The Shootout

For the second time Tatu Baby found herself in the Final Four, the title within her grasp. All skills would be tested as the artists used custom designs from past celebrity judges Chuey Quintanar, Troy Dennings, Corey Miller, and  Seth Ciferri.

They would also be tattooing the same canvas at the same time. Then the artists will get a fresh canvas completely open to whatever the artist wants. No excuses that way.

Each tattoo was designed to test the particular flaws of the artists, and some of them came through just fine. Others, like Kyle and Tatu Baby, struggled. Oliver came dangerously close to telling Tatu Baby that she’s been trading on her looks for the seven years she’s been in the tattoo business. She clearly has talent, and skill, but she just as clearly swerves from good to bad and routinely misses the fundamentals.

Design by Troy Dennings rendered by Tatu Baby

Kyle absolutely killed the  Seth Ciferri tattoo that he was assigned. Unfortunately, his original came out too dark and hard to read. They decided it wasn’t good enough for the final three.


The fuck is going on here?

The fuck is going on here?


The judges made their decision, and Kyle was sent on his way, which kinda sucks. America had sent Tatu Baby back, she was going to go as far as they could let her go without shafting a more deserving competitor. Yes, including Craig Foster, who just could not do Black and Gray, and that is why he won’t be in the top three.

Kyle, however, is a different story. He had been in the middle of the pack, occasionally bobbing to the top. Tatu Baby, however, kept jumping up and diving down the whole season. At least Kyle will have an opportunity for a second chance at the live finale.

The artists, on the other hand, would be going home to a Master Canvas waiting to receive a 35 hour tattoo. Let’s see what they come up with.


Battle for the Golden Skull

Another season of Ink Master has come to an end, and the final three artists are ready to unveil their Masterworks.  Since this is going to be a live episode, they have made sure we are entertained by giving us a short season recap, catfights between losing contestants and returning canvasses, and best of all, two would go head-to-head during the live broadcast. The winner would get to come back in Season 4.

The lucky candidates were Chris May, who never really got a chance to show his work, and Kyle, who got the most difficult canvasses and somehow still managed to consistently turn in good work.

Kyle Dunbar's Redemption Tattoo

Kyle Dunbar’s Redemption Tattoo

Chris Hays Redemption

Chris Hays proves he can draw bad-ass tattoos










America compared the works and decided that Kyle  would be coming back for another shot at the title. He had a larger, cleaner portfolio on the show so it was an easy choice to make.

Joshua did raise a very good point about Tatu Baby, but it was a blatantly obvious one that he should have understood. Instead of just sitting there quietly he had to open his mouth, questioning the judgement of Peck, Nunez, and Navarro as if there would be no repercussions. And too lack he learned there are as Chris tells him in no uncertain terms that he feels confident that no tattoo artist will work with Joshua now. And he could be right, only time will tell.

The $100,000 Tattoo

Now for the main event, which of the three artists is the Ink Master?

 Tatu Baby wanted this Native American pin-up with wolf scene but her canvas got upset about the face being “some random chick” and left after the first session. Baby had to start from scratch with a new canvas, but she forgot to re-size the stencil, apparently. Another big problem is that the wolf has no body making this a really confusing tattoo once you get past how beautiful it is.

Back-piece by Tatu Baby

Jime decided to go with an American Traditional:  the Battle Royale. A dragon, a snake, and an eagle would all battle for the golden Ink Master skull. The trouble was that there was no battle. All of the would-be combatants were sort of minding their own territory, not actively fighting. Oliver was very disappointed.

Battle Royale by Jime Litwalk

The Battle Royale will begin soon. I promise.

And Joey Hamilton takes the win with this insanely detailed mermaid. She wasn’t perfect, but she was close enough to win $100,000 and nab him the title of Ink Master.

$100,000 tattoo by Joey Hamilton


Soon season 4 will begin with Kyle Dunbar and a roster of new artists. Let’s see how things play out.

Joshua’s Last Stand

We have reached the Final Five and it was obvious that neither Joshua, Tatu Baby, or Kyle can feel relaxed right now. They have spent too much time in the bottom to be comfortable about their position. This is where your previous tattoos can destroy you.

Flash Challenge

Taken to the carrier Intrepid the artists must show their finesse by designing custom dog tags for veterans or the families of fallen service members  With such a small surface and such a significant theme, every mistake will be glaring. With that in mind, everyone turned in their best work.

Jime takes the victory in a close-fought battle.

Dog tag by Jime Litwalk

Dog tags by Jime Litwalk

Dog tag 2 by Jine Litwalk

Other tag by Jime Litwalk


Elimination Challenge

When they did the eyelid tattoo Joshua professed loud disapproval of facial and head tattooing. Well, tonight they have to do head tattoos. They can do any style, but the tattoo must be done on the head.  Apparently even the judges are tired of Josh hanging around. Twig Sparks, from Chris’ shop Hand Crafted, comes by to guest judge the finesse displayed.

