Animal House

This week Oliver Peck had to take off because he had a scheduling conflict. He was running his own tattoo convention, you see. Fortunately they were able to get a special guest judge to fill in for him, Forrest Cavacco.


Flash Challenge:  Dimension.

This week the artists were tasked with sandblasting a series of images onto seven sheets of glass which, once stacked, would reveal a 3D image. It was another team event and, once again, Jason Clay Dunn got to create the teams since he had won last week’s Elimination Challenge. He paired up the usual rivals, but he tried to handicap Josh with Julia who had suffered some sort of unexplained eye injury.

Julia and Josh

Cris and Angel decided to only use five of the seven panes, and it was a decision that won the day for them. It was a decision that didn’t sit well with too many of the other artists, but as Forrest commented, there is genius in simplicity. It is that understated elegance that keeps winning the day every season in challenge after challenge.

Glass by Cris and Angel

Using their power to assign skulls they decide to pit artists of equivalent skill against each other. The exception being that they paired Emily and Ty’esha, a gift to the latter. In a move that is becoming decidedly dull they once again tried to give Josh a rib canvas because apparently no one pays attention. To make it interesting, however, Josh’s opponent would be Cleen Rock One who was also doing a bear tattoo.

Naturally Josh gets his canvas to switch locations, and Jason Clay Dunn just keeps on being a pussy about it. No matter how many times he has been told by Nunez and Peck that being a tattoo artist also involves being a salesman, he just refuses to get it. He is a very skilled artist, but such a fucking whiner that it’s hard to believe that he was brought back.

The weirdest complaint I heard, however, came from Ryan who was tattooing a chestnut colored horse on a canvas with…chestnut colored skin. To me, this should be easy as fuck…just use shading and minimal outlines and allow her natural skin tone to do the work for you. Then again, I’m not an artist so what the fuck do I know?

Elimination Challenge



Human Canvas Jury

Ryan was judged to be the worst tattoo of the day, and the HCJ had a bunch of terrible work to choose from. Despite his complaints about the coloration, what got him was the fact that this tattoo was tore up from the ground up. The musculature was off, the face is jacked…this tattoo is a fucking mess.

Horse by Ryan

I was shocked to hear that Ryan was getting bounced and not Mark because…DAMN. First Dave Navarro commented that the elephant looked like it was wrapped in bacon, then Nunez straight up told Mark that it was getting harder and harder to justify allowing him to stay in the competition since Mark has been on the bottom so many times.

Bacon Elephant by Mark

Shit is getting real, and if Mark doesn’t win the Elimination Challenge next week, I think he is going to be gone.






God-Awful Geishas

Keeping things fresh on a reality TV show is difficult, but one of the best aspects of Ink Master is that since the show is based so heavily on artistry, they have almost limitless options. This week, for the Flash Challenge, only four artists would be competing…and only after they successfully sold themselves to their human canvasses.

Flash Challenge:  Composition

Erik Siuda won this one with a tree that the judges thought was clean, simple, and very well done.

Tree by Erik Siuda

Emily went the opposite route and created a fanciful hybrid of a tree and an octopus. It wasn’t a bad idea, especially since her canvas had some bizarre idea about a tree that was a hybrid of three or four others, something none of the artists even remotely understood.

Octotree by Eimly

Unfortunately the judges didn’t like the way she combined the two images, they saw it as two separate tattoos that were stacked onto each other with no real flow from one to the other.

Elimination Challenge:  This week, all of the canvasses wanted a Geisha, one of the strongest tests of an artist’s ability to compose an excellent tattoo. Japanese art is extremely meticulous, and the Geisha is even more difficult to pull off than the pin-up. To make matters worse, two of the female canvasses wanted their ribs done. Given command of skull assignments Erik tried to throw Josh under the bus, but like others before him, he underestimated Josh’s salesmanship. With ridiculous ease Josh got his canvas to switch placement, meaning he just had to prove that he can actually draw, a major complaint other artists had against him in Season 3. Unfortunately, all he managed to prove was that he still can’t draw.

Geisha by Josh Hubbard

It’s a beautiful tattoo that I would proudly wear, but it’s a reproduction of a photo he found on the internet. Also, the background doesn’t match the subject matter, something that I didn’t know until Chris Nunez pointed it out. That background was part of the composition, and that is what they were looking for.

