Like painting a landscape or portrait, creating intricate designs on people’s bodies has become its own art form.
The Hell City Tattoo Festival celebrates the artistic style by bringing some of the top tattoo artists from around the world to Phoenix.
Set for Friday, August 23, to Sunday,August 25, at the Arizona Biltmore, the Hell City Tattoo Festival attracts more than 6,000 fans over the weekend, says owner Durb Morrison.
More than 200 tattoo artists from the United States, Australia and Japan represent a wide variety of styles, including black and gray, traditional, color portrait, tribal, stippling, geometric, biomechanical, Polynesian and Japanese-style tattooing.
Along with established tattoo artists, Hell City brings in piercers with established reputations in their industry. Over the weekend, they will do traditional piercings to more intricate surface or implant piercings. Jewelers, body piercers, artists and barbers are also invited.
Well-known tattoo artists are slated to appear, like Anthony Michaels, Mark Longenecker, Megan Jean Morris and Dave Kruseman of “Ink Master” fame.
The convention caters to those interested in working with specific artists or getting intricate work done.
“They can find those artists, all under one roof, who can tackle those tattoos and bring them to life for them,” Morrison says.
The artists chosen based on their experience and skills.
“I look at the artistic ability of each artist, not just on skin but off. I want to make sure they are not just tattoo artists but fine artists as well,” Morrison says.
Many of the tattoo artists are returning to the festival. Black and gray artists Josh Duffy of Black Castle Art Co. has taken part in the Hell City in Colombus and Phoenix for the last 10 years.
“It is all really interesting to me because everybody works completely different. Everybody uses different needle sizes, which are like brushes for canvas, and just different hand motions, techniques and inks,” Duffy says.
Based in Peoria just south of Lake Pleasant, Duffy has been tattooing for 17 years. He also paints in oil, acrylic and watercolor and plays the guitar, drums and piano. He comes from a family of artists; His mother, Bridget Duffy is a scenic painter.
At Hell City, Duffy won the Artist of Show award four times, as he is known for his elaborate work.
“When I’m tattooing and working on somebody, I like to do what I call ‘layering.’ I’ll do one session, and I’ll come back and do another session over the same tattoo, adding little things and essentially finishing the tattoo,” Duffy says.
I just strive for perfection, and thestyle I tattoo in is quite detailed, so I guess it just takes a little bit more than I can get in one session.”
Over the years, Duffy has developed a reputation for his distinctive style.
“It’s just the level of depth that I put into my work, the amount of open skin that I leave. I think a good tattoo is something that is recognizable 20 to 40 feet away,” Duffy says.
The tattooed can showcase their body art and bring recognition to the artists behind them as part of tattoo competitions. Contests during the three-day festival are broken down into categories like best Asian, traditional, small or large black and gray, new school, biomechanical, small or large color, backpiece/chest panel, portrait, arm/leg sleeve and overall male or female tattoo.
The festival will also have special Tattoo of the Day competitions for those created onsite that day. As part of the People’s Choice Tattoo of the Day contest, audiences can vote by
Tattoo artists judge the other competitions and they base their decisions on criteria relevant to the tattoo styles.
The Wet Paint Project sees 30 tattoo artists painting live. The Art Fusion Experience hosts five artists collaborating on pieces, switching canvases every 5 minutes.
And what’s a tattoo festival without music? Performers include Hollow Terra
on Friday; Imposters in Effect, a Beastie Boys tribute act, on Saturday, and rockabilly by The DeVillains on Sunday. Burlesque artists Frankie Fictitious, Liryc Suicide and Cervena Fox, as well as comedian Anwar Newton also take the stage.
Pool parties with music and movies will follow the tattoo festival on Friday and Saturday nights. Only guests staying at the hotel can attend the pool parties.
Hell City Tattoo Festival
Arizona Billmore, 2400 E. Missouri Ave.
Friday, August 23 to Sunday, August 24, noon to 8 p.m.