As much as tattooing is an art form it is more about the transferring of soul from one human to another. Fine art prints are designed by the artisan, reproduced en masse on giant presses, and then shipped to the homes where they will hang, but a tattoo is the only piece of art that requires the artist and the wearer to connect during the sacred moment of creation. Until the impending robot revolution takes over mankind, tattoos require a personal connection to create.
In our new digital world, tattoos are something we still love despite the fact that they can’t be downloaded. Actually that is one of the chief reasons tattoos have flourished in this century—the act of tattooing demands we wake up the part of our being that craves interpersonal interaction.
Those of us with tattoos have a predilection toward traditional socialization. The one-on-one act of tattooing is a necessary part of our existence, which is multiplied when there those moments are experienced by tens of thousands. That means every year around this time we look at the tattoo convention schedule and we plan our social calendar around the expositions of tattoo art.
The first fantastic opportunity is this weekend at the Golden State Expo in the Pasadena Convention Center. For the showcase Inked is bringing out the best in the world to the West Coast of the US. The celebration of ink includes the staggering work of Nikko Hurtado, Carlos Torres, Paul Booth, Stefano Alcantara, Norm, Big Sleeps and Andrew Montoya.
Montoya is a fitting selection to show the local flavor of Southwestern tattoo art. A consummate tattooer, he works in all styles for the fine folks in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His clientele alone is a microcosm of the tattoo population as he boasts a ledger featuring all types: “from exotic dancers to attorneys who work for the US Justice Department.” In this time of a country divided, tattoo ink seems to be one the few connections between us all.
Ten years ago Montoya was making good money, but as he says, “dying inside as a person because I always wanted to create art as a living. Then I started apprenticing to tattoo and it was like a religious experience.” Montoya’s calling lead him to create from his soul and implant a piece of it into everybody he has tattooed since.
This weekend Montoya is bringing his tattoo machine, talent and heart with him to the Golden State Tattoo Expo (a show in which tattooers have to be invited to attend, meaning only the cream of the crop). Part of Montoya’s personal crusade has been to transform the look of tattoos. There was a time when tattoos looked like stamps—designs that sat on top of the skin almost like a sticker on a piece of fruit. Montoya is aiming to show people that tattoos should be part of the body, through more stylized tweaks to designs and a deep consideration of placement, he makes tattoos that belong to the wearers overall style.
For this convention Montoya has worked with the imagery and ethos of Fireball Whisky—the result is a masterful alchemy of spirit into aesthetics. Unveiled below is his custom flash sheet for the the Golden State Tattoo Expo. No stranger to the whisky that tastes like Heaven but burns like Hell, Montoya and one of his regular clients toast every new tattoo collaboration with a celebratory shot of Fireball. No doubt he will have quite a few clients over this weekend, but will he bring this ritual to the convention? “Not when I have more clients to tattoo,” Montoya says. “At the end of the nights I will be on my best behavior and nurse one drink because I want my clients to get the best tattoo possible the next day. But I will kick back a little because when the tattoo industry comes it is a gnarly party.”
Exclusive Fireball Whisky Tattoo Flash Sheet for the Golden State Tattoo Expo
—This article is part of our partnership with Fireball Whisky—