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






Get the RAID On

Last week on Ink Master we had plenty of drama thanks to Gentle Jay accusing Scott of tracing and looking like an idiot as a result. Strangely, Jay did not seem to be aware that he looked fucking stupid. Then, at the final judging no one was eliminated, leaving us with six artists to compete this week, with one going home.

This week, likely inspired by last week’s drama, the judges decided to randomly pair up the artists and give them open canvasses. Since it can’t possibly be that easy, they also decided to up the stakes by making the artists work on the same tattoo, and forcing them to switch out every hour.

No pressure.

This time there would be no Flash Challenge, the teams would be judged as a pair. Naturally, no one wanted to be paired up with Gentle Jay, so the canvasses picked skulls and then found out who their artists would be.

The Teams

Matti and Sausage

Sausage takes a backseat on this team, allowing Matti to do the design work. This was not a good idea because the Hannya mask that Matti designed was fucking awful. From across the room (a common measure on Ink Master) the tattoo looks like a blob of color. It was uglier than home-made sin, but it was technically solid on every point.


It looks like someone took a baseball bat to a dragon. -Luke Wessman

Scott and Halo

This is definitely a powerful team, and it gives Halo a chance to study up on Scott. This is crucial because he is definitely going to be in the Finale, and anyone who wants to defeat him needs to really study. The lesson this week?  Scott is a fucking Control Freak!

In order for him to do a better job of micromanaging Halo he would have to do some Innerspace type shit. Still, they turned in a solid fucking tattoo.


Seahorse by Scott Marshall and Halo

Melissa and Gentle Jay

This team turned out to be the fucking tragedy everyone was expecting. Gentle Jay is such a self-absorbed jackass that he just doesn’t get how no one wanted to be on his team.  And Melissa refused to put on a smile and suffer through it. Their tattoo ended up looking like it was done by two separate people, which was the exact opposite of what was expected of them.

Clip Art by Melissa Monroe and Gentle Jay

Rather than send both of them home, however, we got the next twist:  a face-off.


Both artists were given an original design by Luke Wessman, a very respected artist of the American Traditional school of ink. Here’s where the rubber meets the road, as they say.

The hate for Gentle Jay was so strong that Melissa had both Matti and Scott tutoring her while she was applying the ink. She knew exactly why they were helping her, but she saw no reason to not accept their aid, a decision I wholeheartedly endorse. I’ve always like Melissa, she is a quiet, drama-free person who is a fantastic tattoo artist. And she’s smoking hot which appeals to the juvenile male aspect of me.

I just don’t think she’s ready for the title.

Panther designed by Luke Wessman, applied by Melissa Monroe

Panther by Melissa Monroe, based on a design by Luke Wessman




Panther designed by Luke Wessman, applied by Gentle Jay

Panther by Gentle Jay based on a design by Luke Wessman



Still, she survived this week and gets one step closer the prize, more than can be said of Gentle Jay.

Explosive Confrontation

In Season 2 of Ink Master they added a new wrinkle where the artist who got the most votes from America would get a second chance. This was continued in Season 3, although during the live season finale they had two artists compete head-to-head. The winner, as you may recall, was Kyle Dunbar.

Over the course of that season we saw Kyle consistently improving his techniques after every harsh critique he received. It was a situation that served to make Kyle a better tattoo artist, and it provided the TV audience with some good moments as Nuñez and Peck made witty one-liners about the bad work they saw. Unfortunately, as we saw last season, Kyle was going through a time economic time and his home was foreclosed on, yet he persevered and that was part of the reason, I think, that he was given the opportunity at a second chance.

When he came back, there was a lot of pressure on him to perform. The same as with Tatu Baby who got a second chance last season and ultimately placed second in the final three. Well, I guess she placed third because her wolf had no fucking legs. Other than that, though, it was a great tattoo.

The wolf is laughing his ass off. Literally, he just laughed off his forelegs first.

Since the start of this season Nuñez has been riding Kyle, at one point commenting that this seems to be the key to getting the best work out of him. Unfortunately, whether or not that was true, it ultimately caused Kyle to crack under the strain. The show opened with Kyle trying to start a fight with Chris which ultimately spilled out into the street and ended with no real punches thrown, and Kyle Dunbar eliminated from the competition.

