Alright, I’ll be honest: up until this year, I didn’t exactly understand what Baby Tattooville was. From scraps of information I’d gathered in passing online and in conversation, I assumed it was some “secret society” gathering that is closed to the public and was by invite only. And while that isn’t entirely untrue, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it’s something any of us can attend, providing we have the cash to cover the tab.
So what’s Baby Tattooville all about? Who can attend, what’s there to do and where the heck is it? Fellow CP boardie Ron “Thotfulspot” Hollatz attended for the second time this year and was kind enough to give us the full scoop. Read on, be inspired and wish you were there.
By Ron “Thotfulspot” Hollatz
On the first weekend of October, artists and collectors from all over the country gather in Riverside, CA, at the historic Mission Inn. The location is quirky enough that it fits the event perfectly. Everyone gets lost in the maze of courtyards and hallways at least once during the event. It also has areas where there are courtyards with connected conference rooms so you can have multiple things going on at the same time. The event runs from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon.
To understand Baby Tattooville, you have to forget what you think about any other event. It’s not a con with a lot of art available for sale. It is set up as a weekend where the barrier between artists and collectors disappears and everyone joins in on the fun. Dinner each night is done as a group along with Sunday brunch. When the event starts on Friday, one room is set up as a typical conference room with a raised platform for the artists. The organizer, Bob Self, starts off by saying this will be the only time you will see this formal setting. From that point on, we’re one big group.
This was our second year attending. Last year was overwhelming: for the 5th anniversary, all the previous artists were invited back, and over 30 accepted. This year was a more typical year with about a dozen artists: Coop, Mark Frauenfelder, Gris Grimly, Brandi Milne, Nouar, Kathie Olivas, Nathan Ota, Brandt Peters, Ragnar, Rob Reger and Risk. It’s hard to determine the exact number since some attend as guests, or just pop in for a few hours to join the fun.
As far as collectors/attendees, there are 50 spots available; for an extra charge, a second person can come but they don’t receive the goodies. Each guest receives at least one piece of art from each artist. We also received a “11 X 11″ print with a 5” image from each artist on one sheet, along with a hand drawn image in the center by Gris Grimly, who completed the drawings during the event. A blank 12X12 sheet was also given to each artist for them to do a line drawing that will be provided as a pack for each guest.
The best item for the guests and artists is called the Art Jam. After the opening ceremonies, a blank canvas is set up in a room with chairs for spectators. Each artist (and some of the guest artists) is expected to contribute to the painting. This year RISK was chosen to start it off and sprayed a beautiful orange, yellow and purple background with other colors matching that color palette. Other artists then jumped in and started adding different elements.
The Art Jam runs from Friday afternoon until Saturday evening. At some point (usually in the middle of the night) someone or a group decide the painting needs to take a different direction. My wife went down before me Saturday morning and came back very upset … someone had covered the center section of the canvas with pink paint. None of the existing work was covered up, which has happened in other years. This happens every year and it finally made sense: artists who were working at the beginning chose a spot and just worked on their piece; Brandt Peters painted one of his signature Skelves up in the top left corner, Ragnar a lovely lady on the far right. Others chose similar areas. By covering the areas in between with an obnoxious color, it forced the artists to work together, filling in those spaces to make a more cohesive piece.
Kathie Olivas got right to work the next morning, attacking a large area in the middle with one of her Misery Children. As the painting progressed and the canvas became full, the fun really started as artists started working on each others’ work. That’s what makes the painting a true group effort and unique. In the end, many of us thought this was the best of the Art Jams.
There is a small store set up with whatever each artist brought to sell — anything from original paintings to designer toys. Each guest has a number based on when they first attended Baby Tattooville. The store opens on Friday night and guests are able to purchase one item based on their number. Afterwards, the store is open to everyone. Again, this is not a selling event. Each artist brings only a few items, so you don’t end up buying much. Getting sketches from the artists is really what most people are after.
The incredible Sunday brunch wraps up the event. After eating, the guests pick up their gift bags and head out to wherever they came from. There is usually a group (my wife and I included) that stay an extra night and gather at the pool for a relaxing post party. Most people continue to attend each year and it’s great to see friends from years past. I strongly recommend the event if you want a relaxing weekend hanging out with artists and art enthusiasts. It’s like no other event I’ve attended.
Want to see more snaps from the adventure in Paradise? Have a look at Ron’s Flickr.