Thursday, January 1, 2009

Looking Thru the Archives

The 2nd Annual Rock of Ages Tattoo Arts Festival

by Matthew "Porkchop" Ward
Photos by Scott McCool (Art Intensity Network)

The artists of the Art Fusion Experiment

Jack Rudy

On Saturday, October 16, 2004 my plane touched down at John Wayne airport in Orange County, California at about 3pm. As soon as they announce that it's OK to use cell phones again, I speed dial my partner Scott to let him know that I've arrived and to get the info on the hotel.

Me: "Hey man, I just landed. I should be over in about ..."

Scott: "Good I got you in Art Fusion in an hour!"

Me: "Oh shit!"

My plans of getting some lunch and relaxing for a while before hitting the convention floor are now squashed. It's time to go!

Scott McCool and Matthew "Porkchop" Ward

The Hawleywood Barber

The hotel shuttle picks me up at about 3:15 pm and takes all of three minutes to get me to the Irvine Hilton for the 2nd Annual Rock of Ages Tattoo Arts Festival. I see Scott approaching the shuttle sporting his new slick back "greaser" style hair do from Donnie Hawley of Hawleywood's Barber Shop. We say our hellos and head up to the room. He gives me my press pass and shows me the bitchin' t-shirts show promoter Billy Eason was kind enough to lay on us. We manage to squeeze in a quick lunch and I grab a beer and head for the room where the Art Fusion Experiment is being held.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the Art Fusion Experiment, six artists start six drawings and rotate positions clockwise every three minutes for two hours. This is an exhibition developed by Paul Booth, Guy Aitchison and Leo Zulueta as a means to entertain as well as educate. The finished works are auctioned off for charity.

Art Fusion Experiment

Ben from Capital Tattoo's Charlottesville location is in charge of organizing the exhibition and making sure the auction goes off as planned. For this round - the first of the weekend - Ben has assembled a diverse line-up of artists to collaborate. Along with Ben and myself, he has flash master Boog, Soba of Workhorse Irons, Jesse Smith and Billy Murran (from Italy) on deck to get the art on. We hammer away for two hours and have a great time doing so. Once the pieces were finished, we stood back and took in our work. It was quite an experience. Any artist who has not done the experiment should definitely give it a shot should the opportunity arise.

So now that I'm done covering myself in charcoal dust, it's time to hit the convention floor and see what's going down. Billy Eason and his hard working crew from BIRD Ltd. always bring out the best of the best. In attendance were Jack Rudy, Lil' Roy, Juan Puente, Damon Conklin, Tim Kern, Hunter Spanks, Jay Langer, and a host of other great artists. There also seemed to be an over-abundance of children running around which gave the show a sort of light-hearted effect.

Saturday featured a car show with some down and dirty street rods including one from the Beatnik's Car Club's president Jack Rudy. To entertain the car show patrons, a slew of rock-a-billy bands kept the vibe movin'. There was also an array of intriguing merch booths on display.

Rides at the Rock of Ages Car Show

Once we got our bearings, we started in with the interviews. We talked with Hunter Spanks about his painting project in which he started and completed one painting every day for an entire year. He explained that he plans to release all 365 paintings in a book to be made available to the public.

We also spoke with Shawn Duhey of Guru Tattoo, John Hunter of Capital Tattoo, Billy Murran from Italy and Donnie Hawley of the world famous Hawleywood's Barber Shop. Donnie gave us some insight on his unique world, where men can be men and women are not allowed. Donnie runs one of the only "old fashioned" barber shops left in the country. He has also been recruited by celebrities and movie houses to provide his brand of classic men's hair design.

Late Saturday the rain came which slowed things down a bit, but the show trudged on. One more Art Fusion was held on Sunday and then the art was auctioned off. After we wrapped up our interviews, and the show was winding down for the weekend, a big group of us decided to get dinner together at the Benihana around the corner. They were nice enough to keep the place open for us. But then again, how do you say no to a big group of hungry tattoo artists.

Jack Rudy's Tattooland

Lil' Roy and Lucky of Tattooland

Monday morning Scott and I grab a cab and speed over to Anaheim where we snag a hotel room across from Knott's Berry Farm and wait for a call from Lil' Roy. Once we get the call, we agree to meet around 5 pm. Right on schedule, Roy and Jack Rudy himself arrive to shuttle us over to Tattooland for the grand tour.

Walking into Tattooland is like walking in to a piece of living tattoo history. If these walls could talk - and in a way, they do. You can virtually follow Jack's career just by closely studying the flash. Not to mention the collection of hand drawn promo posters from tattoo shows long past. Tattooland is the text-book definition of the "old school" street shop. All the artists work in a centralized area with flash encircling "the pit." Jack and Roy's offices are just off to the sides.


Jack Rudy and his phat ride

We had a great time talking with Jack and his whole crew of "swarthy stewbums." Artists like Lucky, Rob Dringenberg, Bucky and Bradi Collins all bring their flavor to the mix of influences and styles that makes Tattooland such a diverse environment. And you can expect to hear machines buzzing well into the night. If you are ever in the Anaheim area, you definitely want to stop in for a history lesson. Or if piercings are your game, you can stop next door and visit Koolsville where their friendly, knowledgeable staff can help you with your every need. Tattooland is located at: 2641 W. Lincoln Ave Anaheim, CA 92801 Phone: 714.827.2071

To check out the video version of this show, go to for details. For more about the Rock of Ages convention visit

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