Artistic tattoos shed stereotypical labels

BY: JONATHAN BROOKSHIRE/Social Media Coordinator

Tattoos are more than just paintings on the skin.

Having ink on your body is a form of art, and to many, a symbol of something significant in their life.

The second annual Lubbock Tattoo Expo was held Feb. 5 – Feb. 7 in the Lubbock Civic Center.

Mike Diaz, owner of Sunken City Ink in Lubock and organizer of the Lubbock Tattoo Expo, was proud to be able to hold such an event.

This is only the second time the Expo was held but already has attracted tattoo shops across the country.

“We did a whole tour of tattoo conventions last year,” Diaz said. “This will be our only stop this year in Lubbock – just because it’s our hometown.”

The year before, Diaz had traveled around Texas going to different conventions in Lubbock, Odessa, Killeen, and Corpus Christi.

“It was the same kind of venue, a bunch of artists from different cities,” Diaz said.

Expos are usually held in bigger cities where tattoos are more accepted. Last year’s expo was actually the first tattoo expo that Lubbock has ever had, according to Diaz.

Last year’s event had a good turnout according to Diaz. This year more people in Lubbock and the surrounding cities knew about the event and were more accepting.

The purpose of the expo, according to Diaz, is to educate the public on the art of tattoos. It’s not just about the branding or becoming the stereotype that tattoos usually give people.

“Tattoos aren’t so serious all the time,” Diaz said. “And it’s not just for a certain group, and they’re not tagged for a certain social class or race. It’s for everybody now, whether you’re a lawyer, or construction worker, or you’re an artist.”

More than 20 artists and vendors from across the country came to Lubbock to be a part of the Tattoo Expo. Out of the 20, three local shops also made an appearance, Ghostriders, Black Door Studio, and Sunken City Ink.

One of the many pieces done at the Tattoo Expo in Lubbock Civic Center on Feb. 6. BRANDI ORTIZ/PLAINSMAN PRESS

“There are people from California, New York, Kansas, Arizona, New Mexico, Ohio and all over Texas,” Diaz explained. “Just to tattoo people in Lubbock to build their clientele and to get exposure in these types of cities.”

The expo provides the artists with a good way to network with the clients and other artists.

“They get to meet different people and artists,” said Diaz. “You build a lot of friendships and connections.”

At the expo was award-winning “Inkmaster” season 5 contestant Cris Element.

“Cris Element, he is a really good friend of mine,” Diaz explained. “He was on the mic, tattooing, and guest spots at the shop (Sunken City Ink).”

Element will be back in Lubbock in March, appearing at Sunken City.

Other shops at the expo were: Por Vida Tattoo from Albuquerque, N.M.; Scorpion Tattoos from Ruidoso, N.M.; MaddMonkey Tattoo from Freeport, Texas; Lucky Ducks Tattoo from Midland, Texas; and Addiction Tattoos from Amarillo, Texas.

“We promoted and advertised it on certain sites and the Facebook page,” Diaz said. “They contacted me, or we contacted them, and then they buy the booth and get situated with the Health Department.”

Diaz has been tattooing for five years and does photorealism, graphic realism, color, and black and white. Diaz explains that he tries not to bind himself to just one thing. He would rather be well rounded and do a good tattoo for any of his clients that walk through the doors of his shops.

“I’m considered a rookie, but excelled pretty quickly,” Diaz said. “My talent has gotten my name out there. Tattooing is a real tight community, and we have artists all over the U.S., but everybody is real tight knit.”

Diaz encourages anybody who wants a tattoo, but may be hesitant to get one, to just go for it. He compares the experience to Vegas, explaining that everybody wants to go, and being able to say that you were in Vegas will give you a story. He explains that going to an expo is the same situation.

“If you definitely haven’t done one (get a tattoo) before, it’s something that you definitely do need to experience,” Diaz said. “You have to go and walk through and get a tattoo, to live it. You get to see artists, you get to see tattoos, you get to see people get tattoos. You can see art and things that artists are creating, and different vendors and what they’re making.”

In addition to attending an expo, Diaz also supports the idea of getting a tattoo.

“Just do it,” he says. “If you over-think it, it’s going to be hard.”

Diaz describes getting a tattoo as the same as getting a new pair of shoes.

“Whenever you buy new shoes and walk around, and the shoes make you feel good,” Diaz said. “Nobody can touch you. When you get a tattoo, you feel brand new and decorated. You feel like you deserve it. You sacrificed pain to get that.”

Diaz also gives insight into what it takes to be a tattoo artist and some advice as well, saying that the art takes commitment and dedication. Putting something on the skin is easy, but to actually create a work of art, respect the customer, and have love for the art is totally different.

“It takes a lot of devotion and a cool thing to do,” Diaz said. “It looks easy, but tattooing does take a talent of drawing. It takes a lot of time and mind to become a really good tattoo artist.”

In conjunction with being able to draw, the artist also has to be familiar with his tools.

“The hardest part is to master your tools,” Diaz explained. “With a machine, you have all these moving parts.”

As a tattoo artist, there are questions for every client. What needle are you going to use? What rubber band are you going to put on the needle? What’s the voltage that you run? What position is the client in? What’s the skin like?

Tattooing is hard work, but also a work of art. Through the pain of the needle and the passion that goes into every stroke, the pleasure of having a unique work of art on the body is the end product. Having many people accept the pain, passion and pleasure of the art has made Diaz happy and the expo successful.

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