The first two episodes of “Ink Master” have come and gone and our hometown girl, Sarah Miller, of Wyld Chyld Tattoo in Pittsburgh has shown her skills as one tough competitor from the first episode.
Spike TV ran the first two episodes back to back last Tuesday kicking off at 10 p.m. The first episode had two challenges—a flash challenge and an elimination challenge. The flash challenge came first and started with the entire cast standing outside of a morgue. You could see the tension on many of the contestants as they wondered their fate.
“I was really freaking out,” said Miller. “It smelled like death and there were real dead bodies being unloaded from the trucks so my heart was sinking the longer I was standing there.”
The flash challenge required the contestants to create any tattoo they wanted in three hours that included a snake and a dagger and highlighted the basic skills of tattooing, such as shading and lines. However, the judges—specifically Dave Navarro—eluded that they would in fact be tattooing on dead bodies because “a dead client doesn’t squirm.”
Thankfully, once inside when the sheets were pulled back it revealed a dummy created to have life-like skin that many tattoo artists practice and learn on when they begin their tattoo apprenticeships. Unfortunately, while in some ways the dummies are like humans—the canvas doesn’t react just like human skin and many contestants were challenged by the canvas alone.
Miller’s tattoo received promising feedback, landing her at least in the top contestants doing the challenge and also creating a target on her back as tough competition.
“Sarah comes out as young and innocent but she nailed her snake,” said Steve Tefft, another competitor during episode interviews. “That girl can tattoo and she’s going to be a tough competitor.”
Miller was pleased with her critiques and comments. She was hopeful she might have won the flash challenge at first.
“I was really hopeful,” said Miller. “I was in the top consideration of the judges and I had done a clean tattoo on something I wasn’t use to working on.”
Unfortunately, another contestant did win the flash challenge, giving him a leg up in the elimination challenge—with a twist no one saw coming. For their first elimination challenge, the contestants were presented with a group of virgin tattoo canvases—meaning they’ve never had a tattoo and would likely react very differently to the pain, tattoo needs and entire process. As the winner of the flash challenge, Jesse Smith, would be the first to hear from the virgins on the tattoos they wanted and then assign each one to one of the competitors (in other words – give the toughest to his toughest competition).
“I didn’t see that twist coming and I was just hoping to get a normal canvas,” said Miller. “Jesse has told me he saw me as a tough competitor so I didn’t have high hopes.”
Miller was correct in guessing she’d get a tough canvas, in fact she probably got the hardest tattoo request of all—a city made of bacon. Yes, you read that correctly. Someone actually wanted to brand themselves with a city of bacon as a giant back piece, which is quite a lofty request for a tattoo virgin.
“My mind went black when I heard what I had been chosen to tattoo,” said Miller. “I didn’t know what I was going to be able to do, but I started turning it over in my head and I began to visualize something. When I sat down with him, we were able to clarify what he wanted, but I still had reservations with the subject matter. It is really difficult to illustrate bacon.”
Back pieces are tough because they’re quite large and usually require extensive work, but completing one within a six hour time frame on a virgin—that’s quite a challenge. This elimination challenge focused on the fundamentals of tattoo which includes shading, lines, etc. These would be the aspects the judges will critique the most when looking at the final piece of work.
The squirming began immediately for many of the contestants. For Miller, this tattoo went anything but swimmingly from the concept to the tattoo itself. We watched her struggle with her human canvas that nearly passed out, sweated and seemed very nervous throughout the process.
“A virgin doesn’t know what a tattoo feels like and going into a long session they can psych themselves out and have a bad physical reaction,” said Miller.
Thankfully, Miller was able to finish the tattoo, but it wasn’t a masterpiece. The judges were very critical on her including Oliver Peck who said “my problem is that if you didn’t tell me it was bacon, I wouldn’t know what to say.” Miller’s challenge was tough, but we apparently didn’t see the whole story on camera.
“There was more to the critique than was shown and I did agree with some of what they said,” said Miller. “It was a difficult concept to pull off and I think that I did do that very well.”
