Tattoo Virgins

Getting your first tattoo is a milestone in your life. Some people do it because they’re young and stupid while others wait til late in their life. There are those who just get a Flash tattoo, some people spend extended periods getting to know their artist before allowing them to draw something, much less pick up the ink machine. Everyone is different, and every tattoo is significant, if only for a brief moment in time. This week the artists were dealing with Tattoo Virgins to demonstrate their adaptability. Not every tattoo turned in was exemplary, but the judges (understandably) didn’t rip them apart. They just asked the artist to explain the work, then they picked the one they thought was the best. There were definitely a couple pieces that were just phenomenal, however.

Flash Challenge:

The judges gave the win to Erik for his pocket watch that completely suited the theme that the client wanted. It’s cute, feminine, and something she can proudly show off for the rest of her life.

Pocket Watch by Erik

For my money, however, the real winner was Cris and his stunning American flag tattoo done in simple black and gray. Seriously, take a moment to look at that flag, notice the stitches, the wrinkles, the stars…that was amazing work, one of the best that Cris has turned in so far.

Old Glory by Cris

And Josh was justifiably proud of his piece, an original work that he did on the fly based on the input from his canvas. This is exactly what a tattoo artist is supposed to do, and Josh is showing that his prowess as a creative person is growing in measure with his technical ability.

Mic Art by Josh Hibbard


Elimination Challenge:

The canvasses all wanted their forearms done, complimentary images that, when combined, created a third image. Naturally this would require two different artists to work on the same canvas, at the same time. Obviously this was designed to test everyone’s adaptability because not only must your work stand on its own, it has to integrate with your opponents as well. And ultimately, you have to give the client something they can be proud of. That idea just keeps getting lost on some of these artists and it becomes apparent when you see the two tattoos side by side the way they were intended to be viewed.

A great example of this was the peacock and mirror done by bitter rivals Emily Elegado and Aaron Is. These two hate each other passionately, and I think that Aaron subconsciously let that slip into his work.

Emily vs Aaron Peacock

As Dave Navarro so eloquently put it “That looks like the peacock saw itself in the mirror and it was so ugly the mirror broke.” No one wants to wear some fucked up shit like that, and I’m just hoping the young lady can get that mirror fixed. If not, she’s going to have to invent a mythology to explain it, and hope no one recognizes it from this show.

Mark vs Don Ships

Notice how the clouds on the two tattoos don’t mesh. They were done in completely different styles and it shows. The idea that the two ships are different isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as noted by the split between Peck who favored Don’s tattoo and Nunez who favored Mark’s. What is problematic is that the backgrounds are so different. Still, you have to admit that it does have a certain charm to it.

Cleen vs Erik Party Skulls

To underscore my point, check out the party skulls done by Cleen and Erik. Each of these is fucking TIGHT, but together they make an elegant pairing that I would be damn proud to wear.

Human Canvas Jury:

It was a unanimous decision by everyone that Jason Clay Dunn, the resident Japanese tattoo artist, turned in a colossal fuckup of a dragon. He’s been complaining about panic attacks all episode, so maybe that was why he dropped the ball, but damn this thing is fugly.

Dragon by Jason Clay Dunn

He was joined at the bottom by Aaron and Julia who had each turned in bad tattoos. Aaron’s was amateurish and poorly executed, while hers was just a tragedy.

Mirror and Feathers by Aaron Is

Angel by Julia








I really didn’t want to see Julia go so soon, especially not with ass-clowns like Mark and Emily still hanging around. Trouble is, that angel is jacked, just look at the eyes or the left side of the head, or the nose. It was a strange choice on Julia’s part to try and do a portrait when her opponent was Josh, the fucking master of portrait reproductions, and she paid for it. Emily tried to paint Josh as a villain who set his partner up for failure, but Julia should have known her strengths and weaknesses enough to know that she wasn’t going to win that contest. She has skill, she just needs a little more training and a lot more practice.

Oooo, Sick Tattoos

Flash Challenge:
The artists were each given an oosik, the bone of a walrus penis, and told to demonstrate their skills with the old-time sailor’s art of scrimshaw carving. I had no idea that the art of scrimshaw was invented here in America, nor that it was only two hundred years old. It seems like the sort of thing sailors would have come up with thousands of years ago. Most of the artists had no fucking clue what scrimshaw was, and their abilities with it showed. Still, some of them turned out pretty good all things considered, and I’m going to focus on the best.

Scrimshaw by Aaron

This is the one the judges picked, and I can see why. It made good use of the material, it showed a nice amount of detail, and is all-around aesthetically pleasing. It’s not my favorite piece, that honor goes to Angel’s homage to his hometown of New York City, but I’m just a viewer and not a judge.

Scrimshaw by Angel

Elimination Challenge

Joined by the Godfather of Bio-Mechanical tattooing Aaron Cain, this week the artists are being judged on their ability to show detail. Julia already turned in one bio-mech tattoo earlier in the competition, but it wasn’t her best work and she is dreading having to do another.

