Using ink as their medium and skin as their canvas, more than 500 tattoo artists from Long Island to California to Italy spent the weekend showcasing their talents at a convention at the Nassau Coliseum.
"Why put art on a wall in your house when you can put it on your body," said Nick Malasto, 27, of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., one of the tattoo artists at the first United Ink convention.
Event organizers said more than 20,000 tattoo aficionados attended the three-day gathering that ended Sunday. Hundreds of people made use of the mega tattoo parlor on the Coliseum floor.
Patrick Moran, 28, of Ronkonkoma, chose Malasto to tattoo a roaring tiger on his back. Moran got his first tattoo, a green cross on his right ankle, when he was 18 and has since added more than a dozen, including a New York Giants logo and a portrait of his grandfather. The tiger is supposed to represent "confidence and courage," he said.
"It's worth the pain. Pain is pleasure," Moran said, as Malasto went to work with a buzzing tattoo gun.
Alessandro Bonacorsi, a 2010 Guinness World Record holder for tattooing multiple people for 30 consecutive hours, traveled from his native Modena, Italy, for the event.
"For us it's important to come here to celebrate the art," said his wife, Stefania Bonacorsi.
Lou Rubino Jr., convention organizer and owner of the Long Island chain Tattoo Lou's, said though international artists participated, the gathering was meant to spotlight local artists and shops.
"The artwork has changed tremendously," said Rubino, a second-generation tattoo artist. "Tattoos used to be seen as something for only a limited group of people, but the public is more accepting, they see it as another extension of art and expression."