IT WASN'T SO LONG AGO that tattoos were still a somewhat taboo way of expressing oneself. Though they still have a stigma for some people, these days you can find reality shows, clothing lines and other pop culture items based on skin art.
And with its rise in popularity, tattooing has also become recognized as a legitimate art form. Of course you don't have to tell the folks at this weekend's Atlanta Tattoo Arts Festival that. This being their 12th event, they know all about the artistry of tattooing. Here's a quick look at some of the things you can expect if you go.
> Artists: The Atlanta convention has always attracted some of the top artists in the industry, and this year is no exception. From local shops like 13 Roses Tattoo Parlour, Psycho Tattoo, Memorial Tattoo and Ink and Dagger Tattoo to artists such as Big Gus from Los Angeles, North Carolina's Rodney Raines and Tim Kern from Last Rites Tattoo in New York, a wide spectrum of styles and personalities will be on hand. And even if your favorite artist is all booked, it's still a great opportunity to watch them in action for future reference.
> Contests: A big part of any tattoo convention is the opportunity for patrons to show off their ink. For a $10 entry fee, you can proudly display your favorite piece for a panel of judges on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Categories include most realistic, best overall male and female, best sleeve, best large color and best small black and gray. Perhaps the biggest honors are in the tattoo of the day prizes given to the best work done at the end of each day and the best of show, which honors the best work of the entire weekend.
> Vendors: Ink isn't the only thing available for purchase as a variety of vendors share their wares. From tattoo equipment and aftercare products to books of art and sheets of flash (tattoo art), even those afraid of the pain will have something to take home. And clothing merchants such as Little Five Points' Le Petit Mort will offer rockabilly and goth fashions.
> THE 411: 12th annual Atlanta Tattoo Arts Festival. $20 per day; $30 for two-day pass; $40 for weekend pass. Noon-11 p.m. June 13; Noon-midnight June 14; 11 a.m.-6 p.m. June 15. Crown Plaza Atlanta —- Perimeter N.W., 6345 Powers Ferry Road N.W., Atlanta. 404-222-8385, www.atlantatattooartsfestival.com.
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