Not much of the skin Matt Gone was born with remains because he's covered nearly all of it with tattoos.
That includes his eyeballs, eyelids, tongue and even his most intimate body parts.
There are only two places left to be tattooed, Gone told the Herald in a telephone interview: The palms of his hands and bottoms of his feet.
"And not because I haven't tried having them tattooed," said Gone, 42, of Portland. "For some reason, the ink hasn't held there. But I'm going to try one last time using a new technique. The artist trying out this new technique on my palms will be Jodi Griffin from Texas."
Griffin will tackle his palms at the Three Rivers Tattoo Convention on Sept. 27-29 at the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick. Admission is $15 a day, or $35 for a three-day pass.
Gone's tattoo journey began at age 16, when he got his first tattoo to cover up a birth defect.
"I was born with Poland syndrome, and I was very self-conscious about it," he said.
The syndrome is a rare birth defect brought on by the absence of the chest muscle on one side of the body, he said.
"My left pectoral and lower left biceps are missing, which leaves me with a weak left arm and side," he said. "And once I started (tattooing), I couldn't stop. By the time I turned 28, my whole body was almost completely covered with my own designs."
Gone also has curvature of the spine, was born with only one kidney and suffers constant pain in his left shoulder, which causes him to walk with a limp, he said.
Tattooing provided a way to hide his deformities and overcome the embarrassment when he chose to go shirtless, he said.
Some of his tattoos he did himself.
"I tattooed my genitals so that area would connect them to the rest of my designs," he said. "It was impossible at the time to find an artist I trusted enough to do that tattooing, so I did it myself."
He also had his upper front teeth all gold-crowned and self-tattooed a portion of the whites of his eyeballs, a daring endeavor he doesn't advise anyone to undertake.
"It's very tricky, and I am lucky that I haven't had any problems with my vision," he said.
He appears at tattoo conventions all over the world and has made appearances on TV shows. He'll also be featured as the checkered man at the next NASCAR race in November in Fort Worth, Texas, he said.
Gone's body art designs are an eclectic mix of patterns as unusual as the man himself.
His head is a checkerboard, a giant eye sits above his navel, crowd scenes adorn his thighs, skeletons are on the sides of his ribcage, and geometric patterns laced with the checkerboard theme swirl through all the contours of his 5-foot-6 frame.
He doesn't deny the extreme body art makes him look freakish to many people. However, he has high hopes the media exposure of his tattoo art will give others with birth defects a little inspiration to overcome their lack of self-confidence.
"Yeah, I went out on a limb with my tattoos, but I really want others who suffer like I do to know that they can still find a way to feel good about themselves," he said. "Get creative and think of a way to make yourself feel better is my advice. My happiness just happened to come from tattoos."
His body art cost him close to $80,000 by the time he completed the process 15 years ago.
"That would be about $150,000 in today's prices," he said. "When I got mine, it was long before tattoos became the in thing, so they didn't cost as much then as they do now. But I have to be real careful these days because my health is at risk from all the inking. I have to take antibiotics the rare times I do tattoo anymore."
He also changed how he lives his life since he found out a few years ago he has only one kidney.
"When I was born, they didn't have ultrasound that would probably have picked up my lack of a kidney," he said. "Instead I put a lot of stress on my body living fast and furious and all the tattooing. But I no longer drink, do drugs or smoke. And I eat only what's healthy for me."
-- Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; email@example.com; Twitter: @dorioneal