Show Reviews

Evergreen Invitational Tattoo Expo

Photo credit: Lantern Lit Media

Evergreen Invitational Tattoo Expo
March 15-17, 2019

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The genesis for the Evergreen Invitational Tattoo Expo came during an oil painting class that tattoo artist Joshua Carlton was teaching in his studio when he and one of his students Riley Smith got to talking about how serious tattoo shows were a rarity in their home state of Oregon.

Carlton had been to his share of conventions, and while he’d reflected on how incredible having such an event locally would be, he never considered it something he would put on himself. It wasn’t until Smith and wife Erin, owners of Lifetime Tattoos, presented Carlton with a plan for the project that it became a real thing.

The Evergreen Invitational Tattoo Expo also holds the distinction of being one of the very first shows anywhere where artists are hand-picked. “We wanted to concentrate on what it would be like if we got some of the best artists in one room, including artists from other countries,” says Carlton, owner of Black Brush Studio.

“You don’t necessarily have to be a rock star tattoo artist, but you need to have to have that spark in you and your work, that you’re really hungry to be known,” says Carlton, who has respectfully earned the right to assess talent based on his 30 years a professional tattoo artist, machine builder and author of the best-selling instructional book, “Advanced Tattooing Techniques: A Guide to Realism.” Oh . . . there’s also the prestigious Chaudesaigues Award in his showcase.

“I’m looking for people who are consistently putting out good, creative work, especially if they’re doing something new and innovative and exciting,” Carlton says. “I’m really looking for people who are the future of tattooing.”

2019 marked the sixth anniversary for the Evergreen Invitational Tattoo Expo, held in Eugene, Oregon each March. This year there were close to 300 artists representing 180 studios. Poch, Kyle Cotterman, Robby Latos, and Jessie Smith were just a few of the well-known names behind the buzzing machines.

Carlton, is so proud of the level of artists represented at the Evergreen Invitational Tattoo Expo that he and wife Nichole handcraft the awards for the various tattoo competitions. Winning an award is no easy feat. The rotating panel of judges is made up of professional tattoo artists who are scrutinizing every little aspect of the work. It’s not one style versus another, but rather which piece is technically and creatively the best. Carlton comments that the competition is so intense that often there’s very minute aspects of what separates the individual entries, and he encourages “arguing” among the judges and having them inspect a tattoo multiple times in measuring its merits.

Brady Payton, a realism and portrait tattoo artist from Kansas City, Missouri, earned Best of Show honors for the second year in a row. Photorealism and black & gray specialist and Empire Inks pro-team member Zac “Lefty” Colbert, from Waco, Texas, also impressed the judges, taking home a number of awards.

You’ve probably heard tattoo expos claiming to be “By artists for artists.” Evergreen Invitational Tattoo Expo takes that mantra very seriously. There’s no bands or sideshows to distract people from the tattooing. For the artists, there are seminars ranging from advanced color theory & techniques to financial foundations for a successful tattoo career. At many shows, artists are too busy to attend such classes, but Carlton schedules the Evergreen Educational two days before the convention so there’s no conflicts.

“They’re very intensive classes, and my hope is that it gets the artists fired up to work during the show,” Carlton says. “It’s kind of like the ‘Ted Talks’ of tattooing.”

“At the end of the day, the Evergreen Tattoo Expo is about celebrating tattooing,” Carlton says. “We might not have 15,000 people come through the door like some big shows, but all the artists are busy and they’re always are happy to come back. A lot of times, collectors will get three to five times over the weekend.”

“The real reward for me is being able to help the tattoo community by giving artists the opportunity to network and advance the industry,” Carlton adds. “Being able to walk around and see amazing tattoos still gives me that same feeling as when I fell in love with tattoos in the first place.”

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