By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Pasadena Weekly Executive Editor


Carlos Torres sees himself as one part artist and one part therapist.

When his tattoo clients lay on his table, Torres hears their innermost thoughts.

“People spill their guts,” Torres said with a laugh. “When you sit down with them for six to eight hours, you get to know them really well.”

Torres along with Nikko Hurtado will hear plenty of stories when they host the Golden State Tattoo Expo presented by Inked Magazine from Friday, Sept. 17, to Sunday, Sept. 19, at the Pasadena Convention Center.

Guests will have the chance to meet and be tattooed by world-renowned artists, meet Inkmaster artists as seen on television, shop with vendors, see burlesque and magic shows, take seminars, and witness live entertainment by Freakshow Deluxe. Vendors include World Famous Tattoo Supply, Hustle Butter Deluxe, Hush, Fusion Ink, Radiant Colors Ink, Kuro Sumi, Derma Numb, Sullen, Bishop Rotary, Cam Supply Inc. and Tatu Derm. More than 550 artists will be available for tattooing.

Organizers are donating $1 from every ticket sold to Paul Newman’s Camp Boggy Creek for seriously ill children.

All attendees must either show proof of negative COVID-19 test result or proof of vaccination to enter. Masks are also mandatory.

“This is one of the bigger and better ones in California,” Torres said.

Torres has been tattooing since he was 19 and has been making a living at it for 15 years. His skills have taken him around the world — from Canada to Europe to Taiwan.

“Tattooing is popular all over the world,” he said. “The popularity of it has just exploded. The art level of it has grown so crazy. That helped the popularity of tattooing.

“There’s a mixture of fine art and tattooing in the tattoo world. The art level has grown so crazy. Over the past 10 years, it’s been crazy to watch different countries like Australia and Russia explode with these amazing artists.”

Torres knows a thing or two about art, as he’s an oil painter as well.

“I get asked a lot if I’d rather tattoo or paint,” said Torres, who grew up in Gardena but lives in Long Beach. “I love tattooing still. I really do like meeting people and hearing different stories. I hear about their adventures. It’s all about bonding with clients.”

After 25 years in the industry, Torres said clients’ requests do not surprise him. He’s just happy to give them something they deem special and important.

“My clientele is crazy,” he said. “I tattoo surgeons, lawyers, Wall Street guys and then, on the other side, you have your blue-collar guys. Everybody’s more accepting of it now.”

The Golden State Tattoo Expo

WHEN: 4 p.m. to midnight Friday, Sept. 17; noon to midnight Saturday, Sept. 18;

and noon to 7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 19

WHERE: Pasadena Convention Center, 300 E. Green Street, Pasadena

COST: Tickets start at $30

INFO: or

OTHER: Full vaccination or negative test result is required. All individuals must wear a mask over the mouth and nose, regardless of vaccination status, at all times while indoors at the event. Individuals may temporarily remove their mask while actively eating or drinking, seated at a designated table or standing at a stationary counter. Individuals may not eat, drink, smoke or vape while in the tattoo booth or while moving through the event.