aaron Bell of Slave to the Needle in Seattle (www.slavetotheneedle.com) and his compadres, with artists coming from around the country, from Canada and as far away as Denmark and Japan.
[singlepic id=174 w=320 h=240 float=left]“It will be a spectacular event featuring, seminars, painting and tattooing from the world’s top tattoo artists,” Aaron told me earlier this week.
Well, I have been to the convention before, and I can tell you that these are top-notch artists in a competitive field. Aaron himself does some of the finest Japanese-style work around, and he’s going to be in the VERY, VERY SKILLED company of several dozen artists: Some of whom I have met over the years or whose work I know are Doug Hardy and Kahlil Rintye of Tattoo City in San Francisco (www.tattoocitysf.com); Charlie Roberts of Spotlight Tattoo in Hollywood, CA (www.SpotlightTattoo.com); and Paul Jeffries of Smilin’ Buddha Tattoo in Calgary, Alberta.
While not all the artists will be tattooing at the convention (artists from out of state have to be licensed to tattoo in Washington, even just for the convention, in addition to having to transport all their equipment), this is a fantastic opportunity to see some of the top practitioners of the art form, view their work (they all have portfolios) and either get tattooed on-site or think seriously about having it done sometime soon. Believe me, if you love tattoos or are even just a little interested, you’ll be talking about this convention weeks from now.
See the full list of artists, a convention schedule and directions to the venue at www.SlavetotheNeedle.com. Admission is only $10 – and if you wind up finding exactly the right tattooist as a result, it’ll be the best ten bucks you’ll ever spend.
Tattoo art by Aaron Bell, Slave to the Needle. Used with permission.
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