A drink of ink

One of the world’s largest tattoo and music culture events happens Friday-Sunday at Grand Casino Hotel and Resort.

Ink Life Tour Tattoo and Music Festival is a three-day party that’s as close to all-inclusive as anyone could want. The casino itself includes gaming, food, drinks (lots of ’em) and a convenient place to crash.

The festival includes a whole lot of tattooing and live national music acts daily, as well as daily tattoo award ceremonies, magic shows, open mic performances, free tat giveaways and dozens of vendor booths.

Ink Master reality show winner Joey “Hollywood” Hamilton makes a homecoming for this festival, too. The Las Vegas-based tattoo artist grew up in Woodward. He also honed his ultrarealistic style in the United States Air Force under the guidance of artist Rodney Folsom, who he learned also grew up in Woodward.

“It’s pretty amazing that I could go 10 years in the service and
pick up this skill in my last year,” he said. “Then to go full circle
and realize I apprenticed with a guy from the same small town is pretty
mind-blowing.”

Folsom will be there this weekend, as will Hamilton’s friends and family.

Hamilton
had never thought about tattooing as a career. Growing up in Oklahoma,
it was illegal. Instead, he focused on drawing and won awards for that
throughout high school. His focus was mainly cowboy and Indian-style
art. Slowly, it included realistic portraiture. After he left the Air
Force, he and Folsom would “come home to tattoo friends and family” and
break the law, he said.

He set up shop in Florida for many years before moving to Nevada to work for Club Tattoo Las Vegas.

Then he auditioned for season three of the Spike TV reality show Ink Master and
won. The show features host, judge and rocker Dave Navarro, along with
ink icons and co-judges Oliver Peck and Chris Nunez with guest
appearances from a who’s who of talent: Nikko Hurtado, Chris Johnson,
NaVorro Bowman and others.

He
joins his old tattoo pals and some new ones with a rockstar-studded
event this weekend, including headliners Buckcherry and Static X.
He said music and body modification are complementary; it’s all art.

Hamilton’s a headliner of sorts himself, as fans from across the metro set up watch parties during his progress on Ink Master.

“My aunts and uncles and friends, brothers, stepbrothers, strangers — they all packed themselves into these tiny bars to watch the show,” he said.

Local radio stations chatted with him after each episode. People know his name.

After
winning awards at similar conventions for five years in a row, he said
it’s a true honor to come to Oklahoma and help promote the Ink Life
Tour. He said he’s already almost fully booked for tattoo work all three
days, but he’ll still be around to meet folks, take pictures, chat and
sign autographs.

He was warned on Ink Master that his confidence sometimes comes off as arrogance, but there’s a reason for that.

When
he auditioned, organizers said they were casting for the hipster, the
tough guy, the wimp. He told them he knew his role. “I’d cast myself as
the winner,” he said.

It
worked, and he did. And, like the popularity that comes with many rock
stars, Hamilton spent two days in Austin recently for South by
Southwest. Spike TV put him into a plexiglass box in a club, and he
tattooed for an audience. People cheered, he said. He also hung out with
his former TV judge Peck, a superstar in his own right with his own
shop in Deep Ellum, Dallas.

“During
the show, they were there to make me better, not to make me feel good,”
he said. “And I learned a lot from that. But it’s incredible that I’ve
developed these friendships with people that are in the top 1 percent of
their trade. … And that’s the type of talent I like to showcase at
these types of tours.”

Jennifer Chancellor

Jennifer is editor-in-chief of Oklahoma Gazette. Her journalistic work includes news, breaking news, music, feature and news feature reporting, investigative journalism, news photography, videography, blogging, page design and marketing spanning more than two decades in Oklahoma. Twitter: @JenChancellor

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