Sometimes the best things are hard to find. Just off the beaten path in Newcomerstown lies Kirk Kitzman's art studio. Named for the year that Kitzman was born and the fact that his business is his own project -- Projekt 73 tattoo was established in the small town three years ago.

And earlier this year, he was honored by being asked to join one of the best known tattoo artists in the country at a convention in California. The honor is fitting because Kitzman is originally from Modesto, Calif., where he was first introduced to tattoos.

"When I was a kid, my uncle was a biker and I saw some of his friends with tattoos," said Kitzman. "I liked to draw and they kind of came together."

Kitzman focuses mainly on custom work and was invited to participate in the third annual Living Inks Tattoo Expo in Stockton, Calif., tattooing under the Talisman booth with big name award winning artists like Chow and Juan Gonzalez.

"It was a good way to get to know other artists," said Kitzman. "It was a good way to watch and learn their styles."

This three-day event proved to be a learning experience for him because Chow has been tattooing for 20 years.

It was Kitzman's first time working at a convention where artists and collectors gather together to celebrate the medium, network and raise awareness for charities.

Also in attendance was the Wind and Fire Motorcycle Club which is a group of firefighters that share a love for Harley Davidson motorcycles and helping children in need.

During his service in the Air Force, Kitzman started to collect tattoos from Florida, Germany and Oklahoma City. He also started a couple of bands with a group of his friends including "This Above All" which was a Christian-based hardcore band.

When his time in the service came to an end, he followed one of the bands to Ohio where he met his wife, Christie, and had a daughter named Azure. His wife earned her degree at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and together their artistic capabilities seem to be rubbing off on now 9-year-old Azure.

Kitzman took the next step toward becoming a tattoo artist when he moved to Ohio. Melissa Johnson of Professional Tattoo in Canton took him under her wing as an apprentice and began showing him the ropes.

"I've been tattooing for about nine years," said Kitzman. "I started by tattooing on my friends."

Now Kitzman has an apprentice of his own. Stephanie Zinck has been working with Kitzman for two months learning the craft and doing some of the behind the scenes work necessary to run a tattoo shop.

His artwork can be seen on Facebook and Myspace. Kitzman's love for quality art is present in his black and gray, and colorful pieces that his customers sport on their bodies.

For more information, call (330) 447-6558 or visit his studio behind his home at 252 Cross St. in Newcomerstown.