Tops and Bottoms 

 Jime, Joshua, Tatu Baby find themselves in front of the judges, and Jime is the big winner.

Can you see the scar?

Can you see the scar?

The others, however, all displeased the judges in various ways. The most egregious offenders were  Josh and Tatu Baby; him for not being able to draw, her for not being able to apply as well as him. He can replicate anything, but he doesn’t know how to draw, it’s not his thing.

It came down to a split between Chris and Oliver:  the first wanted Josh gone, the second wanted to bounce Baby. The inability to draw was unacceptable to Chris who finally put a stop to Josh’s advancement and giving both Tatu Baby and Kyle a much-needed reprieve.

This is why America gave you a second chance?  Realty?

This is why America gave you a second chance? Realty?

Yes, this was actually drawn by a 17 year veteran tattoo artist.
Yes, this was actually drawn by a 17 year veteran tattoo artist.



Now there are only four left. Either Kyle or Tatu Bay is about to go home. They have been middle of the pack the entire way, let’s see who can go the distance with Jime and Joey.












The Man Without a Canvas

Josh has apparently come to the show with the idea of using reality show survival techniques to play against his rivals. This is pretty obvious by now, and it is not making him any friends among the other artists. He does, however, have good people skills, something he demonstrates on his human canvasses.

People skills are one of the facets of an Ink Master that some of the contestants keep overlooking. In the first two seasons we have seen some really, really difficult canvasses. Some of them want work that exceeds the time allotted, some are just fucking nuts. Unfortunately for the artists, they have to work with these people, get them to co-operate. It is an integral facet as we found out last night.

Flash Challenge

The cast assembles in a lingerie store where they are told they will be tested on texture. They will get a canvass and select a garter for her, but the tattoo must incorporate all of the texture of the original. And it must be done in four hours, with the worst texture going home early.

James Danger does not get off to a good start in any way. His canvas is making ridiculous demands, then his stencils don’t come out, forcing him to go free-hand.

Garter by Joshua Hibbard

Garter tattoo by Josh Hubbard

Maddie was judged to be the worst, so despite the fact that Tatu Baby didn’t even finish her garter, she was sent packing. Everyone knew she wouldn’t make it far, better to get rid of her early.

This is not the view of many of her fellow artists, however, but Tatu Baby is a rather special case. America decided she was worthy of a second chance, and to see someone of her demonstrated ability be kicked off the show for carelessness while someone who struggles as much as Maddie does to be allowed to continue…that would have been unacceptable. Likewise, she cannot continue to fail.

Elimination Tattoo

Special guest judge Tony Hundahl came around to see what kind of color the artists were putting out with their texture challenge this week. And to make it fair, everyone would have to tattoo a phoenix giving the judges another apples-to-apples comparison. None of them went for the groin this time, however.

Going into the elimination round Josh has the power to assign the human canvasses and it is clear that he enjoys this power. It seems obvious that he watched the show before becoming a contestant, and his Game seems much the same as Kay Kutta‘s. The difference, of course, being that Josh has much more experience than Kay does at tattooing.

He gives New Skool master Jime Litwalk a realistic piece, tosses Kyle a New Skool job, and Tatu Baby wins the booby prize with an 80 year old canvas whose previous experience was limited to 2 hours.

Phoenix by Tatu Baby as worn by an 80 year old canvas

Phoenix by Tatu Baby as worn by an 80 year old canvas

Mark finds himself dealing with another difficult canvas in the person of Natalie who wants a phoenix with no detail. The conflict between them just kept escalating til the point where she left.

The judges investigated by talking to him, then her, then watching the tapes. I sided with Dave Navarro on this one, that the canvas is a fucking nut and Mark should get some slack. The judges, however, stopped him cold by saying “We’re store owners. You do not drive away business.”

That is a tough argument to refute.

In the end, however, Mark had no tattoo to display since his client left and he wasn’t willing to tattoo himself.

Tops and Bottoms

Phoenix by Craig Foster

Phoenix tattoo by Craig Foster

Despite his vociferous protestations, James had nothing to show them aside from a crappy garter. And that wasn’t enough to keep him here.


New Canvasses: Ink Master Returns

Ink Master, the best tattoo competition on TV returned last night for it’s third season. Spike brought sixteen tattoo artists to New York to see who was worthy of the title Ink Master. Once again the judges would be Oliver Peck, Chris NuñezDave Navarro, and the viewers at home. Tatu Baby got her second chance that way, her experiences last season hopefully giving her an edge on the others.