Human Canvas Jury: The HCJ and the Judges agreed that this tattoo was an unreadable mess. It’s not that the line work was bad, or that the composition was off…it’s just that everything bleeds together into a dark mass of shadows.  Chris really blew it with this one, and he enraged his rival Angel Bauta by seemingly just giving up on the entire competition. When they returned to the loft to await the judging Angel ripped into him for not rising to the occasion. It was a curious turn of events that showed a new side of Angel, a turn that revealed how deeply he actually respects Chris and it was a nice change.

Geisha by Chris

Winner:  In a split decision Jason Clay Dunn took the victory, a major win for him since he claims Japanese as his comfort zone.

Geisha by Jason Clay Dunn

His closest competitor was Cleen Rock One who turned in this beauty.  The best part of it is how she looks like she is wearing makeup because of how he shaded the drawing, not because he used white ink. Very well done.

Geisha by Cleen Rock One

Someone had to close shop, however, and this time it was Tim who found himself on the bottom for the last time. He is a decent artist, but he cannot turn in his best work under the relentless pressure of this competition, and that means he has to go.

Geisha by Tim

Head-to-Head Games

Flash Challenge:  Lines

This week’s flash challenge involved Flash Tape, a chemically treated tape pyrotechnic that was used to burn an image into an 8’ X 8’ canvas. Everyone would work in teams, and Josh Hibbard, the winner of the previous Elimination Challenge, would be the one assigning the skulls. It’s just the sort of game he loves to play, and he didn’t disappoint. Josh paired up all of the rivals, except for Julia and Ty’esha whose rivals have already gone home. With 90 minutes to design and execute, the challenge was to see how well the teams could make clean, straight lines.


In what was a pleasant surprise, the two most vicious rivals, brothers Robbie and Jayvo, came together to make one of the best images. Simple, but there is an elegance in simplicity that some of the artists forgot about.Robbie and Jayvo

Another team that was able to overcome their mutual hatred was Emily Elegado and Aaron Is who maximized their use of space and took the win easily.

Diamond Star by Emily and Aaron

The most ridiculous work went to Ty’esha and Julia who made the baffling choice to do the absolute minimum necessary for the challenge. Then they decided to really fuck it up.

Wasted Canvas by Tyesha and Julia

Oliver Peck left no doubt that their decision to place the fuse line at the BOTTOM of the anchor, instead of the TOP of the anchor so it looked like a rope was incredibly stupid. This poor decision would come back to haunt them because Emily (one of the most annoying artists ever to appear on the show) was now in a position to hand out skulls for the Elimination Challenge. Their only saving grace was that she would have to make these decisions with the help of her rival Aaron.

Elimination Challenge: Joined by special guest judge BJ Betts, one of the best tattoo artists in the Delaware Valley, the panel was going to be looking for an artist’s ability to ink up clean, ornamental tattoos. And every artists went head-to-head with someone else in an apples-to-apples comparison since all of the canvasses came in pairs in terms of desired design.

Not surprisingly, Josh Hibbard delivers another knockout tattoo. His lines were so clean that BJ actually said they looked like they were lasered on.

Mandala by Josh Hibbard

Human Canvas Jury: They had a tough call to make, and they picked one that the judges agreed was definitely on the bottom.  Eric had a difficult placement, but ultimately it was his linework that took him to the bottom. Still, he wasn’t the one who was sent home.

Lotus by Eric

The tiny irregularities in this owl got Jayvo sent home. It was sad, especially since I personally thought that Emily should have been sent packing. Better luck next time, I guess.

Owl by Jayvo

When the season started I was less than enthused about the Ink Rivals theme that the showrunners had selected. The idea was that rivalries would be settled via elimination as the artists were pitted against each other in apples-to-apples comparison challenges. It seems like this loss may finally heal the bitter rift between him and his brother Robbie.




Roughed-Up Pin-Ups

Guest Judge:  Joe Miangenella

Flash Challenge:  Living Dolls

The artists were assigned a random model, each with her own props, that was going to be body-painted into a pin-up. Our special guest judge, El Cid from HBOs True Blood, was on hand to lend his expertise as an authority on looking amazing. Artistry was the watchword for this challenge, and Jason Clay Dunn stole the fucking show.

Daisy Dukes by Jason Clay Dunn Daisy Dukes 2 by Jason Clay Dunn

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of the contest. They then had to use their airbrushed models as a reference for an actual pin-up tattoo. Good or bad, you had to use your own work as reference for something that wasn’t just going to wash off.

