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.






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.