This time out, however, the human canvasses will also get to vote on the worst tattoo of the day, an important new wrinkle that will put a second contestant up for elimination each time.

Flash Challenge

The show opens with the contestants arriving at one of New York‘s correctional facilities. They are then told that in order to test their flexibility, they will all be tattooing in the prison, and that they would only be allowed a single needle. Prison Style tattooing, in other words. Making this the very first challenge the judges are clearly testing the fundamentals of a tattoo artists ability since mistakes will be glaringly obvious.


Ally Lee – Oliver thought her tattoo was too large, telling her that single-needle calls for smaller, more detailed work. Not a bad assessment.

Jackie Jennings – Another 10 year vet, her opening effort was a skull and crossbones that maximized the limitations of the single-needle, earning her praise from Chris.

Chris May – No single-pass outlines, but they didn’t tear him up either.

Jason Clay Dunn – Looking like he just got off the bus from Portland, he opens the show with a black rose that earned him praise from Chris due to the single-pass he did when he applied it . 

Jime Litwalk – With twenty years of experience, this New Skool pioneer is going to be one to watch. New Skool artists don’t tend to impress me, so I will reserve judgement. Still, his opening tattoo was top of the heap.

Frank McManus – This guy looks way too young to be competing for this title. His first tattoo looked rough, Oliver calling it overworked.

James Danger – A self-taught artist he somehow never learned that anytime a vehicle/flag/animal is tattooed onto a person, it is always depicted as advancing. Otherwise it looks like the tattoo is trying to escape from the person wearing it.

Josh Hibbard – With 10 years of experience he doesn’t really look like a tattoo artist, despite the ink crawling up out of his collar. His canvas wanted a Japanese demon umbrella. No, seriously, that’s what he asked for.

Demon Umbrella by Joshua Hibbard

Fuck the Japanese can make anything weird.

Kyle Dunbar – After twelve years he apparently learned his craft and for the past six years he has been delivering good tattoos. The one for this challenge would be one of the better ones on display.

ES – A 16 year veteran of the industry he prefers the Black and Gray style. Not surprisingly he seems comfortable with the single-needle and his hourglass/dagger tattoo is definitely one of the better ones.

Maddie LaBelle – She draws a hideously bad spider tattoo, apparently because when she heard “prison style” she thought they meant “shitty.”

Maddie LaBelle

I don’t know what this guy did to society, but Maddie LaBelle is sure making him pay for it.

Made Rich – Another artist who has never done single needle, the judges were not happy with the outlining for his playing cards with script tattoo.

Joey Hamilton – Photorealism is his strong suit, and he completely slams this challenge with an excellent skull.

Craig Foster – Another New Skool artist, he produced an inconsistently done cross that looked rather lackluster.

Mystical Mike – A very young artist he says he has never done a single needle tattoo. Maybe that explains why his tattoo was so boring and amateurish.

Tatu Baby – Back for a second chance at being Ink Master, she has no excuses if she ever finds herself on the bottom.

In the end the judges gave the win to Joey, giving him the power to assign canvasses at the first elimination.

Elimination Tattoo

Since flexibility is the first test, the judges set the artists to doing cover-ups. And the canvasses, in another surprise twist, were the same ones from the Flash Challenge. To keep himself from being accused of sabotaging anyone, Joey keeps the same pairings from earlier. Strangely no one wanted their Flash tattoos covered, although Mike came close with his canvas, Hiram, who was not even remotely pleased with his.

Tops and Bottoms

Jime  has to deal with a canvas that wants a dragon tattoo, something that no one has yet successfully pulled off at Ink Master. Maddie also decides to do a dragon as part of her cover-up.

Tops and Bottoms 

One of the weirdest moments in the history of the show comes during the critique when Mystical Mike tries to defend his tattoo by saying he only brought one machine with him. This floors both Chris and Oliver who cannot understand why anyone would go to a competition for $100,000 and only bring one tattoo machine.

Tatu Baby found herself in front of the judges with Mike, Maddie, and Frank. Not the sort of company you want to keep on this show, and I think it’s obvious that the latter trio won’t be around long.

Gypsy by Tatu Baby

Even with a fucked-up finger, this tattoo by Tatu Baby was still the best.

The other three were all varying degrees of crappy with the human canvasses voting for Maddie LaBelle.

Tattoo by Maddie LaBelle

She meant to make it shitty. Honestly.

The judges, however, were torn between Mike and Frank.

Babboon by Frank McManus

Frank McManus tried to defend this. He failed.

Lion by Mystical Mike

Looks nice at first blush, Then you get closer and start noticing all of the flaws.







Ultimately they decided that the baboon just had no redeeming qualities at all, and so they sent Frank on his way. This allows the other two to survive one more week, although I wouldn’t be surprised to see either Maddie or Mike get bounced next.