Monday, June 27, 2011

The Who's Who of San Antonio Tattoos: Alamo City Tattoo Expo

Like the Slingin' Ink Tattoo Festival, The Alamo City Tattoo Expo is a great place for tattoo shops in San Antonio to get some exposure. Its also great for San Antonio patrons, since, if you ask me, good artists are hard to find in this town. I had to go to Austin to find an artist that seemed even halfway interested in designing my piece. Of course, the thing to remember with any tattoo artist is that its definitely a seller's market. An artist will immediately pick up on your discomfort. Finding the right artist takes time and conversation. You test the waters with an artist as much as they test you. After all, they pen their reputation on you, in a manner of speaking. Its important, especially if you are getting a complicated or large piece, to find the right artist. This is where the tattoo festivals come in handy. In addition to the perks for the artists' exposure, patrons get to collect cards and stickers from potential artists, look at portfolios and talk to people while they have the most gratifying experience: getting tattooed. Here are some of the best shops in San Antonio to look into, as well as other shops of interest in Texas.

But first, I digress...

I was lucky to have made it to the tattoo expo at all. As chance would have it, we blew a tire in my sister's car and spent an hour on the side of the road. The digital sign across Highway 1604 said that it was ninety-two degrees, and there was not a single speck of shade. My little sister had just had her tattoo worked on. She tried to stand in such a way as to keep her skin out of the sun, which only made dudes driving by honk at us.
Jamie McGee getting honked at on Loop 1604
A nice touch, but seriously, no one wanted to help two sexy tattooed chicks stuck on the side of the road. I had neither a shirt or sunscreen to put over my left arm, and had to stand in a bar ditch in full sun. Sun kills tattoos, as anyone with a tattoo will tell you. I will likely  have to wait until the winter, when my tan fades, to have the green and yellow on my outer forearm touched up. Frustrating and expensive, but fixable.

When we finally got to the tattoo expo, the wondrous, most beautiful sound in the world reached my ears: the sound of the tattoo gun. My tattoo artist, Rachel, has a special silent gun. Its the most disturbing thing I've ever experienced. I get tattooed with two conditions: that I can see everything within reason and I want to hear the gun. Fortunately, we were not lacking in either.

In addition to the greatest shops in SA, including Tattoo National, Calavares, Mr. Lucky and Absolute, here are some of the best shops to see if you're looking to get tatted up in San Antonio.

Element Tattoo:
Jedi hard at work with what he does best.

Anyone not familiar with Jedi and his band at Element haven't been on the tattoo scene in San Antonio for very long. I was first acquainted with Jedi's bright colors and inspired art on my friends Haley and Jake, most notably the "Haley's Comet" on Haley's shoulder. Bright greens, blues, purples, yellows and reds dominate Jedi's masterful portfolio. While sitting in line for Pirates 4, I met a girl who had gone to Jedi for her Nightmare Before Christmas tattoo. Stark black and deep blues coalesced on her skin, making the little shading done to my inner arm look sad and pathetic. Jedi worked for three hours on a Japanese horimono, and had almost completed it by the time we left. Element Tattoo is a regular fixture in SA and can be reached at 210-979-9877

Inception Tattoos:

Blake Isaac was breakin' my heart while
he was getting tattooed by Stephanie.
Some of the most amazing artwork could be seen at the booth for Inception Tattoos. I'm not sure if this is a new shop in San Antonio, but I am definitely getting ink from them on my body at some point. In fact the sight of their artwork made me completely rethink the direction I was taking with my right arm. Blake, the guy seen here, was getting his right arm done by Stephanie while I marveled at his left arm. Full of blues and purples, it was exactly where I had wanted to go with my left arm. He commented rather nicely on my Final Fantasy VII tattoo, easing some of the jealousy I was feeling. I was proud that he thought my arm was cool. However, I was once again reminded of the bright colors of my left arm, and I felt better about the whole thing. Inception does custom work. No cookie-cutter tattoos for Miss Stephanie, whose artwork is view-able at the shop. To get store hours, call 210-653-9118.