Once that unpleasantness was over, they moved on to that day’s business.

Flash Challenge

The remaining contestants were divided into teams to work on canvas where the artists drew their creations with sand. Then they filled in the empty spaces with gunpowder which, when burned, would sear their designs into the canvas.

Having won the previous week, Halo was in the catbird seat and able to assign teams for this event. He paired up with Scott in order to better understand the other artist’s style and thought process. This shows that Halo, one of the best artists on the show, is also one of the best contestants in this challenge. He doesn’t run around shouting about how great he is, he let’s his tattoos do that for him. Instead, he just watches his competitors and takes the advantage when it is given to him.

This is why he paired up Lydia and Gentle Jay, a couple with all of the easy rhythms of Riggs and Murtaugh in the first hour of Lethal Weapon. And with similar results…

Man I wish I'd tried harder at art when I was a kid...

Man I wish I’d tried harder at art when I was a kid…

I'm angry, damnit

I’m angry, damnit








Halo and Scott won the challenge with this kickass Van Gogh Starry Night in Egypt type thing.


Starry night and Pyramids by Halo and Scott Marshal

Starry night and Pyramids by Halo and Scott Marshal


Elimination Tattoo

Since negative space was being tested they decided that the tattoos would be done in Black and Grey. And since Rob Zombie was the special guest judge, the tattoo theme was horror tattoos, nice and scary.

Halo and Scott assigned the skulls with the idea of taking out Sausage, one of the best artists on the show. Or so Scott thought, because Halo was actually trying to break up the Scott-Matti alignment, which called for some fancy footwork on his part. It also angered Sausage who seemed really offended that he got shafted with a difficult canvas. In this case, a guy with stretched, flabby skin and a bad attitude.

This behavior kind of bothered me because Sausage really is a great tattoo artist so being given difficult canvasses is a complement. It shows that he has struck fear into them, and that should be, if not a source of pride, then at least a confirmation of his skill.

Demon by Sausage

Tops and Bottoms

On the bottom we found Lydia who, after claiming horror as her specialty, turned in a rather confused and lackluster werewolf thing. I’m not sure what is going on here, it’s just too dark. The judges didn’t like it either, and they sent her packing for it.

Those are teeth, I am told. Teeth.

While Sausage scored the win for his demon tattoo, I don’t think it was the best tattoo of the day. In my opinion that honor belongs to Matti, who delivered that knock-out piece that you see below.

Demoness by Matti Hixson

Demoness by Matti Hixson

One more week and we will see two more artists going home. I’m guessing that will be Gentle Jay and Melissa, although I wouldn’t mind seeing her progress to the final three. Guess we’ll find out soon.

Shredded Nerves and Bad Covers

Last week Chris Nuñez finally said what a lot of people at home have been saying for three season now “I’m tired of seeing bad tattoos!” This is a competition for $100,000 and this is the 4th year that it has been run. Every episode has been broadcast and you can easily review anything you missed on the Spike TV website. There is literally no excuse that can be made at this point for turning in sub-par work.

With that in mind, the judges decided that starting then they would be bouncing the two lowest-ranked artists each week. Thus we lost Bubba and Keith, which I’m not really sad about to tell you the truth. Neither of the two men really impressed me with their talent.

This week the show opened with all of the artists being led to a graffiti covered courtyard where they are challenged with creating original images to go with a single word that describes the thrill-seeking lifestyle of their human canvas. All of the tattoos had to be done in a graffiti style, and most of them were really good.

Flash Challenge

Sausage takes the win for his extreme skier, although I would have made the character a snow boarder because that just seems a little more extreme than regular skiing.

Shred tatto by Sausage

Yes, it’s a bit cartoony, but graffiti usually is.

Elimination Tattoo

California tattoo legend Freddy Corbin lent his expertise last night as adaptability was tested with cover-ups. I fucking love the cover-up challenges, it is so cool watching the artists try and make something good out of something bad with the end product being seamless. And last night they had their work cut out for them as 8 people showed up with dark-ass tattoos, with one chick needing her pubic mound redone to remove a guy’s name.

