By Matt Mattei - mmattei@timesleader.com

Wilkes-Barre tattoo convention features wealth of talent and artistry

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Joe Snyder of Clarion has tattoo work done on his back by artist Andy Mast, of Resolute Custom Tattooing in Clarion, during the 2014 convention.
Pete G. Wilcox|The Times Leader
Ken Kile, of Invicta Tattoo in Bloomsburg, tattoos Dave Mensh, of Bloomsburg, during the 2014 convention.
Pete G. Wilcox|The Times Leader
Tattoo artist Rob Castaldo, of House of Ink in Exeter, tattoos the arm of Donna Gibbs, of Hamlin, at last year’s convention.
Pete G. Wilcox|The Times Leader

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    PLAINS — Hundreds of applications were reviewed, but only 44 artists were chosen to be showcased at the third Annual NEPA Tattoo Arts Festival. The select group, is diverse in style and will bring a wealth of talent and progressive thinking to the Grand Ballroom at Mohegan Sun Pocono on Sept. 4, 5 and 6.

    The three-day convention will give some human canvases a chance to be inked by preferred artists, but it will also provide curious folks an opportunity to see masters at work. The event boasts artists who have gained notoriety in their industry but also promises the intimacy of a smaller gathering.

    Since 2013, 570 Tattooing Co. and Marc’s Tattooing have organized the convention to bring premier artists to the area. Geena Russo, owner of 570, said it is important the event showcases artists who are constantly trying to gain more knowledge and improve their skills by painting, going to conventions and meeting other artists.

    “The motivation to start was to expose local tattoo collectors to real tattoo artists,” Russo said. “We wanted to give people a chance to see that there’s other artists out there, and I don’t mean our shops, I mean other tattooers throughout the country.”

    A tattoo collector is someone who accumulates pieces by many different renowned artists, but Russo made it clear the convention is for everyone who wants to inquire about having work done, see artists create or just check out the scene.

    “I want to see the 80-year-old grandmother come out,” Russo said. I want to see Mom and Dad, on a Sunday, bring their kids, because they just want to see what’s going on. It’s completely family friendly.”

    Other than the working artists, there will be seminars for fellow artists to learn about different styles and techniques. Vendors of all types will sell their wares. Borg Tattoo Machines, Ink Addict clothing, and Strange & Unusual oddities parlor will be among the booths.

    Renowned pinup painter Dave Nestler will showcase his work, which can be seen at davenestler.com/. There will even be a roped off area for fusion painting, where one artist will start a piece and walk away to have it continued by fellow artists.

    Award winning artists from several states will be featured throughout the weekend, all with unique portfolios.

    Josh Lindley, of All or Nothing Tattoo in Atlanta, Georgia, works in traditional style. Paul Acker of Philadelphia, is a vivid realist and is opening a shop called The Seance Tattoo Parlor in September.

    Parry Chotipradit, of Lucky Bird Tattoo & Piercing, works in large illustrated pieces while fellow Maryland tattooer, Casey Anderson, of House of Ponchos Tattoos, does custom color, portraiture and realism.

    The convention will feature a number of local artists including Rob Castaldo of House of Ink in Exeter.

    Artists’ work can be seen at nepatattoofest.com.

    This is the first year the convention is being held in the casino’s ballroom, and Steve Gulbin, part-owner of Marc’s Tattooing of Hazleton and Wilkes-Barre, said he is excited for the venue change and praised the level of artistry that’s going to be represented.

    “The quality of artists that we have is so concentrated, it’s so pure,” he said. “A lot of bigger shows are getting watered down.”

    The convention runs from 2 – 11 p.m. Sept. 4, noon to 11 p.m. Sept. 5, and noon to 7 p.m. Sept. 6.

    Tattoos will be judged in a variety of categories including Best of Each Day and Best of Show.

    Gulbin said there are a lot of artists attending who are amazing, but there are a few who really impressed him, including Kyle Cotterman of Distinction Tattoo in Dayton, Ohio. “When I saw his work, I was just blown away,” he said. “I was like, ‘Wow, this guy’s good. This guy’s real good.’”

    Russo, who touts all of the talent as well, said she’s looking forward to having, Massachusetts artist, Timmy B. in residence this year. “I’m excited about it, because I’ve known him since he was 18 years old, and he was this little boy running around conventions, and now he’s this huge, amazing tattooer, and I just couldn’t be more proud of him,” she said.

    Timmy B., whose shop, Nite Owl Tattoo is in Northampton, Massachusetts, said he is excited to come to a convention where there is more focus on artists and he can enjoy some time with friends. Of Russo, who travels the world with her husband to attend conventions and meet others in the industry, Timmy B. said, “They’re just good people. If they say they’re going to do something, you just know that it’s going to be done.”

    Gulbin called the now yearly convention a living, breathing art gallery. “It’s the biggest little show on the East Coast,” he said.

    Besides gathering the best artists she could for the event, Russo is concerned with creating an environment that is inviting to all. She said she wants newcomers to feel “really and truly welcome.”

    If you go:

    What: NEPA Tattoo Arts Festival

    Where: Grand Ballroom inside Mohegan Sun Pocono

    When: Sept. 4, 5 and 6

    Ticket Info: Day passes are $15, and weekend passes are $35 at the door.

    Additional Info: Artist and vendor information as well a schedule of events and all tattoo contest categories can be found at www.nepatattoofest.com. A pre-party will be held at Bar Louie, inside the casino, on Thursday night, Sept. 3. After parties at Bar Louie will happen each night during the weekend and feature the music of Toolshed Jack, Grace’s Downfall and Digital Getdown.

    Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or mmattei@timesleader.com

    Biggest little show on the East Coast brings talent from across the U.S.

    By Matt Mattei

    mmattei@timesleader.com

    Joe Snyder of Clarion has tattoo work done on his back by artist Andy Mast, of Resolute Custom Tattooing in Clarion, during the 2014 convention.
    http://www.theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/web1_tattoo03.jpgJoe Snyder of Clarion has tattoo work done on his back by artist Andy Mast, of Resolute Custom Tattooing in Clarion, during the 2014 convention. Pete G. Wilcox|The Times Leader

    Ken Kile, of Invicta Tattoo in Bloomsburg, tattoos Dave Mensh, of Bloomsburg, during the 2014 convention.
    http://www.theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/web1_tattoo1.jpgKen Kile, of Invicta Tattoo in Bloomsburg, tattoos Dave Mensh, of Bloomsburg, during the 2014 convention. Pete G. Wilcox|The Times Leader

    Tattoo artist Rob Castaldo, of House of Ink in Exeter, tattoos the arm of Donna Gibbs, of Hamlin, at last year’s convention.
    http://www.theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/web1_tattoo02.jpgTattoo artist Rob Castaldo, of House of Ink in Exeter, tattoos the arm of Donna Gibbs, of Hamlin, at last year’s convention. Pete G. Wilcox|The Times Leader

    Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or mmattei@timesleader.com

    If you go:

    What: NEPA Tattoo Arts Festival

    Where: Grand Ballroom inside Mohegan Sun Pocono

    When: Sept. 4, 5 and 6

    Ticket Info: Day passes are $15, and weekend passes are $35 at the door.

    Additional Info: Artist and vendor information as well a schedule of events and all tattoo contest categories can be found at www.nepatattoofest.com. A pre-party will be held at Bar Louie, inside the casino, on Thursday night, Sept. 3. After parties at Bar Louie will happen each night during the weekend and feature the music of Toolshed Jack, Grace’s Downfall and Digital Getdown.