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Tattoo artist Fip Buchanan with his clients Alison (right) and Heidi. Photo by Promise Yee
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Museum showcases tattoo work by top local artists

OCEANSIDE — Oceanside Museum of Art held its fourth annual Masterworks of Body Art show Sept. 8. The show combined art history with a runway show of tattoo models.

This year traditional American, Japanese and modern classic tattoo styles were featured

by Fip Buchanan, Rob Benavides, and several other artists.

Fip Buchanan of Avalon Tattoo II in San Diego is recognized as a legend in the field for his unique designs and profound artistry.

Buchanan started his career as a professional tattoo artist in 1984.

Model shows work by tattoo artist Rob Benavides. Photo by Promise Yee

“I was influenced by traditional American and Japanese work and put it together with a pop art feel,” Buchanan said.

He custom creates his designs, but said his clients have the major say in choosing the main design elements and body placement of their tattoos.

“People seldom pick a design that’s pre-existing,” Buchanan said. “It’s the job of the artist to create that for them.”

Buchanan’s artistry can be seen in how he sizes the design to fit the client’s body and fluidly creates transitional elements between the featured shapes.

Tattoo model Joshua Martelli wore a KOI fish and dragon tattoo designed by Buchanan. He said the attention to how the design fits his arm and the details in the Japanese style waves that connect the two features was more than he expected.

“It’s a profound experience I couldn’t have predicted,” Martelli said.

Buchanan said he always consults his clients on the permanence of their choices.

He said he does not tattoo people’s faces and only applies tattoos to hands, arms and necks if clients have experience wearing tattoos.

“It is becoming more commonplace, but still can affect the work and jobs you’re able to do,” Buchanan said.

Buchanan’s advice for anyone considering a tattoo is to select an artist based on personal compatibility and the style of his or her work.

“Take your time and look for an artist you connect with so you can get the work you want,” Buchanan said. “If the style of the artist doesn’t match your vision it will not be the artist for the job.”

Buchanan has won numerous awards for his work and is highly regarded by his peers. He also draws and paints professionally.

Rob Benavides of Flying Panther Tattoo and Gallery in San Diego was also featured in the show.

He is known for his traditional American style tattoo work.

Benavides started working as a professional tattoo artist in 1994.

Over the years he graduated from using a stencil guideline on the skin to directly tattooing designs freehand.

Benavides learned the craft from master tattoo artists Joe Scapini of Jade Dragon Tattoo in Chicago and Fip Buchanan.

“Jade Dragon taught me the basic of tattooing,” Benavides said. “He taught me technique basics. He also taught me a deep respect for the craft and classic style tattooing.”

With basic techniques under his belt Benavides began working with Buchanan in 1996.

“Fip was my main mentor,” Benavides said. “He taught me how to mature and develop my tattooing technique with my own style.”

Benavides describes his style as traditional classic. He often tattoos classic images of daggers, roses, and hearts with banners and “Mom” written across them.

His clients request an image and Benavides translates it into art.

“They give me the root of the basic idea and let me run with it,” Benavides said.

In addition to tattoos, Benavides also paints professionally and designs decks for Lurkville USA Skateboards.

“Nowadays the sky’s the limit,” Benavides said.

“You can network and do other types of artwork at a reasonably high level.”

Other tattoo artists featured in the show included Milton Cardenas of Tattoo Royale, Dominick Gonzalez of 1st Amendment, and Kahlil Rintye of Ed Hardy’s Tattoo City.