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'Ink Master' demands the new competitors ‘Earn It!’ on Spike

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On tonight’s season premiere of “Ink Master” seventeen tattoo artists from all over the country will be competing for the title of “Ink Master,” an editorial feature in Inked magazine and the monetary prize of $100,000.

As the episode opens, several black SUVs arrived with sixteen contestants and brought them to a huge warehouse. Once there, the three no-holds-barred judges awaited; host Dave Navarro, and expert tattooers and judges, Oliver Peck and Chris Nunez stood as they entered the hall.

Each contestant had their own opinion of the judges; however, it was mostly fear. When Dave Navarro explains what a tough road they had awaiting for them, he introduced someone who knows very well. Kyle Dunbar, who tattooed live on the season three finale and won the opportunity to return and compete again was brought in to face his new competitors.

Dave then told the artists that this season they had to earn their shop. Many believed they already had their shop, but now a new twist was added. With seventeen contestants, and only sixteen tattoo shops, somebody had to go. Because America determined that Kyle deserved a shot to return, he was exempt from the competition as he grinned sardonically. For the sixteen new contestants, they must tattoo for the next six hours, convention style. This means that several canvases wanting a tattoo, do not want to wait, and they knew what tattoo they wanted. Each tattooer must do as many tattoos as they can in the six hours; being judged on the quantity and quality of the tattoos they do in the time allotted.

As each artist set up their shop, the canvases were brought in and the clock started. As they tattooed, some canvases were not as cooperative as others. When time was called, the critiquing began:

  • Walter “Sausage” Frank completed four, and all were well rated.
  • Halo, who only goes by one name completed seven, but they did not meet the expectations of the judges.
  • Jim Francis did four and got good marks from the judges.
  • Melissa Monroe did four and her designs were good, but the last one had an unfinished look to it.
  • “Gentle” Jay Blondel had four, and all seemed pretty good.
  • Matti Hixson had three and all were great, as Kyle agreed, he is one of the best in the competition.
  • Randy Vollink had three and one skull had serious proportion flaws, Chris told him if this was a representation of what he will be doing, he will have a short stay in the competition.
  • Scott Marshall had four, and all were clean and well done.
  • Bubba Irwin did three, but the judges did not like them and when he said he did what he could with the time he had, he was told that the men would be separated from the boys.
  • Keith Diffenderfer did four but one was thumbed down by the judges; he promised to clean it up.
  • Ashley Bennett did five tattoos, and all had great lettering, which is her strongest point.
  • Damon Butler had three tattoos, and none were liked by the judges.
  • Lydia Bruno had four tattoos, and each looked like a different person did them, the inconsistency of her tattoos did not sit well with the judges.
  • David Bell completed four tattoos, but the last one was incomplete and they judges held it against him.
  • King Ruck had six tattoos, and the outline was considered jacked up.
  • Roland Pacheco did three and one was an abstract cat, but all Oliver could say was, “What the f**k?” The artist tried to defend his work, but had no defense for the one creation labeled an atrocity.

As the three judges conferred, they rated Scott Marshall, Matti Hixson and Walter “Sausage” Frank among the top of their field and at the bottom of the field were; King Ruck and Roland Pacheco.

Dave Navarro then called out the names of the artists who earned their shop besides Kyle. Matti, Scott, Ashley, Sausage, and Jim. As Dave stared at the rest of the field, he told them that none of them deserved a shop. He then told them that the remaining eleven artists would have to prove themselves the next day with another challenge.

When the entire group gathered in the place where much of the competition will be held, the chosen ones had their shops set up with their names and examples of their work. The ones who must compete further were not happy. They must now show off their best tattoo skills on a completely open canvas, where they can do the design of their choice and prove they belong in the competition. In the past, several tattooers have gone home without ever showing their forte. Now these artists can do their strongest tattoos and prove they deserve to be in the competition, and the one who does not, goes home immediately. As the time rolls down to only minutes, it is apparent who is on the bottom of the heap. The artists who are not in the competition as well as the judges are keeping a watchful eye on their competitors, as only one will be leaving, so the rest are basically their enemies.

As the eleven await their fate in the loft, they talk s**t about the competitors who already received their shops. Everyone believes they deserve to be there as much as the chosen few. Gentle Jay feels that if he is eliminated, he would probably want to burn the f-ing building down. He then told everyone there; if not eliminated, he would be coming after them too.

At the critique, they faced their executioners. Halo did an angel back tattoo that was very nice, but needed some tweaking. Melissa did a portrait with good lines, but it was not perfect. Keith’s portrait was androgynous and although it was probably a woman, it was difficult to tell as Chris pointed out. King Ruck did a wolf face, but its elements did not all come together. Lydia’s tattoo lacked enough contrast to make it stand out, and from across the room; it looked just like a black spot. Bubba’s mechanical tattoo ripping through the skin had several flaws, as noted by both Oliver and Chris. David’s tattoo was dark and nearly unidentifiable as a skull, a poor decision on his part. Gentle Jay’s was well done, but the appearance had a stale look according to Oliver, as the red roses were symmetrical and should have been more individualized. Randy’s photo-realistic boat was criticized as very patchy and looked much like a paint-by-numbers drawing. Damon’s day of the dead tattoo looked nice, but Oliver stated that his inexperience showed with inconsistencies, weak outlines and lack of smoothness. When he expressed that it was not that bad, Chris told him if he did not see his lack of detail, then he has a major problem. Roland did a nice Polynesian tribal tattoo, but Chris told him that the cat he drew in the first competition was not enough to keep him if he chooses to tattoo in that manner in the future.

All the tattoo artists, including the ones who had a shop went back to the loft as the judges completed their tallies. Here, as always, some artists had a chance to pounce on the competition. Damon was the biggest target, as several did not believe he deserved to be there. He has a degree from art school, but they do not teach tattooing. When he criticized Gentle Jay’s tattoo, he sent a comeback line to Damon where he stepped on his own d**k.

As the judges converged, they discussed who rose above their first attempts. Halo proved he deserved to be there, as did Melissa. Then they discussed the bottom of the group; Randy’s ship was terrible according to Oliver, but Dave said it was easily fixed, but David’s was so unrecognizable, that it was beyond recognition. Damon’s day of the dead girl had too many flaws to meet with Oliver’s approval and Roland’s tribal tattoo from afar looked nice, but up close; it was not well done. As the judges concluded, they sent for the entire group, who now are all expecting the worst.

Dave called the names of those who earned a spot in the competition for now; Halo, Gentle Jay, Bubba, Melissa, Keith, Lydia, King Ruck and David.

When Roland, Randy and Damon were the last three standing, David told them that any one of them could justifiably be sent home. In the end, Randy and Roland received their shop, and Damon was told he did not have what it takes to be “Ink Master.”

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