The Ink Master season two finale wrap-up

My girlfriend Michele and I watched the two-part second season finale of Ink Master on Spike this past Tuesday. Coming into the home stretch were the final four contestants: Steve Tefft, Sarah Miller, Katherine “Tatu Baby” Flores, and Sebastian Murphy. Michele and I were both of the opinion that the three who should be selected to go on to the live conclusion were Steve, Sarah, and Tatu Baby. Somehow, though, things did not turn out exactly that way.

Steve did a kick-ass tattoo of a muscular figure with a hammer & anvil which quite deservedly won best tattoo for the episode. Sarah tattooed a phoenix which, despite a few flaws, was very nice. The bottom two was, according to the judges, Tatu Baby and Sebastian. Tatu Baby did a dragon which was not especially great but, on the other hand, wasn’t bad either, at least in my opinion. Sebastian, however, did a very dark tattoo with some really flawed elements to its design. It was not good, not at all. When called to task for it, Sebastian seemed to blame everything on the fact that his human canvas had very dark skin. That’s nice, Sebastian, but you were the one who wanted to tattoo that particular person! Stop throwing around excuses.

In what was a really big upset, despite the fact that Sebastian had never won a single Elimination Tattoo challenge, and Tatu Baby had won several plus had a tattoo in this episode that was better, it was Sebastian who got the third spot on the live finale. Michele and I both cried foul. I immediately told her “You know the internet is going to explode now because of this.” And, indeed, I went right onto the Ink Master Facebook page, where dozens and dozens of people were posting angry comments about how Tatu Baby had been cheated.

Tatu Baby: At least she has her modeling career to fall back on.
Tatu Baby: At least she has her modeling career to fall back on.

The closing minutes of the first part of the finale revealed that the three finalists (Steve, Sarah, Sebastian) would be able to do a final tattoo of their choice, any subject matter allowed, on a human canvas. It would be a 24-hour piece, done in four separate six hour sessions. All season long, Steve has been showing that he’s a specialist at horror pieces. Sebastian must have guessed that Steve would be doing that, and decided to do a horror piece of his own. Unfortunately, the human canvas who Sebastian got was a woman who clearly had no interest in horror. She was a former dancer who liked ballet, and she asked Sebastian if he could incorporate that into his tattoo. He point blank refused, saying he was absolutely going to do a horror piece. I observed “Right now that woman must be wishing that Tatu Baby had been the finalist instead of Sebastian!”

Anyway, the second half was the live conclusion, broadcast at 10 PM from New York City (presumably the real NYC this time, and not Jersey City standing in for it). All of the eliminated contestants returned for the episode. We also heard from some of the past human canvases who were, shall we say, less than pleased with what they had gotten on the show. Dave Navarro announced that one of those unhappy customers would be receiving a cover-up from Tommy Helm on Tattoo Nightmares. I called it, I totally called it! I knew that sooner or later someone who had been given an awful piece on Ink Master would end up on Tattoo Nightmares.

(Since I first posted this about an hour ago, I see at least a couple of people found it with search engine terms such as “what ink master canvas got a cover up on tattoo nightmares?” The lucky human canvas who will be receiving a cover-up from Tommy Helm is the guy who got that really bad pin-up girl by Mark Matthews in episode six.  Seriously, who in their right mind tattoos with a broken thumb?!?)

Navarro also announced that there would be live voting online to select one eliminated contestant to return next season. Michele and I both spent the next 40 minutes going to the Spike website trying to vote. So must have half of America, because it was near-impossible to get the voting page to load. I think the site must have nearly crashed from all of the traffic. In any case, Tatu Baby won with 75 percent of the vote. At this point Michele declared that the judges’ decisions in the first half must have been rigged. She figured Oliver Peck and Chris Nunez selected Sebastian over Tatu Baby knowing people would be outraged and would subsequently vote to have her return. Why do that? Well, in addition to being a great artist, Tatu Baby is a really nice piece of eye candy, so if she returns for Season Three, she’ll definitely be bringing in the viewers. I’m just saying!

In any case, we finally got to view Steve, Sarah, and Sebastian’s 24 hour pieces. Steve did an awesome horror piece of a dark angel and a skull which can be seen below:

Steve Tefft's awesome winning tatto from Ink Master Season Two.
Steve Tefft’s awesome winning tatto from Ink Master Season Two.

Sarah did these two Norse-inspired pieces which were also very good. And Sebastian, well, he tattooed a giant piece of a demon clawing its way out of the flesh of his human canvas’ back. Oh dear. Don’t get me wrong. If that was your sort of thing, you would no doubt be very happy to get it. But it was sooooo obvious that the woman who was stuck with it had a totally different personality. I felt really sorry for that poor woman. Now she’s stuck with this honking big ugly monster tattooed on her. That’s going to require a gigantic cover-up by a very skilled artist if she wants to get rid of it.

The winner of the season was Steve. I felt that was very much deserved. Despite being something of a douchebag (admittedly, so were most of the other contestants) he was very good at what he did. Likewise, Sarah certainly did very nice work, and earned the second place slot. My only problem with her is that she was a bit on the, um, intense side… okay, yeah, she could get really frantic and crazy when things did not go her way! With her moods, I don’t know if I’d personally want to get a piece done by her. But, yeah, putting aside her semi-regular emotional meltdowns, she is a really good tattoo artist.

