The Galveston Invitational Ink & Art Expo is now in its fifth-year. But it was about a dozen years ago that organizer Joe Moak, owner and artist at Galveston’s Asylum Tattoo, got the bug to stage such an event after attending too many tattoo shows run by promotors with little real attachment to the tattoo industry.
“Since we put on our show from an artist’s perspective, with the emphasis being more on the tattoo contests and artwork, and it makes for a different vibe,” Moak says. “We feature a lot of dope artists from our area, as well as from all over the world, and to supporters of the tattoo culture who normally wouldn’t be exposed to them.”
The majority of the more than 150 artists attending the Ink & Art Expo hail from the Lone Star State. Among the talented Texans were Chauncey “CK” Kochel, Iyan Pethtel, John Marshall, Nick Engle, and Jason Call. Mike Woods, owner of Advent Tattoo, in Houston, was the Best of Show winner among the tattoo contest entrants, and went home with a thousand dollar cash prize.
Moak and his crew put a lot of thought into the tattoo contests. After each show, they evaluate which categories had the best entries, and were most popular, and add additional prizes to them the following year. Perennial favorites are Black & Grey, Color Portraits, and Realism. Some of the more unusual among the 30 categories were Best Movie Character, Best Animal, Best Ornamental and Best Cover-up. Trophies for winners are custom skateboard decks, and they’re so prized that entries are closely scrutinized..
“We make sure contestants jump through a lot of hoops. We take pre-pictures of the canvas to make sure the tattoo was done entirely at the show,” Moak says. “We really get into the judging hard, and try bring in judges from out of the area, like from Fort Worth and Dallas.”
“The work these days is so incredible, and judging is a difficult chore,” Moak adds. “We grade on artistic, technical and creative. When a canvas comes in front of the judges, I want them to look at the tattoo starting at a number five on a scale of one to 10, and it goes up or down, based on the criteria, and that makes for a fair contest.”
No tattoo show would be complete without some entertainment, and the Ink & Art Expo didn’t disappoint with suspensions, sideshow acts, and a pinup contest. Some 1,500 tattoo fans showed up for the three-day event, and organizers did their best to make sure it was a family-friendly. . . there were even balloon animals and face painting for the kids.
“There’s are la strong tattoo culture in the Galveston area. We attract newbies that just want to look around as well as seasoned veterans who are covered head to toe and want to get int the tattoo contests,” Moak says. “The vibe and the theme of the show is camaraderie between like-minded people.”
“The criteria to receive an invitation to participate (as a tattooer) is that you have to be a licensed studio with an honorable reputation. if you’re chill then you can come to the show, and we cut up and have fun, and everything’s happy,” Moak adds. “It’s a good mix of folks who enjoy what they do and enjoy dealing with their clients to the best of their abilities.”