When I was nineteen, I had it all figured out.
Join the military. Get cool tattoo. Get laid.
Yes, life was much simpler back then, and even though my grand plan was never fully executed, I often wonder what MY tattoo would have been like. Would I have opted to follow the crowd and get some type of tribal arm band? Would I pick something off the shop wall, like a Tasmanian Devil? Could I have designed my own – a screaming Phoenix composed of fiery orange and yellow ribbons, wings spread across my shoulder blades and rising from a pyramid of blue-green flame – and found someone to ink it?
Probably the latter – especially if I’d happened to encounter any of the talent on George Galindo’s Ink Life Tour. Lotus Comics Press caught up with George in Oklahoma City, and learned how his amazing tattoo convention came to be.
George has been in the industry for over 20 years, and founded the oldest tattoo studio in El Paso, House of Pain Tattoo in 1999. As the renown of his shop grew, so did the talent of the artists George currently employs. He mentioned that at least 8 of his tattoo artists have art degrees, which isn’t surprising in this rapidly growing 2.3 billion dollar industry.
When he decided to break out of House of Pain and bring tattooing to the people, George created the Texas Showdown Festival with a collection of local and national tattoo artists, musicians, and other ‘unique’ performers. To stock the festival, he personally selected a variety of tattoo talent, each delivering their specialized expertise in style, color, and creativity. The event was a big hit, and is now in its fourth year.
Since the Festival was local to El Paso, and George again felt the need to expand, he launched the Ink Life Tour to bring the action around the nation. The benefit of this is obvious – instead of traveling out of state for a highly talented artist, the Ink Life tour brings THEM to YOU. Now in its third year, the convention has been a massive success, including breaking a record for ATM withdrawals at a convention – a cool $252,000 in one weekend!
His visit to Oklahoma City allowed us to meet Sarah Miller of Ink Master’s (SpikeTV) fame. We asked Sarah how she came into the industry, and she told us that she had a good job doing graphic design, but felt constrained in that ‘career’. She really wanted to draw comic book art, but had no outlet. Finally, she was daring enough to leave the corporate rat race a few years ago and has been delivering incredible tattoos ever since. While weaving vibrant colors with sweeping curves, perspective, and imagery, Sarah’s expressions are a far cry from the traditional ‘MOM’ tattoo. Accordingly, don’t call her a tattooist, because she explained that “…a tattooist is someone who tattoos, but a tattoo artist is someone who takes it to the next level.”
Another artist we encountered at the Ink Life Tour is Cesar Castaneda – AKA Bigg Ceeze. He has more than eleven years of tattoo artist and airbrushing experience, and along with his wife Sandy, he runs the Mi Familia Tattoo Studio in Anaheim, California. Boasting several awards for his work, Cesar’s primary media is blacks and grays, though he is very comfortable working in all colors. And, as a devout Christian with an incredible eye for realism in his designs, Bigg Ceeze blends elements of spirituality into his work, with roses and crosses adorning much of his art.
All I know is that after viewing the artistry presented at the Ink Life Tour, I’m glad that I didn’t end up getting that Phoenix tattoo so long ago. Instead, I’m looking forward to the next Ink Life Tour visit so I can finally get it done the way I’ve always dreamed.