As if the pressure to perform wasn’t high enough this week they had three ribs, a gluteal, and a skull tattoo. As you can already guess, Aaron assigned Josh a rib piece and, what a surprise, Josh convinced the canvas to switch placement. The reason he keeps doing this so successfully is salesmanship, something that he completely excels at. I am so fucking tired of having to write that, but this time I really have to emphasize it because one of the other artists completely failed to provide quality customer service. Surprisingly, it was Julia.

She could not come to an agreement with her human canvas, Mark, a wall of muscle who pleaded with her to try and see things his way. It wasn’t going to happen, however, because Julia apparently had a bowl of Stupid Soup for breakfast and not only refused to compromise with him, she was completely rude and instead opted to tattoo herself.

During the critique the judges asked her to explain what happened and the look on her face when they called Mark the Canvas in was priceless. Rather than admit her egregious mistake, Julia continued to try and make herself look good, but the damage was done. She had turned in an excellent tattoo, but all that work was shattered by her incredible lack of professionalism.

Human Canvas Jury:

In another WTF moment from the HCJ we find Erik called down for this piece. Is there too much green in it?  Maybe for some people, but Aaron Cain said it was his favorite piece of the day, so clearly it wasn’t a universally held opinion.

Biomech by Erik


Angel Bauta found himself on the bottom for his work and I honestly can’t say he doesn’t deserve to be there. The piece is too dark and, compared to some of the others, it doesn’t have the same degree of artistry.

Biomech by Angel

Don found himself called on the carpet for a biomech heart that doesn’t really look like one. If he’d added some ventricles or atria it would have been a different story, but as it is, the piece looks kind of odd.

Biomech heart by Don

It wasn’t a surprise when Julia found herself called down, but she was surprised to learn it wasn’t because she did a bad tattoo. Today she demonstrated the most unprofessional conduct in the history of Ink Master, and it could have sent her home. She is wearing a target now, and one more outburst is going to get her bounced.








Three for All

Once again the Judges have decided that the artists are going straight to Elimination. And, possibly owing to the insane judgement last week, there will be no Human Canvas Jury this week. Every artist is going to be judged solely by the regular trio, and the margin for error is becoming razor thin.

Since keeping it fresh is the name of the game, this time the artists were divided into teams of three. Ultimately there would only be four canvasses judged at the end, and to make it really interesting, the canvasses randomly selected their artistic teams. Each team would be doing American Traditional, a test of their ability with the fundamentals of modern American tattooing.

One thing that I’ve seen consistently this season was how artists were razzing each other in front of human canvasses, and personally, I find it juvenile, unprofessional, and extremely distasteful. If you have an issue with another artist, and you want to yell at each other and mock each other’s work, save that shit for the critiques and the privacy of the loft. There is no reason to do that in front of someone who is volunteering their body so you can win the title. It’s especially rude because you can actually throw someone off their game and actually ruin a canvas, as we saw last week. This time, however, everyone was on their best behavior which was a nice change.

That isn’t to say that every team was a love fest, because that is an impossible dream at the best of times. Still, each team pulled together and managed to turn in some decent American Traditional tattoos, the first time in five seasons that none of them were ripped apart by the judges. Still, there was one clear winner, and that was a beautiful Gypsy done by Josh, Angel, and Emily. Well, mostly Josh and Angel since Emily claimed she was mostly incapacitated by endometriosis or early stage cancer, or something. I don’t want to sound callous, but her illness came and went as suddenly as Aaron’s did last episode, and with the same result:  both of them had an easier time than their competitors did.

Josh, Angel, and Emily


It’s obvious the reason this tattoo came out so good because Josh Hibbard was the team captain. Oliver even went so far as to say it was the best work they had seen from either Angel or Emily, and it’s hard to argue especially when you compare the lines on this to the lines on Emily’s Octopus or Angel’s Spartan from last week. Without Josh to carry her, it is likely that Emily would have been dismissed this week.

Next up we had Cleen, Erik, and Ty’esha. At first blush it’s a good tattoo, but then you notice that the proportions are off. The tail feathers are as big as the wings are, which means this eagle isn’t going to fly.

Cleen, Erik, and Tyesha

The next team to be judged was Mark, Julia, and Jason who managed to talk their canvas out of an overly complicated design with a mermaid and sparrows. This clipper ship looks great, but the mistakes on it are in the line work. The mast which has a distinct curve to it and the lettering could have been done better, it’s especially bad because Jason did the line work to recover from his missteps last week when tattooing another clipper ship in the gluteal challenge.

Mark, Julia, and Jason

And finally we had Aaron, Cris, and Don turn in this piece which, compared to the others, is a little lackluster. The judges didn’t mention it, but look at the right side of that bottle, that there is a distinct dent right around the white ring of the lighthouse. It’s nit-picky, but it’s little things like that which will cost you your shot at the title.

