Pulsing bassline thudded in the background of Love Civic Center on Friday, along with the buzz of needles and hundreds of voices as artists and attendees caught up, swapped creative inspiration and admired each other’s work. Daniel Garza, artist at Lion’s Den Tattoo Studio and event manager, called the second Paris Body Art Expo a success.
The expo featured more than 50 tattoo artists from across the country, from Kentucky to Illinois, who competed for a new tattoo machine from Hardlife Rotaries, the Paris Body Art Expo Belt and $1,000 cash. Hours ran from noon to 11 p.m. Friday through Sunday.
“I’m seeing lots of new people, lots of new faces and the artists are staying busy,” said Heather Hayes, who was giving away prizes and a free tattoo with 92.7 Kiss FM radio station.
Garza said he was inspired to host the expo by a woman in the community who wanted to pursue a career as a tattoo artist, but was told it was unprofitable and unsustainable. Garza said he wanted to give artists a chance to connect at the expo, and show people that pursuing a career as an artist was possible, especially in light of social media tools like Facebook and Instagram that now allow artists to connect with clients and each other.
Garza also decided to donate 20% of the proceeds to the four local high school art departments in Paris as an additional way to encourage students to explore art and their passions. He said Texas Inked Magazine, also at the expo, also was donating $600 to the schools.
Artists entered their designs each day, and a panel of three judges chose the best out of four for the daily prize — the tattoo machine. Garza said judges looked for a variety of styles, saturated and complementary colors, and creative expression within the winning tattoo. Artist Jose Arrioga was Friday night’s winner.
“There was a lot of tension style-wise, and that caught my eye right away,” Garza said. “His style was a combination of cartoon and realistic, it stood out to me.”
Randy Lipscomb, owner of Hard Life Rotaries and artist based out of Louisville, Kentucky, sponsors Garza and came to do some pre-booked tattoos at the expo. He created the Nucleus, a portable, fully adjustable power supply for tattoo machines — the first of its kind, according to Garza — and was selling them exclusively at the expo. The design improves coloring and machine lifespan, Lipscomb said.
“I was trying to build a machine for artists, by artists, a machine that worked for me,” Lipscomb said. “So I researched and built my own.”
Besides developing the Nucleus, Lipscomb travels often for his work: Boston, Charlotte, even Thailand and the Bahamas.
“Traveling can be tedious, but the people I work with make it worth it. They’re my friends,” he said.
Andres Acosta, an artist from Austin, has a widespread following in the tattoo community — and 377,000 Instagram followers. His work plays with the ideas of surrealism, visual art and realism. He said his favorite piece he’s created was a customized rose combined with a goldfish.
As for his creative process, he said he just lets it happen.
“I always think of that Bob Ross quote, ‘art comes from happy accidents,’ so I just go with it and have fun with it,” he said.