Tattooists in sync with ink at Body Art Expo

Event draws in thousands who like being drawn on

By Dave Kern, Columbian assistant metro editor

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photoVancouver's Evan Bastian, 25, shows the Star Wars tattoo that was judged the best of the day on Saturday. Artist Abigail King of Forever Tattoo in Vancouver did the artwork on his right leg.

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photoTattoo artist Heather Mozo of Portland shows off a tattoo of wings on her back. She also has a tattoo on her side that was reworked to eliminate the name of a former boyfriend.

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photoSusan Midland's "Bonnie & Clyde" tattoo takes shape on Sunday.

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The ink flowed Sunday at the Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds, with hundreds looking at tattoos or getting new art on their bodies.

And in one of the dozens of booths at the Body Art Expo, Amanda Midland, 29, worked on the right thigh of her mother, Susan Midland, 46.

"I trust her," Susan said of her daughter. "She's not going to mess up the art I'm going to have for the rest of my life. And I'm proud to show it."

Amanda has been a tattoo artist at Five Star Tattoo Company in Battle Ground for two years and has been tattooing people for four years. She was working on a "Bonnie & Clyde" tattoo for her mom.

It's a tribute to Susan's parents. The tattoo shows a game board, a logging truck (her dad was a logger), the front of the getaway car used by the bank-robbing duo and more. Susan's parents' names are Bonnie and Clyde, although her father has died.

Susan says Bonnie, her mom, is not impressed with tattoos.

"Every time I get one, she says, 'uh-huh,'" Susan said, laughing.

"All of mine have meanings," Susan said of her seven or so tattoos. "The shoulder is all zombie stuff that my children picked out. … My right shoulder is all my grandchildren's handprints."

Tattooist Amanda, who has 170 hours' worth of tattoos on her body, said that for Susan the price is right. "I work for peanuts when I tattoo my mom," she said. Both women are from Vancouver.

The event center was hopping Sunday during the final hours of the three-day show.

There was plenty of tattoo judging and Amanda took the prize for most unusual tattoo on Friday for the elaborate art on her neck. "It's kind of like a human piñata," she said.

'Star Wars' tribute

Abigail King, 25, a Mountain View High School graduate, was staffing the Forever Tattoo booth. She is a co-owner of the business in central Vancouver.

She pointed to Vancouver's Evan Bastian, 25, whose right leg tattoo was judged best of the day on Saturday.

"It's a tribute to my mom," Bastian said. "We used to watch 'Star Wars,' and it's one of my favorite memories and I wanted to bring that to life on my leg."

It took 41/2 hours for King to finish the elongated, multicolored work that portrays "the constellations leading to the Death Star." Boba Fett is also shown in the work. The price was $300.

Bastian said perhaps 30 percent of his body is tattooed. "The first was a cross to express my belief," he said.

"We all just kind of get addicted to the art," tattooist King said. Her own body is adorned with "so many that they all run together."

Her favorite?

"I have a robot from 'Battlestar Galactica,' " she said.

Four tiny diamonds beneath and to the sides of her eyes are offset by streaks of blue in her hair.

How about the pain of getting a tattoo?

"Some people don't even bat any eye and some people, you have to hold their hand," King said.

Stigma fading

Bob Reynolds of Mega Productions declined to give the three-day show's attendance but said, "it's been in the thousands."

"Tattoos have been around for over 5,000 years," said Baba Austin, the master sponsor of the expo. He's been putting on tattoo shows for a decade. The artist has more than 150 tattoos and owns Vintage Tattoo in the Highland Park area of Los Angeles.

"The stigma is disappearing," Austin said of tattoos. "The previous generation wasn't too keen on tattooing."

Never goes away

Justin Carel, 26, of Vancouver watched the main stage during competition for the best tattoos.

Responding to a question, Carel said: "I got my arm done. I got my back done, I got my chest done. Oh, and then I got my side done and it says family."

On one side of his left arm, it reads Blaze, in honor of his 21/2-year-old, and on the other, Taylor, 9 months.

Why get tattoos?

"Mainly for memories. It never goes away," Carel said.

The cover-up

Sometimes a tattoo was a bad decision, said Heather Mozo, 24, of Portland, who inks people at Black Cat Tattoo in McMinnville, Ore., and Graveyard Tattoo in Clackamas.

She has wings on her back but also a heart in a bear trap on her left side.

"Love's a trap and it will hurt you in the end," Mozo said. "Real cheesy."

On her right side is a tattoo of a young woman tattooing another young woman. It has an inked frame that hides the name of a former boyfriend, Jesse.

"We usually cut people a really good deal if they're tattooing over a name because we've all been there," Mozo said.