Mark Steven was one of dozens of people lying on their backs, fronts, sides – and all sorts of other positions – at Trustpower Baypark Arena in Mount Maunganui at the weekend.

They were all experiencing pain, willingly.

Steven would stay there for between six and eight and a half hours and was paying good money for the opportunity.

Sitting next to him, intensely focused, wearing black gloves and headphones, was artist Dave Freeman, of InkRush Tattoos, machine in hand.


Freeman was slowly tattooing a permanent image of American singer Prince onto Steven's arm.

"This arm here, it's like a music legend's sleeve that we've been working on for a couple of years now," Steven explained, still lying on his back. "Just about there."

There's Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and now, Prince.

"And that's basically all I've got room for, really. And then we're going to do some kind of filling stuff and backgrounds and things like that."

A close-up of the work in progress. Photo / Andrew Warner
A close-up of the work in progress. Photo / Andrew Warner

The "sleeve" will cost the 45-year-old Auckland musician about $5000 in total.

This was his second year at the NZ Tattoo & Art Extravaganza in Tauranga; he travelled here specifically to get the Prince tattoo.

The Prince piece was his fifth tattoo done by Freeman and the two have spent plenty of time together in the process.

"I think once you find an artist that you trust, it's no problem to sit with them for hours and we don't generally talk too much, it's just focusing in on the task at hand," Steven said.

The crowd at Trustpower Baypark Arena on Saturday. Photo / Andrew Warner
The crowd at Trustpower Baypark Arena on Saturday. Photo / Andrew Warner

The NZ Tattoo & Art Extravaganza had Brazilian and Samoan dancers, rock, rock'n roll, bogan blues, reggae and funk rock bands, Taiwanese indigenous performers, wearable art shows, tattoo competitions and exhibitions, a magician, and DJs.

Event organiser Chris Preece said this year had more of a focus on indigenous art, and the cultural dance groups on stage complemented that.

At the conclusion of last year's event, Preece had a portrait of his daughter tattooed on his leg. This year, it was not up to him. He lost a bet.

He and his friend are big rugby league fans; he supports Queensland, his friend supports New South Wales.

"... I'm getting a New South Wales tattoo on my leg, unfortunately, since I lost that bet."

Preece said Tauranga has a younger demographic now than it used to "so we saw an opening and an opportunity to run an event here that was a little bit different".

He said it seems to be working and seems to be well-received.

"So we're looking to stay."

Just like his new New South Wales tattoo.