So, last night Spike TV rewarded us by re-assembling the judges of Ink Master (Chris Núñez, Oliver Peck, and Dave Navarro) and sixteen tattoo artists who think they have what it takes to be called Ink Master. This year, there will be a fourth judge: America. Through the magic of the Internets the viewers will now have a say in the judging of the Elimination tattoo and the final tattoo on the live finale,
This year Spike decided to give us some more flamboyant TV-ready personalities, and let me tell you, they certainly found some good ones. Safe ones, as well. The tattoo community was at one time a haven for the demented and their influence remains strong. We can have Characters on this show, but we’re not interested in thugs and killers.
Starting things off, they had all of the artists meet at a city morgue, a clear test of one’s ability to ignore their surroundings and concentrate on their work. Fortunately the artists will not have to perform their work on cadavers, which was one method apprentices used to use, according to Dave Navarro. No, this is the 21sc Century, and the artists were each assigned silicone limbs and three hours to introduce themselves by showing their renderings of a snake and dagger.
Tatu Baby – She came to represent the Feminist cause and prove that female tattoo artists are just as good as men. Her first effort is a funky New Skool piece that looked really good.
Lalo Yunda – This European-born artist calls his style “Magical Realism” and he does have tremendous skill. His snake was a colorful piece, nothing unusual.
Kay Kutta – A man who learned to tattoo in prison, he has only been doing this for three years, his first tattoo kind of shows it. He then drives the point home with his Elimination tattoo, causing Chris to comment that it is obvious Kay is new at this. Be interesting to see how far he goes.
Cee Jay Jones – brash and arrogant, she is shown giving a dismissive opinion of the assignment, then humiliates herself in her first five minutes of the challenge by spraying ink all over her face. Then she compounds it by turning in a shitty tattoo leaving herself looking like a clown.
Clint Cummings – tattooed, pierced, and Mohawked Clint is a straight-talking clown who can lay down some serious ink. Claiming two decades an ethic that says he must be able to do any style, he will last for a bit or flame out quickly. His snake might have been a bit too dragonish, but the rest of the work was still impressive enough to warrant comment.
Steve Tefft – A devotee of the Black and Gray in particular and Macabre/Horror tattoos in general, this guy has talent. His tattoo was brilliant compared to most of what we saw this episode.
Sarah Miller – Not a perfect piece, but it was still pretty damn good. If she had used more black for the outlines, she might have taken it.
Sebastian Murphy – A well-rounded tattoo artist, he delivers a solid Black and Gray piece with just enough red to set it off.
Jamie Davies – he looks less like a tattoo artist than he does a banker or a computer tech support guy. His first tattoo doesn’t do much to dispel that impression since the snake has a dinosaur head.
Jesse Smith – Developed his own brand of New Skool tattoos and has made it his sole focus. This is going to challenge him, because this is season 2, the contestants know what is expected of them. His snake still incorporates his patented big eyes and teeth theme, so let’s see if he can refrain from that. Still, it was good for a win.
Mark Mathews – Big, tough-looking cat who is not only a tattoo artist, but a mixed martial artists as well. I’m sure there is no possible way these two careers are not perfectly matched. Normally working Black and Gray, he has begun Japanese as well. His first tattoo looks like a cover-up, and according to Oliver, a mediocre one at that.
Tray Benham – His snake was bisected by the dagger, but wasn’t bleeding. The result was as if two separate snakes were wrapped around the blade, the top of one and the bottom of the other.
Nick D’Angelo – 22 years old and competing for the title of Ink Master is a bold move. Unfortunately, his first effort is a completely lack-luster piece that shows a lack of understanding of the task, if you ask me. He tried to put a creative spin on a classic design and completely missed the mark.
Ron Givens – Another New Skool artist, he delivered an over-sized and ultimately lack-luster effort.
Mike Tacj – A 14 year tattoo veteran, he is also the first Little Person on the show. His snake looks more like a dragon, and the judges are not impressed.
TJ Hal – a war veteran known for his New Skool designs. Nice clean, bright tattoo…with no real detailing on anything, though.
Everyone must work with a Tattoo Virgin, someone who has never been inked before. And since Jesse won, he not only gets to pick his own canvas, he gets to assign the others. The fundamentals will be tested tonight, which is going to be tough for one person since some of the tattoos are just ridiculous. One of the canvasses wanted a city made of bacon, for instance. Seriously, he wants to walk around wearing that. Forever.
Tops and Bottoms
Kutta, Steve, Cee Jay, and Sebastian find themselves called down, and there is no confusion about who should be nervous. Both Steve and Sebastian delivered masterworks; the former with a sweet bio-tech tattoo, and the latter rendering a magnificent playing card of a Suicide King.
The judges have a tough task picking one over the other in this match-up, so they don’t make the call. Another, slightly less difficult choice is made between whether they should bounce Kay Kutta or Cee Jay. He didn’t do outline on his fundamentals challenge, and she didn’t pay attention to her spelling, a critical and unforgivable error.
“I think I ruined my career” she laments as the show closes. And I think she might be right.