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Tattoo Lesson No. 1 comes courtesy of Danville resident Eric Moore: Never ink someone’s name on your body — unless it’s simply Mom.

Moore, 54 and laughing hysterically, said he speaks from experience. And that’s apparently all anyone needs to know.

Lesson No. 2, offered first by event producer Izzy La Plante and then by pretty much everyone else attending the annual Tattoos & Blues convention at Santa Rosa’s Flamingo hotel: “You pay what the man asks.”

A tattoo is permanent. It’s no time to be a cheapskate. Quality costs — by the hour, usually.

Lesson No. 3? The body reacts to pain — not always unpleasantly.

Adrenaline, endorphins, they can be a real rush — though not always enough to erase the sting.

But for many of those gathered for the start of this year’s three-day ink fest, now in its 25th year, there’s ecstasy in the agony — a kind of therapeutic venting of anxiety and personal torment. “Addicting” is a term used often by those with multiple tattoos.

“It reminds me that I’ve been in a helluva lot more pain in the past,” said Elizabeth Wages, 34, of Rohnert Park, whose body bears the memories of her parents and grandparents in images that she understands. “It’s a moving on. It’s a healing process.”

For someone like Sonoma resident Michael Calas, 30, who spent Friday afternoon in severe discomfort as Shotsie Gorman used the whole of Calas’ hip and thigh to depict the 1521 death of Conquistador Ferdinand Magellan at the hands of a Filipino tribal leader, pain “is just the price of the artistry.”

Calas, who already has an inked portrait of his Filipino grandpa on his shoulder, and his grandmother on his upper chest, said the new piece is a symbol of the “constant struggle” his ancestors have endured.

“This is me, as an adult, trying to link up with my culture, being able to display my heritage,” he said between grimaces.

Patrons of the three-day event, now in its 25th year, are a diverse crowd with enough variation in their tastes and artistic vision to warrant the participation of 72 tattoo artists, La Plante said.

But with something like 3,000 expected to attend over the weekend, the artists would likely be kept busy, as most were Friday afternoon.

In one corner, Robbie Rittenhouse of San Luis Obispo County re-created a photo portrait of actor Jared Leto as the Joker from the upcoming supervillain movie “Suicide Squad” on the lower leg of Santa Rosa resident Lance Nunn.

Nunn, 38, already has a masked Hannibal Lecter tattoo and the creatures from “Alien” and “Predator,” among innumerable others.

“I’m into movie themes,” he said.

His fiancee, Jules Costa, veered toward the literary, with a two-dimensional bust of Edgar Allen Poe on her upper arm, a dark raven inked nearby, and on her forearm that famous line, “Quoth the Raven, Nevermore.”

Like all of those interviewed, their selections were quite personal, mostly custom, sometimes collaborative creations of patron and artist, like Calas’ and Gorman’s Magellan. People will sit for hours at a time, sometimes over six or eight sessions, or more, depending on the size and degree of detail in their tattoo. Some interviewed had invested several thousand dollars before their images were complete.

Moore, a longtime Daly City firefighter, has transformed much of his body into a living tribute to the 343 New York firefighters who lost their lives on 9/11. His broad back provided the canvas for a mural of the now-destroyed Twin Towers, as well as 1 World Trade Center, the “Freedom Tower” rebuilt at the site.

His companion, Cristina Gutierrez, had converted her entire right leg into a jungle scene, and atop her shaved scalp, a peacock in brilliant shades of red and orange roosted.

For Jesse Jean, who accompanied her fiance, Santa Cruz tattooist Jason Wayne, to the convention, it’s all about “girlie and bright pink” images, more than 100 of them.

“I just feel like they’re accessories,” she said.

La Plante said the art form’s popularity reflects a need for self-expression but also an avenue for self-interpretation.

“It helps people identify with themselves in a world where people don’t know what to believe in,” he said.

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.

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