This weekend marked the 6th Annual Duke City Tattoo Fiesta, thrown by Mr. Bale Sisneros and Mr. Kevin Baca, from Por Vida tattoo here in Albuquerque, as well as my old boss, the man in a way, responsible for yours truly, responsible in the sense I apprenticed at his shop,I did not apprentice under him directly, important distinction, I was , however employed at his studio RT. 66 Fine Line Tattoo in the early 90’s Mr. Brian Everett
They do, an amazing job of bringing in world class tattooers form all over the country and sometimes the world. Not an easy task necessarily, ABQ isnt really a big city, and its not necessarily a huge money making show for the artists. For some artists it is, if you’re a big-name dude, or on one of those hideous TV shows, but for the most part, the people attending aren’t necessarily wanting to drop $300-500 on a tattoo, alot of the people that come, are trying to get some tiny-to-medium tattoo, usually from Pinetrest ( not that there’s anything wrong with Pinetrest) but these people will go from booth to booth looking for the ” cheapest” they can find, when, a lot of the artists are charging between $150-250 an hour, and/or have $300-500 minimums. It can be rough, AND it adds salt to an already-gaping wound for me personally, as I’ve had an incredibly hard time recently dealing with clients. If they’re serious, about some work, some custom stuff, or I know them/have worked on them its one thing, but I’m NOT going to haggle with some 20-year-old-girl about the infinity-symbol-made-of-my-kids-names-turning-into-bird-silhouettes , ( nothing against infinity symbols or 20 year old girls ) nope, I just refuse. Been at this way to long. So, I wind up with 4-5 good clients, who, for whatever reason, love to get blasted at the convention, don’t know if its a show-off-your-tat kind of thing, or they’re exhibitionists , but I wind up working on my regulars, doing 2-3 hours on them. I have to charge convention prices too. I’m not gonna drag my shit all the way down there, only to argue over $100 bucks, I’m very up front, $250-300 minimum at the convention, which compared to the big name dudes, is a great price right?!
But, hey, it’s not all about the money, certainly not at a local, show, if I break even, and make a few hundred extra, that’s fine. Money comes way more into play when one travels to a convention, because you’ve got your booth rental , hotel accommodations , airfare and/or gas , depending on how you got there so you have to make a decent chunk. I loved my trips to the Ink & Iron Fest in Long Beach California, the show is actually ON the Queen Mary ship, but it seems like every tattooed, biker, punker, hipster, cholo, rockabilly dude, Betty Page wannabe girl, military guy ,rocker, jocko, shit kicker, hippy, outdoors-y dude, and mid-life-crisis person in Orange County is there. It’s PACKED. And, you make money, good money, my 3 trips to the LBC convention I’ve always made a good chunk over the course of 3 days, people in California just have more disposable cash I guess. This makes the trip worthwhile from a monetary sense because by the time you’ve flown/driven out there you’ve dropped a chunk, not to mention 3-4 nights on the ship, it adds up fast, but, its such a killer, fun convention, and that’s what its really all about.
I mean, I don’t want to make it sound like its all about money, because its not, at all, I’m just speaking from the owner perspective as the guy paying the bills, but the main thing, is seeing all the killer artists, meeting all these artists, getting tattooed, buying books, machines, seeing old friends that you only see at these conventions, its about being inspired, its about seeing someones work in person that you admire, and you then say ” goddamn I need to fuckin draw more, Jesus !!” it’s about lighting a fire under my burnt-out-ass , it’s about remembering why you do this in the first place, it’s about being reminded that I’m an old school anti-establishment ,underground artist. I didn’t want to wear a tie, or work in a cubicle ( no offense to dudes in ties and/or cubicles ) I wanted to be a land pirate. and the shit has gone so off the fuckin charts lately with all the ridiculous TV shows ( a blog for another time ,don’t worry its coming) , Ed Hardy air freshener, tattoo style images on everything, it’s easy to get bitter at the state of the “industry” ( man I hate calling it that) after where it was in the 90’s/early 00’s , but hey, that’s progress I guess….
So, I really needed the show, and again, cant give Bale at Por Vida enough props, hes a killer dude, a great artist, and he knows whats up , he really does put on a stellar show, I worked, all the 71 dudes worked, Andrew Montoya got a 3rd place award for best small color tattoo, we hung out with old friends, I got tattooed by one of the guys whose work I’ve dug for 20 years , Scott Sylvia, from Black Heart Tattoo in San Francisco , a Mugato ( from the OG Star Trek) riding a motorcycle ( mine specifically ) for my daughter , it’s something she randomly talked about when she was 2-3 years old, I bought a machine from him, hand built, the same shader he used on my back, an absolute pile driver, color-packer , I got to talk to, and watch work Aaron Coleman form Immaculate Tattoo in Mesa Arizona, nicest guy ever, coupleled with being one of the best tattooers on the planet, only to be reminded of just how far I need to go, despite 22 years of tattooing, Aaron has to be one of the most prolific tattooers out there, the man does just amazing shit, and hes just got wheel barrels full of paintings and drawings, its humbling actually, I got to kick it with my old bros JoBrian Stammer from Red Light Tattoo, and my former apprentice Chisim Lujan, I got to kick it with Leo Gonzales form Stay Gold tattoo, a good friend, and easily on of the best tattooers/artists I’ve had the privilege of knowing, got to see all the crazy Black-n-Grey stuff the Por Vida dudes are constantly doing, got to kick it with Mr. Went, the list goes on and on …
So, it was an awesome weekend, my ass is kicked, I’m sick, my new tattoo is sore as fuck and STILL weeping lymph fluid but I’m feeling inspired, and revitalized, and quickly remembered why I love tattooing so much
Thanx Bale, Kevin, Brian and the whole Duke City Tattoo Fiesta crew, it was super fun , and I appreciate the kick in the ass I desperately needed!See ya next year!
OK, now, on to 71 Tattoo’s 10th anniversary coming up fast!