The winning tattoo, by a unanimous decision, went to Josh Hibbard who was in the bottom on Pin-Up day in Season 3. Whether you like him or don’t like him, you have to admit the guy puts in the hours and learns from his mistakes. The judges never slam him for the same mistake twice.

Firewoman by Josh Hibbard

Human Canvas Jury:  The human canvasses talked it over and they were as dissatisfied as the regular judges were, overall.  Too many of these Pin-Ups were just awful, really sub-par work by experienced artists who clearly don’t feel comfortable with the genre. The worst part of this experience, was that each artist on the bottom was joined by their rival at the Elimination Ceremony.

Ultimately it was a unanimous decisions that LT, the least experienced artist this season, had to go.

Pinup by LT

Fixing this tattoo is going to be close to impossible, and that is an unforgivable sin.

The Rise of Drama

I don’t watch Reality TV much, mainly because it’s a vapid wasteland for the most part. As in every wasteland, however, there are oasis, and this show is definitely one of them. For the past four seasons the quality of contestants has continuously risen, and the quality of the artwork as well. Unfortunately, it seems that the showrunners have decided that what this program really needed was the kind of ego-driven antics we normally see on other programs that use real people instead of actors.  So, this season they’ve decided to have rival tattoo artists prove to the viewing public who is actually the better artist.

Two of the more interesting rivalries occur between brothers (Jayvo Scott and Robbie Ripoll) and Season 3 vets Jason Clay Dunn and Josh Hibbard. As you may recall, Josh got plenty of flak for trying to win the competition by *gasp* using the rules of the game to his advantage. Specifically he would assign people difficult tattoos and/or canvasses.  Shocking, I know.

If I understand the purpose of the Ink Master competition, however, Josh was only proving who the best actually were, because an actual Master Tattoo artist doesn’t piss and moan about difficult canvasses. They do the job in front of them, and they do it the best they can. This is not to say that I’m in the Josh Hibbard fan club, but I do understand his tactics, and I respect them. He didn’t win the title in S3, but he did help winnow out the weaker elements.

And the weakest element this season is clearly LT who was so nervous he had to go vomit while his rival Ty’esha was taking her turn on their human canvas. Back in the loft he railed against the other artists for insulting his art, but Jason Clay Dunn quickly cut through the bullshit and made it clear:  only bad work gets you sent home. Not your personality, not your experience level relative to the others, not your gender or sexual preference.

First Round:  My Rival, My Partner

Each of the rival artists were paired up and assigned to design and execute a single tattoo on a willing canvas. The purpose of this, obviously, was to see who could get past their animosity and turn in excellent work. Three teams failed miserably, and their canvasses suffered for it.

LT, who claimed to specialize in Black and Gray, designed a Dios de la Muerte tattoo that just came out all kinds of wrong.


Tyesha and LT

Tyesha and LT

Dios de la Disaster

Dios de la Disaster







The judges looked at Mark and Ryan’s tattoo and came to the conclusion that they had fought a vicious war on their human canvas,

Mark and Ryan


Tiki by Mark and Ryan







And finally we had Caroline and Julia, who work in the same shop, trying to pull off a simple skull and roses tattoo that came out very poorly, even to a layman’s eye.


Olivia and Julia



Skull and Roses by Olivia and Julia








Elimination Round

After looking at the bad work the judges decided it was time to split the teams and let them go head-to-head to find out who was actually responsible for the loss in the first round. The catch, of course, was that each member got to pick the style their rival would work in. Clearly the goal here would be to eliminate your rival quickly by giving them a style they weren’t comfortable with. Caroline set Julia the task biomechanical (one of my favorites) and Julia picked Neo-Realism; Ty’esha gave LT color realism while, in a head scratching move, he picked cursive lettering for her. That is some Day One shit, and Oliver Peck was clearly surprised by the choice. Finally Mark set Ryan up for failure by assigning him Japanese, one of the most rigorous styles (and the specialty of Chris Nunez) with Ryan returning the compliment with color realism.

Winner:  LT

Lotus by LT


Winner:  Julia


Biomech by Julia

Winner:  Ryan

Hani mask by Ryan

The artist who had to go home, unfortunately, was Caroline. Her canvas wanted a skull and rose and, rather than learn from the previous day’s experience and show the judges her best work, she failed. The worst part was the same, shitty color for the skull that she did previously. In this competition, there is no room for error.

Neo Realism rose and skull by Caroline