Ink Therapy and Tattoos by BoneDaddy

Chris Pearson, a.k.a BoneDaddy's artwork falls neatly into the macabre. The guys had set up a bicycle covered in shrunken heads where Chris was doing his work. Traditional motifs covered the table (for $10  a pop), while Chris' artwork came to life on the skin canvas before us. As the name of the shop implies, getting tattooed is one of the greatest sensations you will ever feel (except for poor Rachel Kolar, who hates getting tattooed). One thing that always happens to me while I'm getting tattooed, like when I'm getting my hair done, is that I get the irresistible urge to spill my guts to my tattoo artist. I've often considered just giving Rachel Kolar money to let me talk. Ink therapy, then, is probably the best way to describe my reaction to getting tattooed. The endorphins released during the inking truly relaxes and comforts me, despite the fact that I grip the chair on the elbow and inner arm parts. Chris Pearson owns and manages Ink Therapy. You can contact him on his cell at 210-710-0098.


The artists at Prick are anything but. They are obliging and respectful. Prick specializes in custom work, though I would be prepared to shell out a healthy sum when it comes to designing and receiving a genuinely custom tattoo. When getting pricked by Prick, it would behoove you to look at the artwork and tattoos by Butter, one of the shops most popular artists. Butter does everything from portraits to aztecs, and can reasonably assure everyone that most of the work is hand drawn. Get in touch with the Butter down on Starcrest and at 210-545-3886.


Dandyland is looking much improved since last I was there to get my Dracula D tattooed on my back some time ago (2005). All in all the experience was unfabulous, and oddly enough, the reason I chose Dandyland was because I had seen a picture of the Necroscope skull off the front of the first Necroscope novel (the piece is called "Thibor Rising"). Not the greatest reason to chose a place. The guy that worked on  me was a butcher. The red did not take to my satisfaction and the artist wasn't even true to the picture I handed him. Of course, the piece was on my back, so I had little chance to look at it while it was being done. When it was finished, it was a far cry from running blood, and I've been unhappy with the piece ever since. My philosophy is that the D is more functional than cosmetic, showcasing my love for all things Dracula.

Dandyland has come a long way. I was truly proud of the portfolios available for perusal. Cheese Perales at the booth assured me that their custom tattoos were cheaper than most places, though how true that is remains to be seen. Hop on down to the little shop on Bandera road inside Loop 410 or call 210-432-5747. Cheese Perales has a his own blog at

Randolf Custom Tattoos and Matt Attack
Jericka gettin' tattooed by Matt Attack

A little shop down on Pat Booker road, the closest store to the convention, has amazing custom work. Matt Attack was on hand at the shop's booth working on Miss Jericka (that's right, the most awesome female name ever). He had just stenciled the piece on to her leg when we walked up. Randolf Custom Tattoos specializes in custom work--as the name implies. Being as close to Randolf Brooks Air Force Base as it is, it is probably not going to come as much of a surprise to see a great deal of military artwork for your perusal. Get to know handsome Matt Attack at 210-778-9762.

The Best Shops in Texas

Of course my first choice in shops is always going to be True Blue Tattoo at Red River and 7th in historic Austin, Texas. But True Blue isn't the only shop. Dovetail Tattoo is also fabulous, as well as this glorious shop.


Horimasa Tattoo is hand-done traditional Japanese horimono the way it was meant to be done. The artists at Horimasa employ the traditional Tedori tattoo technique, a four pronged needle on the end of a rod. Using upper body strength, the tattoo artist engraves the ink, following along with the stencil. This, understandably and statistically, the most painful tattoo technique on record. Unfortunately, I was unable to get the name of the artist and the guy getting tattooed, so I cannot place the picture I took here. If you'd like a picture of the Tedori in action, send me an email at

The Costley Brothers and the Traveling Freak Show
Tattoos by Miss Jazz Ashley and her gorgeous mum.

The Dallas based store owned and operated by the Costley Brothers (Clynt and Woody) has some exciting artwork, including the artwork done by Jazz (Tattoos by Jazz). Jazz Ashley is a specialty tattoo artist, working in the only medium available to tattoo artists under the age of 18: markers. Jazz's marker tattoos are adorable and incredibly affordable. At a dollar a pop, Jazz is probably my number one artist to date. As always guys, remember to tip your tattoo artist. If you are in the Dallas/Arlington/Wyilie areas, feel free to check them out.

That's all for this  year's Alamo City Tattoo Expo. As I continue to debate my next big tattoo, what, dear readers, are some of the best shops you have been too?


  1. coolio. send me your email if you will thanks.

  2. A lot of talent there. I also found some great artists at