Gettin’ the Green at Tattoo Conventions


A few weeks back, I attended the Villain Arts Minneapolis Tattoo Convention.( I’ll post up about convention highlights as soon as I get a chance) I had a great time and learned a lot despite the fact that I didn’t make the kind of money I had expected. Why? Well, I certainly can’t blame it on the convention. The Minneapolis convention was great. It was well advertised and well planned as all of the Villain Arts shows are. I didn’t earn to my full potential and to be quite honest, I don’t feel I earn to my full potential most of the time. I normally do well, but I see that there are other artists that do better. I want to do better. So, I sought out the advice of tattooists that are veterans of the convention circuit and they shared some great tips with me..

Here’s some preconvention advice, compliments of the beautiful and talented Amy Shandick amy shandick(

She recommends finding the facebook page for whatever upcoming convention you plan to attend and like as much stuff as you can. Comment, post, share the page on your page. The more interaction you have on the actual page of the convention, the more you’ll be noticed by people who are interested in attending the convention. It’s a great way to make people aware that you’re there and help book appointments ahead of time. In fact, it doesn’t hurt to post up a pic of your latest tattoo and let everyone know that you are taking appointments for the upcoming convention. It’s very simple and obvious, but I never would have thought to do such a thing if it weren’t for Amy. I haven’t been able to LIKE on a daily basis to the next convention I’ll be attending, but I have about twice a week and I’ve already booked a couple of appointments as a result!

I met another really awesome dude who has a mobile tattoo studio who has a group of artists that are always busy. (I would tell you his name if I hadn’t lost his card.) His artists are in constant rotation and they were banging out the tattoos all weekend long. His advice to me was that it’s all about presentation. You got to have something to grab a person’s eye and get them to notice you. Also, you have to have things at your booth for them to look at and hold their interest. If there’s not enough eye candy at your table, patrons may simply just pass you by and fail to notice your artistic prowess.

Also, it helps a lot to have a book of drawings or drawings set out on your table of tattoos you would like to do. Sometimes, people don’t know what they want till they see it. Some people are impulsive shoppers and having tattoos all drawn up and ready to go is a great way to grab their attention. I always put drawings of tattoos I would like to do out on my table and every single convention I end up tattooing at least a few of them.

Got some super great advice from artist Robert Hawley of Ascension Tattoo (who is just a total sweet heart by the way)  robert-artist-profile

His advice was talk with everyone that you can. Don’t sit there getting lost in your drawings while people are walking by. A quick glance and a “Hi” won’t cut it. Make small talk. Smile and talk to as many people as you can. Part of making money at a convention is the hustle. I really need to work on this part. Evidently, Robert noticed I was less than chipper and not so interactive while drawing behind my little table at the convention. Sometimes, I get busy drawing and almost forget about everything around me. I’m sure I couldn’t be the only artist who does this. I’m going to work really hard on taking Robert’s advice for my next convention. I saw him keep busy all weekend. I got the same advice from Robbie Ripoll of Ink master season 5 ( He recommends talking to absolutely everybody and he does too!

If you’re not great with crowds or if you tend to get easily distracted as I do; never underestimate the value in good counter help. You don’t have to worry about talking to everyone and having to remember to smile so long as you got a great assistant that can do it for you. I’ve watched many artists bring along assistants at conventions and they always seem super busy. Generally speaking it helps to have a hot girlfriend. Unfortunately, I don’t have a hot girlfriend so I’ll just have to get by on my own. However, I will add on this subject and say that I make more money at conventions when I have an assistant.

Another bit of advice I was given: If you have a couple extra bucks to spend on an ad in the convention program….Do it!!! I’ve asked several artists who have put their ads in the convention programs if it was worth the money and everyone has told me YES!

When it comes to conventions, a little bit of help can go a long way. If you’re too busy to take another client or if someone wants to get a type of style you don’t tattoo, point them in the direction of another artist who can help them. We are all in this convention business together. Each artist has something unique they bring to the party. Conventions are not competitions, although there are tattoo competitions (which I guess means some of it actually is). Help out your fellow artist and tattoo patrons. A little bit of helpfulness and kindness goes a long way. You can’t tattoo all of the people so share the wealth. The artists you help out will remember that you got their back and may return the favor down the line (unless they’re a dick).

handsOne more valuable tid bit…Don’t forget to tip your DJ! What does that mean? Well, any decent tattoo convention announcer knows that it’s their job to help promote and keep the artists busy and the patrons entertained. I’ve been watching the amazing Dr. Carl Blasphemy ( do his work for the last 13 years. In my opinion he’s the best in the business. This guy is exceptionally smart when it comes to the people game and it’s great that he trolls the floor asking artists if they’re taking clients so he can announce that there are artists who have openings. If you have an announcement to make, just let you announcer know and they’ll take care of it for you. That’s what they get paid to do. However, if you’re interested in a little extra love or extra attention from your announcer, it doesn’t hurt to make sure they’re taken care of. Good announcers work hard and they work for you, so take care of them. A tip doesn’t always have to come in the form of money (although it doesn’t hurt). Some announcers appreciate things like Red Bull and dinner.

Some of you reading this may think the advice I’ve recently been given is just common sense, but as an artist whose a little newer to working the convention circuit, I’ve overlooked some of these money making tactics. If there’s even one artist out there somewhere that finds this information useful, then I consider this recent entry as “mission complete”.

As always, you keep reading and I’ll keep writing. Thanks for checking out my blog.

Coming soon….. Eternal Color of the month for February.


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