Byron Winkelman of Gilbert's Black Lotus Tattooers on His Aversion to Portraits and Winning First Place at the Arizona Tattoo Expo

Courtesy of Byron Winkelman
As the owner and a tattooer at Black Lotus Tattooers, Winkelman has to balance owning a business with creating his art.

Some artists tattoo for the money. Others do it to make a name for themselves. For Byron Winkelman of Black Lotus Tattooers in Gilbert, tattooing isn't about the money or the acknowledgments, it's about a love of all things artistic.

"It's hard to make money as an artist. The starving artist is a real thing," Winkelman says. "If I had all the money in the world, I'd tattoo people and paint for free. I don't really like the business side of it."

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Josh Carter of 5th Estate Tattoo on His Grossest Tattooing Moment

Josh Chesler
Josh Carter of 5th Estate Tattoo has a very unique take on the Japanese style of tattooing.

Like many other 18-year-olds, Josh Carter had earned himself a scholarship to community college. And like many other community college students, Carter didn't know what he wanted to do with his life.

"I was at Pierce College [in California], just taking some random classes, and I met this girl who was a piercer," Carter says. "This was like 1996, so it was crazy to see an alt-girl with a bunch of tattoos and piercings."

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Tony Goeke of Love and Hate Tattoo & Piercing on the Most Memorable Tattoo He's Done (And Redone)

Courtesy of Tony Goeke
Goeke isn't just a tattoo artist. His paintings can be found all over the walls of Love and Hate Tattoo in Phoenix.

Like many tattoo artists before him, Tony Goeke got into tattooing when a shop opened up in his hometown.

"A shop opened up in my town [Richmond, Indiana], and I ran into one of the guys who owned it," Goeke says. "He was trying to get more people to come in, so I started hanging out there, and that's how I got started."

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William "Boomer" Baker of Fifth Finger Tattoo on Ink as Art and the Gun Accident That Changed his Life

Josh Chesler
William "Boomer" Baker of Fifth Finger Tattoo Studio sees the artistic side of tattooing a little differently than many others.

When William "Boomer" Baker lost his left index finger to a gun malfunction about a decade ago, he thought it was the end of his artistic career. Instead, it turned out to be just the life-changing event that he needed.

"I used to collect guns. One time I was messing with a gun, and it malfunctioned in my hand and took my finger," Boomer says. "I figured I wasn't going to be able to draw. I was worried that I'd have nothing to keep me sane, so I'd be getting into trouble and just doing stuff that wasn't good for me. Instead, it kind of made me switch to all art, all the time. It motivated me to show everyone that it's just a finger."

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Age Drago of Tempe's Living Canvas Tattoos on Clever Ink and Why Tattoo Competitions Suck

Josh Chesler
Age Drago is one of Tempe's top American-style tattoo artists, particularly when it comes to funny tattoos.

If Age Drago's mom had been all right with him getting his lip pierced, it might've changed his entire life.

"We had just moved from Mississippi to Arizona my sophomore year of high school, and I was really into punk rock," Drago says. "I told my mom I wanted to get my lip pierced, but she refused and said she'd rather me get a tattoo than a piercing. So she took me in to get my first tattoo when I was 15, I got an anarchy symbol to keep it punk. By the time I was 18, I think I had three more tattoos."

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Anthony Diaz of Glendale's Knucklehead Tattoo on Biomechanical Tattoos and Wacom Tablets

Josh Chesler
Anthony Diaz of Knucklehead Tattoo & Piercing takes on another detailed biomechanical piece.

Anthony Diaz realized when he was just a little kid that he wanted to be some kind of artist, but he didn't really consider tattooing until his coworkers started asking him for tattoos.

"Ever since I was little, I was always drawing," Diaz says. "I always wanted to do art, but I went to a mechanics school. While I was there, the other guys would see me drawing on my papers and started asking me to do tattoos on them."

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Ian Loughlin of Chandler's Disciple Tattoo on Realism and Gangster Unicorn Tattoos

Josh Chesler
Loughlin's black and grey realism work is some of the best in the Valley.

When Ian Loughlin's brother bought him a tattoo kit and asked for a tattoo, he probably didn't expect it to lead to a career.

"I was just doing graffiti and drawing at the time, and I was getting tattooed myself a lot, so my brother just asked me to tattoo him," says Loughlin, now one of the Valley's top artists at Disciple Tattoo in Chandler. "The kit came with some fake skin to practice tattooing on, but I wanted to really learn how to tattoo before I tattooed my brother."

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Mario G. of Tempe's Lady Luck Tattoo Gallery on His Maleficent, Starbucks, and Spongebob Tattoos

Josh Chesler
Mario G is one of Metro Phoenix's top young tattoo artists.

When 26-year-old Mario G. stopped by a tattoo shop to watch his buddy get tattooed, he didn't think it would lead him to tattooing as a career.

It just so happened that on that particular day in 2007, Mario was wearing a T-shirt that he had designed and silkscreened. The artists at the shop took notice of the shirt and asked him who drew the design.

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Mikey Sarratt of Phoenix's High Noon Tattoo on Tattooing the Arizona Coyotes

Courtesy of Mikey Sarratt
Mikey Sarratt of High Noon Tattoos focuses on the traditional fundamentals of tattoos in all forms of his art.

When Mikey Sarratt was growing up, he wanted to be a hockey player. Sarratt's NHL aspirations didn't work out, but now, after a stint in semi-pro hockey, he gets to be involved with the Arizona Coyotes in a different way. He tattoos most of them.

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Meg McNiel of Phoenix's Love and Hate Tattoo & Piercing on Straight-Up Old-School Tattoos

Courtesy of Meg McNiel
Meg McNiel is one of Phoenix's most experienced and accomplished "old school" tattoo artists

When she was 13, Meg McNiel, now co-owner of Love and Hate Tattoo & Piercing in Phoenix, hand-poked a moon tattoo on her ankle in her home outside Seattle.

"I don't even know how I knew it, but I knew that if you wrapped a sewing needle in thread so just the end was exposed and dipped it in India ink, the ink would stay when you poked yourself with it," McNiel says.

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