By Victor Farinelli On Tuesday October 9th, Ink Masters Season 2 begins. I am not here to say anything pro or con about this show or shows about tattooing in general. I am just a sucker for “reality” TV. I used to watch wrestling when I was a kid. That’s real, right? With that being said, I am here to give you the play-by-play as the color commentator on this season of Days of Our Lives: Tattoo Addition. A regular old “Mean” Gene Okerlund, if you will. Each week I am going to give a recap of each episode. From the funny, to the absurd, to Mr. Peck’s line-of-the-episode. It should be interesting to say the least. So before the show begins, let’s look at the players...
“Big Daddy” Tray Benham:
Hailing from Branderburg, Kentucky, “Big Daddy” is the owner of Big Daddy’s Tattoo Shop. Who knew? Tray’s black work is definitely above average and he can lay down some smooth, clean lines. His shading is solid.
While he says in his bio that he prides himself on his extensive use of color, the healed backpiece on his Ink Master's profile was washed out, lacked definition, and is in serious need of a touch-up. He is going to have to step-up his game in this area in order to make it through the season.
Clint is the owner of Sparrow Tattoo in Dallas. According his bio, he got his first tattoo machine when he was 15... from his dad, to keep him out of trouble. He is self-taught and specializes in new-school and realism tattoos.
He is excellent at portraits, full of vivid colors. Cummings is great at what he does. If they throw traditional Americana at him, will he be able to pull it off or be set out to pasture?
Nick has only been tattooing for four years and is one of the rookies of the contestants. He likes pirates. Who doesn’t?
Another photo realism artist, Nick has done some pretty amazing tattoos in his short career, if a bit heavy-handed on the white. Hopefully his relative inexperience will not affect his chances at making a decent showing.
Davis, owner of Tattooz Ink in Redding, CA specializes in... you guessed it, photo realism. He has been tattooing for 17 years.
He, himself, has one tattoo. One. A black-light piece on the side of his neck. Never trust a tattoo artist who doesn’t get tattooed. Especially when they say tattoos don’t hurt. His work is average at best. I do not see him lasting long.
Katherine “Tatu Baby” Flores:
Seriously? “Tatu Baby”? She is another rookie and has been tattooing for six years specializing in... wait for it... wait for it... photo realism. Really? Wow! I’m shocked!
What are the chances? Her tattoos are hit and miss. She states in her profile that she has used her “sex appeal” to her advantage but not to judge a book by its cover. Well sister, your book is pretty boring and lacks any world-building wonder...
La Ron “Ron” Givens:
Another tattooist from the Dallas contingent, Givens is influenced by Anime. His bio says that he specializes in new-school, Japanese and color realism (i.e. photo realism). His new-school tattoos are impressive.
However, I do not see what he means by Japanese. When I think of Japanese I think of Horiyoshi III, and I don’t see that in his portfolio. Hopefully more will be revealed.
Thomas “TJ Hal” Halvorsen:
What’s up with the nicknames? Come on folks, not everyone can have a cool nickname like Sailor Jerry, Doc Webb or Rollo Banks.
I am not going to tell you what he specialises in since I am getting tired of typing r-e-a-l-i-s-m. TJ was a comic book artist for DC and Marvel. Co-owner of Foolish Pride Tattoo Co. in St. Petersburg, FL, Halvorsen colors are vibrant and alive. The pieces he has done of comic book characters are exceptional.
Cee Jay Jones:
Detroit Michigan's Cee Jay “Inky” Jones (yes folks: “Inky”) has been tattooing for 15 years.
She considers herself an expert in cover-up tattoos. Unfortunately, the pieces in her portfolio are not that impressive. There are one or two good clean tattoos and the rest are mediocre. Sorry Inky.
Steven “Kay Kutta” Givens:
Kay Kutta is a name I can get behind. Kutta has only been tattooing for three years. He credits tattooing to turning his life around after being released from an eight-year stretch in prison. His shop Kutthouse Tattoos was voted best studio in his hometown of Fayetteville, NC.
