Joshua Whitten loves his work. The traveling tattoo artist is based in Tyler, but he enjoys coming home to Paris to share his passion with fellow artists and clients alike when he gets the chance. J. Whitt, as the artist goes by, is in town this weekend for the 4th annual Paris Body Art Expo at Love Civic Center, where on Saturday afternoon, he began working on his sisters latest piece.
I think its awesome that Daniel (Garza) built something like this in the town that Im from, supporting something that I really believe in. This industry, its just cool that its in my hometown now, J. Whitt said. We didnt have anything like this when I was here.
Filling that void and opening another avenue for artists to connect is precisely why Daniel Garza, a local tattoo artist and owner of Lions Den Tattoo Studio in Paris, wanted to host his own show here. Now in its fourth year, the expo features a mix of new and returning artists fulfilling client desires no matter what style of art theyre looking for and vying for a chance to take one one or more of Garzas custom awards.
I like that its different for Paris. I travel all over Texas doing shows like these, and Im starting to travel outside. Ive got invites to Arkansas, Oklahoma, Washington, been to Alaska and tattooed over there, and its just fun meeting these new people and all of that experience I get to have everywhere else, I get to bring it to Paris. To me, thats one of my favorite parts. Getting locals to experience what I experience on the road, Garza said.
Love Civic Center was bustling with activity Saturday as attendees met with artists, learned about their style and sat for tattoo sessions. Some sought a quick piece to add to their body of art while others set up for three-day pieces that started Friday when the expo opened and will be finished today when it ends.
Regardless of the size, each tattoo is an opportunity for an artist to win one of several awards ranging from most unusual to most patriotic, with other awards for best color by size and best black and grey. Garza said he worked with Miller Woodworks in Detroit to create the unique awards, which were crafted to look like native or Aztec weapons awards that will stand out on any artists studio walls. Then theres the big one Best in Show an award designed to look like a heavyweight professional wrestling championship belt that comes with a $1,000 cash prize, Garza said.
Fort Worth tattoo artist Ricky Perez returned this year to the Paris expo with sights set on winning one of Garzas awards. He did that Friday with a tattoo combining a ladybug with a spider, a piece that earned him second place most unusual. The tomahawk-shaped award was proudly displayed on his table, where it joined a myriad of awards from other shows.
I seen (the awards) yesterday, and I was like Man, I got to have one, Perez said Saturday, adding he participates in as many as 40 expos a year and had just flown home to Texas after spending two weeks tattooing in Alaska.
Jvan Chinea was hard at work in his booth Saturday tattooing a clients arm. Although hes been tattooing for just three years, Garza speaks highly of the Puerto Ricans talents.
Theres an artist here who has grown so much artistically that and this is a big statement but I feel like because you have some people that focus on color, some people that focus on black and grey, I truly feel like this artist is probably the best black and gray artist in Texas, Garza said.
Chinea, who works in Killeen, said hes been tattooing for three years, and he focuses on making his artwork hyper-realistic. Now friends with Garza they share a connection as artists who became tattoo artists Chinea credits expos like Garzas with helping him rise to the level hes at now.
Youre surrounded by badass artists, and all you want to do is grow, he said. You see some people working, so you ask questions. Youre trying to learn from everybody else. The competition itself also makes you want to get better and better, so I think its a win-win for everybody.
The Paris Body Art Expo continues today at Love Civic Center, 2025 S. Collegiate Drive in Paris from 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Results of winners will be reported when they are made available.
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