Not quite a year ago I was watching Ink Master when a scroll across the bottom of the screen gave a website you could go to in order to apply to be a canvas on the show. As luck would have it, my name got picked and in August I drove up to New Jersey to get a tattoo from someone I’d never met before that would be broadcast on live TV. I had to keep it a secret until last night when the episode aired. In this post I’m going to go over some of my experience being on set, working with my artist, give my reactions to the episode, and my feelings on my tattoo.
- They have the most prompt email responses of any group I’ve ever interacted with. It didn’t matter what time of day or day of the week I sent them something, I had a response in under 30 minutes. Major kudos for some serious professionalism.
- That professionalism carried over onto the set. I felt well treated and respected by the whole crew.
- The other canvases were friendly backstage. I feel like we got along well and I would get a drink with any of them to this day.
- I wasn’t compensated in any way and I did have to pay my own gas and hotel room for the night, but they did give us food while we were there.
- On interacting with the judges: I didn’t really talk to Nunez at all. Dave Navarro came back in the green room and talked to all the canvases for a bit. He certainly didn’t have to, but it was pretty cool of him. My biggest comment has to be about Oliver Peck though. He stayed until the end of all of our tattoos so that he could look at them in person, talked to each canvas about our experience, and took notes on what we said. Now I know why he’s often the hard ass on the show, he truly cares about the results of each week’s contest.
Working with Alex Rockoff (I’m only talking about my personal interaction, not anything I saw on the aired episode)
- Honestly he was great to work with.
- Listened to my ideas, asked questions, googled references for everything I brought up.
- We went back and forth on a couple things. I did want more than one flower originally but he brought up several good reasons why just one would be better.
- In his first sketch he put leaves on the redwood, I told him redwoods have needles, he redrew it with needles, and we both agreed that didn’t look like it worked so we’d just go bare bark since that is what the lower part of redwoods look like.
- During the actual tattoo we didn’t talk much if at all. He told me that since it was a detail challenge he really wanted to concentrate and I was happy to oblige, so I laid there and he worked.
The Devil is in the Details – The televised episode
- We had no knowledge of the flash challenge other than that we knew Cleen must have won since he passed out the skulls.
- Those skulls are freaking heavy. I expected some light as a feather plastic prop, but nope, five pound solid bricks.
- I knew the human canvas jury must go on for quite a long time and get cut down, but I was amazed at how much the person handing out the skulls talks to the canvases. Cleen was quite thorough with each of us about style, placement, and elements for the tattoo. He easily spent five minutes per canvas.
- One thing that got cut was Dave Navarro wishing me good luck with Phoebe, that would have been a fun memento to have, but I’ll happily settle for my shrug in the human canvas jury segment. I consider myself a pretty relaxed person, so it was funny that the camera captured the exact moment I decided to disregard the negative aspects of a comment and move on with life. I’m hoping to find a way to turn that into a gif I can use in future internet debates.
- Alex in the show is definitely made out to be much angrier and emotional than my experience with him. I don’t know if he was just professional in front of me, got much more upset after I left, the whole thing was just played up for drama, or any number of other reasons, but all I’ll say is that I was surprised to see him act that way after my interaction with him during the planning and tattoo process.
- I voted with the majority in the human canvas jury. One thing we emphasized a great deal to that canvas was that we thought it was a lovely and well executed tattoo that she should be proud to wear for her Aunts, but if we’re using detail as our criteria we felt her’s demonstrated it the least. I have no hard feelings towards her and I wish her all the best. I’m glad she likes her tattoo and she should.
The idea behind the tattoo was to represent me taking on fatherhood with Phoebe. The small purple flower is a wildflower called a Phoebe and the tree is a redwood. The summer Betsy and I really fell in love, or at least when I fell in love with her, was when I was working at Muir Woods which has redwood trees which also happen to be great symbols of strength and stability, so the redwood is providing shade and shelter for the Phoebe to grow on its own and become amazing. The mask is a little to represent some of the old things that used to be a part of me before I became a father and also there for Phoebe when she’s old enough because she should try on many masks throughout her life before finding something that fits her right. Ending sappy symbolism now.
Seeing my tattoo in the bottom three was hard, but not completely unexpected. I think the criticisms that the judges gave were fair and accurate though. The proportions are a little wonky, but I knew that going in asking for a tree, a mask, and a flower could to lead to scale issues. That said, there’s a reason the judges didn’t have criticisms on the technical aspects of the application. The color is gorgeous, the lines are smooth, and I know a lot of the details are going to age well. I’ll proudly wear the tattoo for Phoebe. I think my biggest complaint with it is actually that the color in it makes the color in the apple I have tattooed in the middle of my back look really shoddy in comparison.
I guess my final thought is that if magic time traveling me from the future would have come to me right as I was about to hit send on my application, showed me the tattoo, and told me everything that would happen between then and now, I still would have hit send.
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