It looks more like torment than like art.

But this is the most prestigious tattoo convention on the planet.

Throngs of people - more than 20,000 in three days - stream into London's Tobacco Dock for a chance to be "inked" by the world's best, says organizer Marcus Beriman.

SOUNDBITE: Marcus Beriman, London Tattoo Convention organizer, saying (English):

"It's a gathering of 320 of the world's greatest artists; this is like the Premier League of tattoo artists from all over the world who come here to show their work."

One of the most famous here is Ami James, star of the TV shows "Miami Ink" and "NY Ink", who says it's no longer taboo to be tattooed.

SOUNDBITE: Ami James, American tattoo artist who appears on the TV series "Miami Ink" and "NY Ink", saying (English):

"You can see by how many people who up to these conventions, how many people actually get tattooed and the art just gets better and better and the artists coming into the game are getting better and better."

And keeping with the pain theme, because fans want to get inked by the best and the convention is just three days long, complex and agonizing tattoos are done in one long session of four to ten hours, instead of over a period of weeks.

SOUNDBITE: Francesco, tattoo enthusiast, saying (English):

"My wife gave me two beautiful children, kids, she gave birth, so I can suffer for my tattoo."

And suffer they do - for the love of exquisite skin art.