Big Pricks

At first glance, Mando Rascon could easily be dismissed as just another tattoo artist. His arms are awash with numerous inked designs, half-covered by the nondescript black tee shirt he usually wears while slinging ink at No Regrets Tattoo Parlor in Tempe.

But what most people wouldn't suspect is that the 31-year-old Phoenix resident is just as adept with a brush or a can of spray paint as he is with a tattoo gun. More than a decade before he inked his first fire-breathing dragon, Rascon was tagging walls from New York City to Flagstaff with his intricately surreal graf art or turning out colorfully complex watercolor and oil paintings.

In fact, one of the reasons Rascon started needling skin was to augment his skills with a paintbrush and to help get his creative mojo working even harder.

"Tattooing helps enhance your creativity, which helps in the other mediums that I use," says Rascon over the ever-present buzz of the tattoo gun at No Regrets. "But I still love the art form of tattooing. I love decorating skin like that."

Rascon's work -- including vibrant watercolors of Latina women in Mayan headdresses and colorful, wicked depictions of D&icaute;a de los Muertos skulls -- will be just one part of the Off the Skin showcase on Friday, November 25, at Tempe's Wet Paint Art Supply & Gallery. The art on display includes the work of more than 30 tattoo artists from around the Valley, including such all-star inkers as Chris Arredondo and Jessie Derusha of Body Art Tattoo in Mesa, Taylor Ryan from Club Tattoo in Tempe, Lex Horvath from Urban Art Tattoo & Piercing in Mesa, and Paolo Acuna from Divinity Tattoo & Body Piercing in Scottsdale.

Bob Gibson, an artist with Club Tattoo, says while "there's obviously going to be a lot of stuff that's derivative of traditional America tattoo style" (read: flaming skulls, naked women, and quasi-tribal imagery), plenty of traditional artwork will hang from the walls of Wet Paint, including charcoal drawings, acrylic paintings, and Japanese-influenced work.

While Gibson, like Rascon, spends his off hours experimenting with other media such as painting and metalworking, many traditional tattoo elements -- such as daggers and coffins -- find their way into his work. The 35-year-old hopes that the assembled artists at the show will draw inspiration from viewing his artistic efforts.

"You always see this kind of artwork and you just want to improve as an artist, and by working in the tattoo field, you're constantly surrounded by it and you want to push yourself to get better," he says. "And I figured that getting involved and things of that nature would help me with what I'm doing with my tattooing."

And Gibson's not shy about admitting his true intention with the event, which coincides with the usual Final Friday fete at Wet Paint, and includes performances by ILL AL the Anglo-Saxon and DJ Les spinning hip-hop and breakbeats.

"I just want to get together with some friends, have a big party, and just display our artwork," says Gibson. "We wanna give people an idea of what tattooers can do besides tattooing."

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.