Reviews

Hell City Tattoo Fest: Highlights of the Best and Worst Tattoos

The Hell City Tattoo Fest took over the Arizona Biltmore this past weekend, and everything from elaborate, artistic back pieces to crappy nipple tattoos were on display.

We found some amazing competition (even in the "worst tattoo" contest on Saturday), along with some great pieces that weren't entered. A quick rundown of some of the best (and worst) tattoos in Hell City is after the jump.

Dave Zielinski from Milwaukee, Wisconsin had the most tattoos of anybody we saw. He told us he got his first tattoo in 1964, and he now has a full body suit of ink, including on his face. But the tattoo on Zielinski's chest and stomach really stands out - it's the face of a monstrous creature with one glaring eyeball and gnarly teeth. There's a missing tooth in the mouth where Zielinksi's belly button is, and he says sometimes he sticks a cigarette in there and it looks like the creature's smoking. "I wanted something that would make people say, 'Holy shit, look at that,'" Zielinski says.

One of the most colorful tattoos at the convention was a back piece with an ornate, beautiful peacock. The woman with the back piece, Annie, said the tattoo had been done by several different artists over the years, and she got it because "I just like peacocks."

Some people had more symbolic tattoos with stories behind them. Andy Lyn had a bright orange Phoenix bird tattooed along the length of her right leg. She says she got it to symbolize, "rising from the ashes" after several of her friends died after high school, over a series of months. "My sister got their names tattooed on her, but I decided instead of mourning, I'd celebrate," Lyn says.

We saw an amazing black and white biomechanical design by tattooist Willian Brent, from Hard Luck tattoo in Sierra Vista. The back piece combines a sci-fi, machine aesthetic with organic elements like feathers and scales. The guy sporting Brent's design was Kevin, who proudly explained "I was the only one big enough to put it on."





In addition to tattoos admirable for their artistic designs or personal symbolism, we also saw some funny -- and downright crappy -- tattoos, especially in the "Worst Tattoo" contest on Saturday. Two that stood out for us in terms of sheer awfulness were the "bottle-in-the-ass man" on some guy's calf (a stick figure with said bottle in bum), and the crudely inked words "White Trash" across the back of a guy named Robert Smith (not the singer of The Cure).



Check out complete Hell City Tattoo Fest slideshow action here.



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Niki D'Andrea has covered subjects including drug culture, women's basketball, pirate radio stations, Scottsdale staycations, and fine wine. She has worked at both New Times and Phoenix Magazine, and is now a freelancer.
Contact: Niki D'Andrea