Aaron, Cris, and Don

Since the work was done in three’s, the judges couldn’t decide who screwed the pooch. They left that duty to the individual teams, allowing them to send the weak link down for elimination. Most of the teams readily recognized their failures and all went smoothly. With the notable exception of Jason, Julia, and Mark. And this is what really pissed me off; Jason was such a fucking pussy that he flat-out refused to acknowledge that HE was the one who turned in the worst work today. In the loft he makes this big deal about how he’s going to “stand on his sword” because he doesn’t want to be the one who ends someone else’s chances. The judges know he is the weak link, Julia knows he is the weak link, and in his heart Jason knows he is the weak link. He’s just not man enough to admit it, and when it comes time he tries to throw Julia under the bus.

Elimination Challenge:

Ty’esha, Julia, and Don found themselves competing for their place in the competition by doing a special design from Oliver Peck, himself. I love this kind of challenge because it cuts away all of the bullshit and shows who can actually do what. Lines, shading, placement, and color choices are the only things that the artist is responsible for, the design work has been taken care of for them. You live or die on the strength of your skills.

Don vs Oliver Peck

Don turned in an acceptable piece, even if it wasn’t his best work. For me the dark, faded colors do this tattoo in, more so than the crooked outlines. Those are easy to fix, which is why Don didn’t find himself packing his gear at the end of the episode.


Julia, one of the least experienced artists, keeps surprising everyone with her staying power. She’s only been doing this for five years, but she has definite potential, and it shows when the pressure is on. Her decision to shade the teeth black was an extremely odd choice, but that might be fixable. She’s not going to make it to the top three, but she is definitely going to outlast Mark who just keeps turning in subpar work and refusing to acknowledge his shortcomings.

Julia vs Oliver Peck


Ty’esha had the best outlines, but she gave her skull a fucking mustache. Hilariously she even told Nunez that she cut her teeth as a tattoo artist learning to do skulls.  Worse than that, though, she had the skull facing the wrong fucking way. It’s that Day One shit that she keeps fucking up, and this time it got her bounced.

Tyesha vs Oliver Peck

Tattooed Asses

Last week’s elimination event saw Mark making yet another appearance downstairs, this time accompanied by Emily and Ryan. As we all know, Ryan didn’t go back upstairs and the crowd reaction when Mark walked in was unmasked surprise. When Emily walked in, however, several people didn’t bother to hide their disappointment. Angel Bauta, in particular, was so irate that he had to leave the room, first warning everyone else to stay away from him because his outrage was so great it was going to spill over into physical violence.

This should have been the wake-up call that Emily needed. From her first day in the studio she has been running her mouth constantly despite the fact that her skills aren’t nearly as high as either Jason Clay Dunn or Josh Hibbard. People hate Josh because they think he’s an unimaginative weasel, they hate her because they think she’s a vicious bitch with mediocre talent. Given the choice between those two, I would much rather be in Josh Hibbard’s shoes because he has consistently proven he can turn in stellar work.

It’s not easy to deal with the idea that everyone hates you, but if you are smart you’ll take some time to reflect on it and begin changing your ways. It is becoming clear that Emily isn’t smart. She deliberately attempts to sabotage Angel when he has to complete her canvas, but Angel isn’t stupid so he evades the trap she set. His only real mistake, however, was not altering her shitty design and it came back to bite him later.

Emily vs Angel pt 1

Emily vs Angel pt 2

Flash Challenge:  This week the judges threw the biggest curve ball so far:  no Flash Challenge, and Nunez and Peck would be assigning the canvasses. Also, every tattoo was going to be on the gluteus maximus; no exceptions. One cheek per day, six hours of work.

Then, to really shake things up, on the second day of tattooing everyone had to switch canvasses and finish someone else’s design. Each artist had the option to redo the design to put their own spin on it, but the design had to match the original concept.

Human Canvas Jury:  This is the tattoo that the HCJ decided was the worst of the day. I’m not making that up, they really said this was the worst.

Jason vs Mark

Nunez and Peck made it abundantly clear that they did not share that opinion. Nunez specifically said that Angel and Julia should have been down there instead, and it’s hard to argue with that opinion when you look at the work they turned in.

Angel vs Cris

Cleen vs Julia

For the first time EVER the judges ruled that there was NO winner when it came to Emily vs Ty’esha. Ty’esha made a horrible choice with the green mist, a mistake that Emily continued. Still, that wasn’t the only reason the judges we displeased as they pointed out flawed line work.

Tyesha vs Emily



Things were looking grim for Emily because not only was this the second time she found herself on the bottom, but it is becoming increasingly obvious that she doesn’t have the skill to go the distance. Fortunately for her, and unfortunately for the victim, one artist committed the unforgivable sin of damaging their canvas.

Damage by Robbie

That tattoo is not going to heal properly, anyone can see that. And the closer you get to it, the worse it looks. It was a terrible way to go out, but the judges are merciless when it comes to this kind of error, and justifiably so. The young lady who is wearing that tattoo has to live with that damage and it is going to be hard, if not impossible, to fix.

Emily dodged a bullet this week, but her time is running out quickly.


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.