While Miller’s bacon city sizzled her to safety, not everyone was lucky. There were numerous mistakes from missing toes to lines not quite right. However, one artist had an epic failure in the form of basic common sense—if you write a word in a tattoo, make sure you spell it correctly.
For Cee Jay Jones, that was just her nightmare as she misspelled Corinthians. While it went unnoticed in the initial reviews, when the judges were discussing the bottom tattoos Dave Navarro noticed the egregious error and her fate was ultimately sealed.
“Out of everyone’s tattoos they [Cee Jay Jones and Kay Kutta] had the worst,” said Miller. “But misspelling a word? That’s basics 101. I think they were right in sending her home.”
Of course, while one player was eliminated, another tattoo rose to the top and that was Steve Tefft with an incredible piece of work showcase the fundamentals.
With the first day jitters behind them, episode two brought new challenges starting with a new flash challenge. This challenge brought the contestants to a graffiti laden building and an opportunity to showcase a different kind of art skill – airbrush. The contestants were given models with a challenge to make them disappear within the walls.
“I had a lot of fun,” said Miller. “It was the first time I used an airbrush so it took me a bit to figure out how to use it. I really liked what I did and I totally will airbrush again.”
While Miller received great compliments for her airbrush work, it was ultimately Kay Kutta who rose from being in the bottom two during the last elimination challenge to winning the flash challenge and receiving the prize of assigning the human canvases for this week’s elimination challenge.
This week, the contestants wouldn’t be facing virgins. In fact, many of their human canvases had numerous tattoos—but at least one they wanted the contestants to cover up for good. As the canvases displayed their work for Kay Kutta to assign, some were noticeably harder than others. This challenge will certainly be a feat for even the veteran artist because placement and design is everything. In addition, the contestants were also greeted with a special guest judge who knows a thing or two about tattoos and cover-ups - Baltimore Ravens linebacker, Terrell Suggs.
“I’m a hardcore Steeler’s fan,” Said Miller. “I admit that I was booing the Ravens in my heart. Ravers are going down!”
For this elimination challenge, Miller did not receive the worst of the cover-ups, but hers was still a challenge. Her canvas had a tribal tattoo to cover up, which Miller did with a realism tattoo.
“I was fine with the assignment I received,” said Miller. “My client was amazing and sat very well. I didn’t realize the time passing so I spent more on the leaves than on the face but I was very satisfied with how the tattoo came out. The challenge went very smoothly, no drama on my end.”
This week received mixed comments from the judges—but still landed Miller safe from elimination.
“I disagreed with some of the comments,” said Miller. “I thought that the hand fit the design because I wasn’t going for realism. I drew that face without solid reference and wanted it to be slightly fairy/surreal looking. That being said, I can see that if I had tightened the design in that area it may have appealed to more people.”
Of course, there was a clear winner this week and that was Jesse. His cover-up left virtually no trace of the original tattoo and showcased his true artistic talent and skill.
“Jessie was the clear winner in that challenge,” said Miller. “That tattoo was even more impressive in real life. That man can tattoo!”
Of course with every great tattoo, someone must go home and this time it was Little Mike’s gigantic black dog screamed cover-up to the judges.
“For the most part, I thought that Kay’s bird had a wonky eye and looked shaky, but that didn’t get a mention,” said Miller. “I thought that Mark’s tattoo was poorly placed and that should have ranked low as well.”
Tune in tonight to watch Miller compete in week three which challenges her to go outside her comfort zone when she and the other contestants trade tattoo guns for hair clippers in the flash challenge and a whole new boat of drama with the elimination challenge.
“You seem on a couch in the preview for the next episode when I was pretty pissed,” said Miller. “I think you are going to have fun watching. Tune in tonight and see the wackiness unfold.”
Don’t miss “Ink Master” tonight at 10 p.m. on Spike TV then log onto spiketv.com after the show to vote for Miller’s tattoos. America votes the winner this year so every vote counts every week!