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Grandpas, Grim Reapers, tigers with antlers all grist for tattoos at show

Jeff Mobley Eden Prairie Minnesotgets tiger tattoo his leg by artist Jes Strickler. The Chicago Tattoo Arts Conventifeatures more than

Jeff Mobley of Eden Prairie, Minnesota gets a tiger tattoo on his leg by artist Jes Strickler. The Chicago Tattoo Arts Convention features more than 300 of the world’s top artists, plus entertainment, original art gallery, live painting and more at the Crown Plaza Hotel and Conference on Friday, April 13, 2012 in Rosemont. | Sun-Times~Richard A. Chapman

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Updated: May 15, 2012 8:11AM



The tattoo guns buzzed and the smell of newly inked skin wafted through the room as artists created, customers winced, and fans watched in awe.

As many as 8,000 people from across the country are expected to attend the Chicago Tattoo Arts Convention this weekend in Rosemont, promoter Troy Timpel said.

Artists, vendors and tattooed celebrities, including Amy Nicoletto of the TLC series L.A. Ink and The Enigma, a sideshow performer known for his head-to-toe body-covering puzzle tattoo, set up shop at the Crown Plaza Hotel, selling everything from tattoo services to T-shirts emblazoned with shop logos.

Those looking to be inked by award-winning and famous artists need not look further.

“I like it when an artist is pumped about a piece he’s doing,” Jeff Mobley, 25, said. “I just let him run with it.”

Mobley, a computer support technician from Eden Prairie, Minn., laid back as artist Jes Strickler of Blackwater Tattoo in Schofield, Wis., outlined a tiger with antlers on his right leg.

While his new leg tattoo is an original design, Mobley said his right arm sleeve is a dedication to his grandfather, who died of lung cancer in 2007.

“I wanted to capture the pain of it,” Mobley said. “He gave me the hope to keep going, fight through things.”

His sleeve includes a pair of praying hands and a grim reaper.

While some choose symbols to represent loved ones, others choose tattooed reproductions of actual photographs.

Eddie Varela, 37, came to the convention seeking to capture the faces of his family members though body art. The mechanic from Humboldt Park hired award-winning portrait artist Megan Hoogland to ink a tattoo sleeve made up of his two daughters, parents and grandparents up, down and around his right arm.

The portrait sleeve would take about ten hours to complete, Hoogland said.

Commemorative tattoos are not for everyone though.

Courtney Fader, a dental assistant from Flint, Mich., chose to get her “all-time favorite couple” etched into the backs of her calves by artist Justin Howell of Custom Ink and Steel.

“I have always had an obsession with the Bride of Frankenstein and Frankenstein,” the 21-year-old said.

Mobley said sporting tattoos and other body art was not common in his profession.

“It’s more of a conversation starter than anything these days,” he said.

The convention is scheduled to run through Sunday.



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