Sarah Miller: I'm not crazy, no siree!
Sarah Miller: I’m not crazy, no siree!

Now we just have to wait for Ink Master Season Three. Which means more Tatu Baby, more jacked-up tattoos, more contestants having verbal throw-downs with Oliver Peck and Chris Nunez, and more of Dave Navarro coming across as a wanker. Yeah, should be fun!

Separating the Ink Masters from the Stink Masters

I really, really try to avoid watching “reality television” because, let’s face it, Sturgeon’s Law is especially applicable to that segment of the airwaves, and a whopping 99.9% of it is total crap.  But somehow, against better judgment, I inevitably get sucked into watching episodes of such fare as Celebrity Rehab, Rock of Love or *shudder* Jersey Shore.  It’s the whole train wreck phenomenon… you just cannot look away from the blood & carnage.

Of course, every once in a while a reality TV show comes along that does have a modicum of intelligence and genuine entertainment value to it.  Ink Master on Spike is one of those, and I’ve been hooked on the show since its debut in January of this year.  A large part of the appeal for me is that I really love tattoos (I’ve got seven and counting) and I find the whole subculture surrounding getting inked to be fascinating.  The other major reason why Ink Master appeals to me is that to be on it requires genuine talent & artistic ability.  The contestants on it, despite their varying levels of douchebaggery, all are legitimately skilled in the art of tattooing.

Ink Master is hosted by Jane’s Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro.  I’m not certain exactly what qualifies him to be presenting the show, much less serving as one of the three judges, other than he’s heavily inked.  But I suppose he brings the requisite “rock star” presence to the series.  The other two judges are Chris Nunez and Oliver Peck.  Both are apparently very accomplished tattoo artists.  Certainly the critiques and advice they offer the contestants seem to be intelligent and thoughtful, the result of years of experience in the field.  I have to tell you, though, when Navarro, Nunez, or Peck launches into a lecture about some aspect of illustration such as the use of shading, texture, or contrasting colors, my girlfriend, who is an artist, likes to comment “Wow, this is art school for dummies!”

I mentioned douchebaggery, didn’t I?  Well, there are some real characters who have competed on Ink Master.  Everyone appears to be a competitive egomaniac ready to leap at each other’s throats… perhaps at the producers’ suggestions, who knows?  Each season, you get at least one guy declaring “I’m not here to make friends, I’m here to win!”  This was actually somewhat palatable in Season One, because the guy making this proclamation, Shane O’Neill, had the talent to back it up, and indeed he ended up winning the competition.  This time around, you have someone like Kay Kutta doing the bragging, but he just doesn’t have the skills or experience to justify the bravado.

Chris Nunez, Dave Navarro and Oliver Peck from Ink Master
Chris Nunez, Dave Navarro and Oliver Peck, hosts of Ink Master

This week’s episode was Star Wars themed, with a group of “human canvases” getting tattoos of characters & imagery from the films.  That definitely interested me, big sci-fi geek that I am.  As I was watching it, I was thinking to myself that it was too bad that my friend Chris didn’t get on this episode, because he’s a huge Star Wars fan who already has at least a couple of really awesome tattoos from the movies.  Then, wouldn’t you know it, less than two minutes later, who should show up on the TV screen?  Yep, it was Chris.  For those who watched, he was the guy who got the Star Destroyer & Tie Fighters done on his back.  I’m glad he ended up with one of the better artists, Sebastian Murphy.  Despite the criticism offered up by the judges, I think Murphy did a fine job on a difficult, detailed subject, and Chris ended up with a nice tattoo.  Anyway, it was a good episode, although I think the winning tattoo should have been the Clone Trooper by Sarah Miller, and not the Yoda piece by Tatu Baby.

My girlfriend keeps pestering me to try and volunteer to become a human canvas on the next season of Ink Master, to which I invariably respond “Are you out of your #@%&ing mind?!?”  No thank you.  The next tattoo I get is going to be a subject matter that I choose, and it will be done by an artist who can take his or her time with it, who actually wants to work on the particular piece, and who is not racing against the clock to complete it.  Okay, I can understand the appeal this has for some people, in that you get a free tattoo and get to appear on television.  But for me this is the equivalent of tattoo Russian roulette, because the odds pretty good that you’re going to end up with a mediocre or, worse, just plain bad image stuck on your body for the rest of your life.  Knowing my luck, I’d end up going from Ink Master to Spike’s other tattoo reality show, Tattoo Nightmares, which spotlights artists who specialize in covering up really awful pieces!

White on the subject, I gotta admit, Tattoo Nightmares is another entertaining show.  One of the three artists showcased, Tommy Helm, came in second place in the first season of Ink Master, and is really good at what he does.  Having said that, it’s another series I’m perfectly content to sit back & watch.  I hope I never end up with a piece so awful that I’d require the services of Helm or his associates to do a cover-up.

Anyway, Ink Master is fun to watch.  Despite the often ridiculous personalities & behavior of some of the contestants, it is very interesting to see them attempt to produce tattoo masterpieces in a high pressure environment with the clock ticking, definitely not the ideal environment in which to ink anyone.  Given that, it’s a thrill to see some of the amazing pieces that come out of that.