Jazlynn Schwegman has always been proud of her Native American ancestry.
On Saturday, the 18-year-old had that pride permanently inked on her body: The tattoo on the back of her shoulder shows a chief with a snarling bear headdress.
"The bear symbolizes courage," said Schwegman, one of hundreds who attended the fourth annual Kansas City Tattoo Arts Convention.
The convention at the Sheraton Kansas City Hotel at Crown Center started Friday and goes through Sunday. It was organized by Villain Arts, a Philadelphia-based company that plans tattoo conventions all over the country.
Troy Timpel said Kansas City's tattoo convention gets bigger every year.
"They're really embracing the tattoo culture here," he said, adding that tattoos have come a long way since the 1940s, when they became popular among soldiers in World War II, and the 1960s, when body art became aligned with the counterculture.
The Kansas City convention drew more than 400 local and national artists. Among them: Several stars of the TV shows "Ink Master" and "Best Ink," and living legend Lyle Tuttle, who tattooed the heart on Janis Joplin's chest more than 50 years ago.
Joplin's heart made it more socially acceptable for women to get tattoos.
Tuttle, who also inked Cher, Daryl Hall and every member of the Allman Brothers Band, started his career 70 years ago. His first tattoo was a classic: A heart with the word "Mother" on his inner arm.
When he was starting out in the 1940s, "I worked with red, green and black ink," Tuttle said.
Today there are hundreds of pigments to choose from, and thousands of artists.
"There are more tattoo artists in this room than there were in the whole world when I started," Tuttle said.
More than 400 artists attended the Kansas City convention. About half were from outside of Kansas City.
A memorial at the shop's booth featured photos of Fisk, along with candles and a bouquet of white flowers. Many who attended the convention donated money to help pay bills to keep the shop up and running. Fisk's friends, who declined to comment for this story, are also collecting donations on GoFundMe.
In addition to artists, the convention featured vendors selling a wide variety of items — tattoo balm, jewelry, posters, shirts and collectible items, such as animal skulls and framed preserved spiders. There were also shows by contortionists, a man who suspends himself by hooks in his skin, and The Enigma, an internationally known performer with horn implants and blue jigsaw pieces inked all over his body.
On Saturday, the carpeted convention hall was filled with the smell of incense and the sounds of buzzing tattoo machines and hard rock, from Bowie to Filter. Many attendees showed off their individuality with body art, piercings and hair in a rainbow of colors. Kids came, too: The tallest mohawk in the room was sported by a boy who looked around 9.
Dee Wiedmaier of Kansas City barely winced as California artist Blaise Moreno inked a female pirate on her left thigh. Moreno, who has a skull tattooed on the top of his bald head and "King" across his forehead, looked deep in concentration as he worked on the black outline of the pirate's flowing hair.
"He's my Van Gogh," Wiedmaier said.
Timpel said large tattoos like Wiedmaier's are trending. So are Japanese styles and "sacred geometry," precise shapes filled in with small black dots.
Photorealism is also in. That's the specialty of Angel Antonio, the artist who tattooed the Native American chief on Schwegman's shoulder.
Antonio, 26, owns Black Atlas Studios in Chicago and charges $200 an hour for his work. He says he's developed more business in the KC area since he started attending the convention two years ago.
Schwegman's dad, Jason Schwegman, watched as Antonio drew the outline of the bear headdress on his daughter's shoulder. The proud father said he was just happy to spend a day with his daughter, who is heading to Pennsylvania's Lafayette College in the fall to study environmental microbiology.
"I love it," Jason Schwegman said of his daughter's first tattoo. "The Native American blood comes from my side. And she's liked animals since she was itty-bitty."