His inexperience does show a little in his work, although, there is a tribal piece in his portfolio that is quite stunning.
Little Mike is co-owner of Addicted to Ink in White Plains, NY. He has been tattooing for 14 years.
His style varies from realism to bold lines and color. The bold-lined work he does is good. His realism tattoos are lackluster and flat. If he stays away from the realism tattoos he may do well.
Mark is a tattoo artist/MMA fighter. He is a self-taught artists who specialises in black and gray with experience in Traditional Japanese and Americana.
He is another hit and miss artist with more misses than hits. His MMA record is six wins, five losses and one no contest.
Sarah was a graphic artist before she began tattooing. Miller is not a fan of traditional styles of tattooing because they are not realistic enough. Sacrilege! But, even with her blasphemy, she is good artist. Her pin-ups and portraits are bold and eye-catching.
I bet she could do a great traditional tattoo if she decided to come to the darkside. She is the owner of Wyld Chyld Tattoo in Pyttsburgh. (See what I did there? I put a “y” instead of an “i” in Pittsburgh. I am so fucking magical I blow myself away!)
Sebastian works at Detroit Ink. Murphy was a airbrush artist who moved into tattooing after the airbrush fad faded away.
He describes himself as a “ninja duplicator,” meaning he can duplicate any style of tattooing. The portrait of Little Wayne that he did is striking. I do not see any traditional Japanese or Americana so “ninja duplicator” remains to be seen.
Owner of Loose Screw Tattoo in Richmond, Virginia, Jesse Smith discovered his love for art while living in Germany as a teen. His profile says that he was introduced to tattooing by a circle of artists that he met while working as a caricaturist at Busch Gardens in Virginia.
He eventually learned how to make his own homemade “tattoo gun.” (Look, it’s a machine. If it was a gun you would hold it differently and it would shoot fucking bullets.) He is phenomenal at new-school. His lines are clean and his shading is solid. Jesse is going to be a finalist. He is definitely the best artist out of the contestants. If I had room I wouldn’t mind getting a tattoo by this cat.
Steve has taught me valuable lesson: I look like a dork when I throw the horns, a-la Ronnie James Dio, in every photograph. Thank you Steve. Steve is the owner of 12 Tattoos in Connecticut and specializes in black and gray portraits and horror imagery.
It is hard for me to make a good assessment of his work from his profile page because the photos are also in black and white and a little fuzzy. So we will see when the show starts.
Lalo is grew up in Colombia, South America and currently is based in Brooklyn. He is entirely self-taught and one of the first generations of tattoo artists from his native country.
Yunda’s work blends magical elements with the real world. His portfolio has some pretty unique pieces and I think he can definitely hold his own for much of the season. I believe he will be another finalist.
So that’s the weigh-in. Out of all of these artists, I did not see one good traditional tattoo - or any for that matter. Just because traditional tattoos look easy to tattoo does not mean it is easy. It takes talent to make a traditional tattoo stand out and there are a lot of great aspiring artists specializing in traditional Americana needing a payday to help catch up on some bills. Maybe they should rename Ink Master, “Photo Realism Masters.” With that being said, my prediction is that Jesse Smith is going to win. He is the best out of this years contestants hands down.
If you have gotten this far into this post, you are saying to yourself, “What makes this cat (dude, chump, dickhead - whatever) qualified to give his opinion.” Well, nothing really. That puts me on par with Navarro. Except that he is famous and has way more money. I have way more tattoos. Better facial hair too. Loose that beard thing you got going on there, Dave. It’s kinda creepy. Keep in mind, like any commentator, my predictions, comments and analysis of the art and artists is my own and does not reflect the opinions or views of Tattoo Artist Magazine as a whole. I may be harsh - sort of like those mean, bitter Olympic diving, gymnastics and ice skating announcers. Hate mail can be sent to email@example.com. Let the madness begin!
Victor is a blogger for Tattoo Artist Magazine and can be found at: http://www.facebook.com/victhortheviking.
Read more from Victor:
Related TAM Blogs: