SOUTH PORTLAND — Dave Buchanan is a very trusting man.

Not only is the Portlander willing to let James McGrory stick him over and over again in the arm with a needle, he’s letting McGrory follow his own artistic vision when he does so.

Sunday, McGrory was working on Buchanan’s lower right arm, creating a tableau of flowing water and lotus flowers, complementing the already completed scene on Buchanan’s left arm of a woman in a kimono with an Asian-art inspired wooded background.

Despite the fact that he would be carrying McGrory’s design around with him forever, Buchanan said he largely gave his arm over to his tattoo artist, who put in a few more hours on the piece Sunday afternoon at the Hatter Remains Reunion Tattoo Show at the Best Western Merry Manor.

“I leave a lot of the decisions up to the artists,” said Buchanan, whose left arm was done several years ago by a different artist and touched up recently by McGrory. “I give them a general idea, but then I let them do what they want.”

Buchanan resisted the urge to watch McGrory’s every move, instead concentrating on keeping calm while the artist and his tattooing tool pricked away.

Buchanan said getting a tattoo is a pain, literally.

“If someone says it doesn’t hurt, they’re lying,” Buchanan said, putting the pain at “a three or four” on a scale of one to 10.

McGrory said he’s got about 15 years worth of experience tattooing, starting in Colorado where he apprenticed with another artist before starting out on his own. He’s since moved to Maine, where he runs Fianna Studio in Portland.

Buchanan is a tollbooth worker for the Maine Turnpike Authority, where he says he’s a daily advertisement for McGrory’s skill as he reaches out to take money from motorists. If someone asks, Buchanan said, he’ll eagerly tell him where he got the tattoo.

Nearby, Dan Doyle was admiring his newly completed tattoo of an eagle, and the words “Papa” and “Nana” below it, on his upper left arm. The tattoo, Doyle said, is a tribute to his grandfather, who raised him and had an eagle tattoo of his own from World War II.

His grandfather died last year, Doyle said, so he decided to get a similar tattoo.

“I showed my nana,” Doyle, of West Warwick, R.I., said, “and she literally broke down in tears, so I added her name.”

Doyle’s tattoo was done by Dennis Correia of Forbidden Flesh Tattoo Studio in Conventry, R.I. Correia said he’s been coming to the Maine tattoo show for years, where he wins awards for his designs, gets together with other artists and, he hopes, gets a few new customers.

Like McGrory, Correia learned the craft from another tattoo artist, then branched out on his own.

Tattooing is no cheap thrill. Correia said he charges $75 to come up with a drawing after talking over design options with customers. The actual tattooing runs $150 an hour, and many tattoos take several long sessions to complete.

Correia said once the drawing is approved, he transfers it via a copying machine to carbon paper. He presses the carbon paper to the area where the tattoo is applied to provide a stencil of the design, and then goes to work.

The machine is equipped with a needle that’s dipped in ink and then used to rapidly prick the customer, getting the ink just under the skin. Correia said it takes a deft touch — push too hard and the ink can spread unevenly under the skin, and too lightly and it isn’t applied properly.

It’s painstaking work for the artist and some pain — plus a lot of money — for the customer, but for Correia, it’s an outlet for his artistic talent, not too much different than sketching with a pencil and pad. “Except there’s no erasing,” he said.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

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