Tattoo fest draws thousands to Boston

Thousands of tattoo fanatics will swarm the John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center this weekend in hopes of getting their favorite designs — from flaming octupuses to planets — permanently inked on their bodies by sought-after artists participating in the 16th annual Boston Tattoo Convention.

The wildly popular event, which is expected to draw more than 5,000 people to the Boylston Street convention center, was packed yesterday with area artists showing off their latest, most colorful designs and eager customers looking to go under the gun and get “inked up.”

“This is almost like a big family reunion,” said Syxx, the show’s master of ceremonies an owner of New York’s Inkllussionist tattoo studio. “It’s amazing.”

The diverse crowd of conventiongoers, which ranged from mothers pushing baby strollers to men wearing vampire fangs, highlighted the growing interest and increasing public acceptance of people sporting tattoos and various kinds of body art, organizers said.

Nathan Alexander, who produces the show and owns Salem’s Witch City Ink, agreed, saying tattooing has quickly become “the most popular form of art.”

“People here don’t go out and buy paintings for their walls. They wear their art on their bodies,” he said. “It’s no longer taboo. Tattoos are very out and open and accepted.”

For many, tattoos are a way of expressing themselves while outwardly displaying their love of art.

Jeremy McIntosh, owner of Pygmalion’s Tattoo in Greenfield, described tattooing as “a super ancient art form.”

“Almost every culture has deep roots in body art. It’s such a hugely diverse thing and different for everybody,” he said. “It’s deeply personal — it’s diverse.”

Leanne Paula, 26, of Lynn, stopped by to get a nautical compass on the inside of her arm to symbolize her time in the U.S. Coast Guard.

“I have 13 tattoos. I got my first when I was 17. It’s been an addiction ever since,” she said. “My favorite tattoo is the American flag on my leg. It’s tearing out of my skin. It was a joke in school — I was so patriotic people said I’d bleed red, white and blue.

“It’s a way to express yourself. Everyone is different. Every tattoo is different,” Paula added.

Also stopping by yesterday was 22-year-old John ­Heaney, of Boston, who went under the gun for eight hours to have a large lion tattooed on his chest.

“I really like lions, that’s all,” Heaney shrugged when asked why he chose the design. “It came out lovely.”