If you’re interested in catching some art this weekend, you could do it the traditional way and traipse through a museum or a gallery. Or you could throw a modern twist on art appreciation and head to the Wildwood Tattoo Beach Bash, where about 400 tattoo artists will be on hand displaying their artwork and creating it live and in person.
“Going to a tattoo convention is a cool way to see a variety of artists doing what they do best,” says Katelynn Wintz of Upper Township, who attended — and received her fourth tattoo at — the Wildwood Tattoo Beach Bash last summer.
“It’s a unique opportunity to get a tattoo from someone who may be from somewhere far away,” Wintz says.
“It’s an opportunity to look around and see different styles and varieties,” says David McCall, of Dakini Tattoo Art Collective in Philadelphia, who will be tattooing at the Beach Bash. “It’s exciting going table to table, seeing the variety of artwork.”
Held at the Wildwoods Convention Center, the 9th annual Wildwood Tattoo Beach Bash — which takes place Friday to Sunday, Aug. 10-12 — is the brainchild of Mike Siderio, of Rebel Image Tattoo in Rio Grande. It is hosted by Siderio and the legendary Troy Timpel of Villain Arts of Philadelphia. With an attendance of nearly 8,000 last year, it promises to be a jam-packed weekend full of art, tattoos and a fair bit of subculture.
We spoke with McCall as well as tattoo artist Brian Cassidy, of Rebel Image Tattoo, about what to expect, how to prepare and what you need to know.
“It’s so common for a bit of indecision for a first tattoo … I think that’s a good thing,” Cassidy says. “The best thing you can do is look at the artists on the convention website and look at their portfolios. You don’t go to an ear, nose and throat doctor for your leg. Everyone has a style.”
In addition to finding an artist who does work in a style that you like, Cassidy recommends looking at healed work as opposed to fresh tattoos for guidance.
“Fresh pictures don’t always accurately represent how it’s going to heal,” Cassidy says.
Despite advancements in tattoo removal, tattoos are designed to be permanent pieces of skin art. As with anything that will be with you for forever, it’s a good idea to do your research.
“I certainly don’t dissuade people from getting name tattoos,” McCall says of tattoos that may come with later regrets, adding, “I have noticed that there is more permanence in tattoos than in certain relationships. I tell first-time customers, ‘You’re marking a moment in your life.’ It might be the biggest mistake, but it marks a time.”
If you have the necessary fundamentals lined up — a tattoo artist, concept and style in mind — reach out to the artist and try to make an appointment at a convention, the artists say. Although walk-ups are taken by some artists, many others are fully booked.
If you can’t get an appointment at the convention, consider using your time to shop artists. Just as everyone has their own style, everyone has their own personality. You’ll want to find a good match for you and book from there.
Whether you go to the convention to actually get a tattoo or to just shop around for an artist and design concept, the idea is to have a good time.
“I’m always welcoming the customer to have fun,” McCall says. “It’s exciting. You’re receiving a design, not getting pulled over by the police.”
The 5 most likely body parts for first-time tattoos
According to our experts, the five most likely body parts where you’ll find a first-time tattoo are:
3. Back (shoulder area)
4. Lower leg (anything below the knee)
Five things to do at a tattoo convention that don’t include getting a tattoo
Believe it or not, there’s a lot more to do at a tattoo convention than introduce (or re-introduce) your skin to needles. With vendors, entertainment, and of course, rows of booths full of artists, it’s almost like a farmers market. Just without the veggies.
1. Be amazed. The Wildwood Tattoo Beach Bash has all the entertainment worthy of a circus sideshow. Check out the family-friendly Fleet Family Five Show (from the creators of Lucky Daredevil Thrillshow), performed live by a very real family of performers doing daredevil stunts on stage including sword swallowing, fire eating and snake charming; Alakazam, The Human Knot, a you-need-to-see-it-to-believe-it contortionist; as well as human suspension shows (heads up … these aren’t for the faint of heart. Body suspension involves people hanging off the ground from hooks pierced through their skin.)
2. Go for the gold. OK, it’s not really gold. But the accolades alone might feel even better than gold. Enter your tattoo for a chance to win. Contests take place every day of the convention and include categories like best sleeve, chest piece, original flash, cover up, painting, black and gray, color, and more. With a $10 entry fee, what’s there to lose? No tattoo? No problem. This is your chance to participate as a member of the audience and get a first-hand look at some amazing work.
3. Go shopping. Shop for, what else? Tattoos. But if you’d like to expand your shopping experience, you’re still in the right place. Plenty of vendors will sell their wares at the Wildwood Tattoo Beach Bash, like clothing, body jewelry, tattoo magazines, care products and supplies as well as piercings and so much more.
4. Educate yourself. Tattoos and tattoo art have really evolved over the years, and nowhere is this more evident than at a tattoo festival, where the sheer range of styles and substance available for viewing are almost overwhelming. Take a look around. Each artist has a specialty and many sell their artwork on traditional media (like canvas and watercolor paper) as well as on skin. Take the opportunity to learn the difference between traditional vs. realism and tribal vs. Japanese. It’s fascinating material.
5. Make new friends. “The Wildwood Tattoo Show is an awesome spot for people who are not tattooed to come learn something about a subculture that has horrible misconceptions and a negative stigma attached to it by a large majority of society,” says Cassidy, of Rebel Image Tattoo. “Some of the most genuine and wholesome people I know have tattoos. Come see that under the ink, we’re all the same.”