Pittsburgh resident tattoo artist, Sarah Miller, has survived another week on the grueling reality show, ‘Ink Master’ and even took home the title of “Judges Pick” for Episode 4.
It all began with the flash challenge, which finally gave the artists in an actual tattoo flash challenge on a real canvas versus air brush, hair cutting and fake body parts. For this challenge the 12 remaining contestants would be given 90 minutes to tattoo a quick design common in any tattoo shop. Six contestants would get a lotus in water and six would tattoo a skull with top hat. While the tattoo was predesigned by the judges, the artists would really be judged on their choices of colors and shading.
“I love color tattoos,” said Miller. “I was feeling confident in the flash challenge. Color portraits are one of my favorite things to tattoo.”
During the first round of the flash challenge, the judges selected two competitors (one from each group) to participate in the final phase of the challenge and one of those winners was Miller after receiving great comments from the judges on her choice of colors and shading on her top hat and skull. The lotus winner was “Big Daddy” Tray Benham.
“After round one and good feedback from the judges, I felt happy and confident,” said Miller.
For the final round, Benham and Miller would go head to head tattooing another common piece, a gypsy girl. Prior to the challenge, Miller got a little cocky sitting on the couch even before she saw the design or heard there was only 60 minutes in this challenge.
“After I got the win, I was feeling playful and Tray and the rest of the guys had been exchanging banter with me the entire time I was tattooing the skull so I felt it was all in good fun to poke back at Tray,” said Miller. “I didn’t realize I came off as so angry/cocky! I think that may have been taken the wrong way and it hurt me later on.”
While both artists did a great job in 60 minutes, Benham came out on top winning the flash challenge and the prize of selecting all the human canvases. Sadly, Miller was greeted with concerns from the judges due to her light shading that this tattoo may need redone in five years.
“I thought we would have another 90 minutes to tattoo so I was excited, then we were told we only had an hour,” said Miller. “That extra 30 minutes is life or death in something like this and because I do smooth blends and shading that takes a little longer than a traditional tattoo.”
Back at the loft, Kay Kutta immediately starts grilling Sarah commenting on her ability to handle pressure and how he’s won two flash challenges so far (note: neither of those challenges were actually tattoo-based challenges). The room quickly got heated and Miller eventually left the area.
“I was feeling pretty down after the judges ripped apart my design and I really wanted to impress them,” said Miller. “Kay saw that I was depressed and because he thought I was mentally weak he started picking on me. What you didn’t see was him antagonizing Nick [D’Angelo]. The fight wasn’t as bad off screen because I removed myself from the situation and didn’t talk to him after that. There is no use arguing a point with someone who won’t listen.”
Continuing with the Flash Challenge theme, the elimination challenge is focused on new school tattoos which are heavy in color, shading, cartoony themes and pop vibes with bold, bright designs. As the winner, Benham assigned the human canvases and the contestants get a real shock when one of the canvases wants a phoenix shooting fire out of her … well let’s just say a not so print appropriate location. Another canvas wanted a tattoo on the back of his head. Rather than stick the contestants with something difficult, Benham assigned the canvases based on their strengths to challenge them to do something amazing.
“I wasn’t worried,” said Miller. “If I got the phoenix, I would have rocked it. I was very happy with Tray’s selection [for me]. Phil Dixon was my canvas and we bonded over his tattoo. He loves it so much. We’re Facebook friends now.”
Miller’s canvas wanted a design dealing with his job as a sheriff and wanted it to be cool so she suggested a dinosaur and he loved it. He even gave Miller complete confidence in selecting the colors she thought would be best.
“I went with my gut on the colors and he was so cool with me,” said Miller. “We had a great conversation during the tattoo and there was no drama at all so that’s why we weren’t on screen a lot. The final design was perfect and I was very happy with it.”
Of course, not every contestant had such a pleasant experience, Nick D’Angelo had the complete opposite when his client couldn’t make up her mind and towards the end became uncontrollable.
“Nick was right next to me and his client was crazy,” said Miller. “I mean literally needed medication crazy. I am so glad I didn’t get her that would have sent me home for sure. Not for doing a bad tattoo, but for me refusing to tattoo her. People like that shouldn’t get tattoos.”
When it came time for critiques, the judges were in rare form as usual attacking every line, shade and placement of the tattoo. While so many were given harsh criticism, Miller received rave reviews for her design and color choices along with Jesse Smith, who actually specialized in this type of tattoo design.
“Jesse was definitely on top that week,” said Miller. “His lines and color were perfect and he is the new school artist on the show. I’ve idolized him for years. Steve and Tatu Baby also had clean and solid pieces.”
D’Angelo, Mark Matthews and Lalo Yunda rounded out the bottom competitors for this challenge with the ruthless judges who picked apart their color and design choices.
“Mark should have been in the bottom for this challenge,” said Miller. “His design wasn’t new school and the final execution was off. Nick listened to his client too much and trying to make her happy made the tattoo one of the worst of the day. It wasn’t his fault, just a really bad luck of the draw.”
When the contestants returned to the room to wait while the judges determined their fate, the drama returned with Matthews and Sebastian Murphy starting a war about the way Sebastian treated his client during the process, which was anything but professional.
“Mark was correct when he was fighting with Sebastian,” said Miller. “You do not put a client through trauma like that to make them pass out. I’m sure that everyone has had that person they disliked and were a bit heavier handed than they should have been, but there is no excuse for trying to deliberately injure your client.”
When the contestants returned to learn their fate, Miller was floored when they announced her as the winner coming in on top of the resident new school artist.
“When my name was chosen as the winner my heart stopped,” said Miller. “I was stoked to be in the top two, but I thought Jesse had a stronger design. I didn’t think they were for real at first but I’m really happy with my win.”
Unfortunately, not everyone can be in the top and for the bottom three – it was time to make their case for the judges. Yunda fought hard that he was happy with his design and color choices, but ultimately it was D’Angelos poor choices and unruly client that forced him into elimination.
“I didn’t think Lalo should have been in the bottom,” said Miller. “His tattoo was really well done even if his colors were a bit weak. Of the two in the bottom, Nick was the worst but again, crazy client!”
Tonight, the artists will be taking a trip to Coney Island and are challenged to tattoo the inside of the mouth. Who will come out on top? Tune in Tuesday and find out at 10 p.m. on Spike and make sure to vote for Miller’s tattoo starting Wednesday!
“This was an interesting week and we are just starting to feel the wear and tear of the competition,” said Miller. “It’s going to be an awesome episode so I hope you’ll all tune in.”