I thought that Halo would have given that tattoo to either Lydia or Melissa (whom I really like, although I don’t see her going to the finale) but instead he gave it to Kyle.

One of the artists, when the canvasses were announcing their desired cover-ups, remarked “You never have anything growing out of the vagina” and I would agree with that statement wholeheartedly. There are always exceptions, however, and this tattoo is one of them. I can see myself kissing my way up that tree, no problem. This is just spectacular body art to my eye.

Cherry Blossoms by Kyle Dunbar

Last night we got a bit of a shocker when one of the artists, Jim Francis revealed that he is “partially color-blind” which is a serious fucking handicap for a tattoo artist. And we may not have known about it if he had selected a Black and Gray instead of a full-color, although that decision was taken out of his hands since the canvas had a black tattoo to begin with.

Butterfly Roses by Jim Francis

The color palette in this image is really fucking wonky, and the only explanation is that the tattoo artist is partially color-blind. Holy shit, this cost him $100,000 in this competition, and who knows how much in business. Unless he switches to doing Black and Gray as a specialty, of course.


Tops and Bottoms

The judges didn’t deliberate, they knew who the two best tattoo artists were last night, Halo and Scott, and they didn’t give a shit who didn’t like the latter’s work. Scott is a cocksure asshole, no doubt, but he is a magnificent artist who is virtually guaranteed one of the top three spots

Great A'Tuin by Halo

Great A’Tuin by Halo

Bad-ass monkey by Scott Marshall


On the bottom, shit got crazy.Having won the challenge, Halo was empowered to offer up an artist for dismissal, the human canvasses decided on the worst tattoo artist of the day, and the judges had a third and fourth artist that needed to know they didn’t do their best work.

Halo sent down the most deserving, Jim, the man who confessed (for some inexplicable reason) to being colorblind. And the confession came literally moments after telling Halo that at least his tattoo could be re-worked and embellished, while Gentle Jay just turned in a bad tattoo that couldn’t be fixed. He didn’t tell the judges about it, so maybe he doesn’t care.

How did you know this was a cover-up?  Because it's so blatantly obvious?  Ah, I see...

How did you know this was a cover-up? Because it’s so blatantly obvious? Ah, I see…


The human canvasses sent Ruck down for his blatantly obvious cover-up. It wasn’t just the bad design and composition that doomed this one, it was the fact that it was so obviously a cover-up, and a bad one at that.

The upside down rose drained all of the magic from those horseshoes.

The upside down rose drained all of the magic from those horseshoes.

And Melissa  completely dropped the ball by not being able to do a clean, solid V8 engine block. It doesn’t matter that she doesn’t know engines, etc, she knows tattooing, she said it herself. Therefore this tattoo belongs here in the bottom because of all of the poor execution that was needed to make it happen.

Come on, Melissa...even if you don't work on engines you should be able to depict them cleanly.

Come on, Melissa…even if you don’t work on engines you should be able to depict them cleanly.

Here’s where shit gets weird though. After dismissing Ruck and Jim the judges send the others back to the loft with a message directed specifically at Kyle Dunbar. Chris Nuñez wanted Kyle to know that he really, really hated that tattoo and wanted Kyle down in the bottom for it.

Kyle‘s tattoo is not perfect, no, but it’s not fucking awful either. And the other artists, including my favorite for the finale, Sausage, even expected it to make the top four of the day.

Previously we have seen Chris and Oliver deliver high praise and devastating critiques to both Kyle and Tatu Baby, and for the same reason:  both of them were voted back by America, and that shit was going to mean something. Nuñez was going to make sure these two artists turned in their best possible work.

In last year’s finale Oliver asked Tatu Baby who has been yelling in her face for the seven years she has been tattooing?  Who has been chewing her ass whenever she fucked up, because that was Oliver‘s experience as an apprentice.

I’m guessing that Chris had a similar experience and he has previously remarked that every time he dings Kyle on something, Kyle comes back with that deficiency corrected. The harder Chris pushed, the better the tattoos he got from Kyle.

Was this harsh critique tonight, and the pointed message, another manifestation of that?  And if so, has he pushed Kyle, a man under severe stress economically, too far? I guess we’ll find out next week when Kyle apparently physically attacks Chris.


Great A’tuin by Halo