Ink Master Season 12: Testing Marketability and Versatility on Episode 12

Please note: This post contains spoilers about Ink Master Season 12, episode 12.

To become a sought-after, booked-up tattoo artist in this day and age, you have to know how to market yourself and your art. To find interested clients and schedule appointments, tattoo artists rely on social media, websites, publicity, and word-of-mouth recommendations. 

But the skill of marketing and selling is usually not something tested on Ink Master—that is…until this week. 

Tonight, the seven remaining artists were at the mercy of their canvases, for maybe the first time in the show’s history. They had to impress their clients and the judges with their artwork and their personalities.

The judges also told the artists that it’s every man and woman for themselves from this point forward, as there are no more guest coaches to provide direction and help them along.

After weeks of contestants from the women’s team being sent home, is this the week where things finally turn around? Let’s get into the recap for episode 12.

Mastering Marketability in First Tattoo Challenge

Instead of focusing on flash challenges this week, the remaining competitors were forced to start tattooing right away with a tattoo challenge set up to test marketability. This week, the men and women had to woo canvases to pick them following a series of 5-minute interviews. 

If more than one canvas chose an artist, the artist had the opportunity to pick the design they wanted to tattoo. After some quick consultations, the canvases made their decisions.

Canvases have all the power on this week’s Ink Master.

Several people wanted Creepy Jason and Holli to work on their designs. So, Jason and Holli had an advantage from the start—picking one tattoo over another. Jason chose to work with the canvas that wanted a full-color, space-babe design and Holli opted to do a dollhouse and floral design.

Cam was chosen to do a stone, black-and-grey Zeus tattoo, Dani was selected to work on a black lace bow and gemstone design, Laura was picked to do a colorful moth tattoo, Pon was picked to do a traditional horse design, and Jake was paired up with a canvas who wanted a black-and-grey, skull-ship combo. 

Following their completed tattoos, the artists were thrown another twist from the judges. Based on photos alone, a new set of canvases would come in and pick their artists. This was an interesting concept because often, looking at photos of an artists work is how most people pick their tattoo artists in real life. 

Only four canvases were brought in for tattoos—meaning three artists wouldn’t be picked to tattoo a second design. The artists that were not picked were automatically placed up for elimination by the judges. 

Holli, Jake, Dani, and Jason were all picked to tattoo a second design. That left Cam, Laura, and Pon twiddling their thumbs, waiting to go up on the chopping block. 

All artists who weren’t picked had a hard time believing that the canvases didn’t want work from them. While Cam tried to play it off with his usual bravado and swagger, Laura took it particularly hard.

“I just feel very upset—devastated,” she said. “It just really sucks. I just want to fucking tattoo, man.”

Testing Versatility With One Last-Ditch Effort

During judging, all artists were evaluated on the tattoos they completed. This meant that Holli, Jake, Dani, and Jason all had two designs, while Pon, Laura, and Cam were only judged on one tattoo each.

The judges were looking for tattoos that allowed artists to be safe from elimination, but only Creepy Jason rose to the occasion. The judges had nothing but positive things to say about both of his designs. 

Creepy Jason stays safe from elimination.

The panel found inconsistencies and challenges in all of the other work—particularly in Holli’s dollhouse design, which didn’t have straight linework. This meant six of the seven remaining tattooers had to compete in one final head-to-head challenge. 

The artists were asked to complete two tattoos—of a different style and subject matter—in a timeframe of just six hours. The artists were given complete control over their designs and the placement of the pieces.

The competition during this stage of the evening was fierce. All artists rendered tattoos with few flaws. Both Dani and Laura really excelled. Dani, who said she doesn’t have a style yet, decided to pay homage to tattoo history with a classic American traditional pin-up and a traditional Japanese tattoo. Laura tried to make her tattoos as different as she could. She designed a Japanese head in a noodle bowl and a black-and-grey, realistic bird.

During judging, Jake’s koala design was put under the microscope and critiqued for not having fur texture throughout. And Cam was called out for not hitting the challenge—both his tattoos had a similar look, despite being clean and well executed.

The panel had a tough time deciding who to send home, but with few major flaws to call out, they ultimately targeted Holli due to the technical application flaws in her earlier tattoo and her body of work throughout the show. 

After last week, Holli was on thin ice with the judges. While it seems unfair that Cam was kept in the competition after producing a lackluster first tattoo and failing to hit the challenge in the head-to-head elimination, we can’t say we’re surprised. 

Holli Marie leaves Ink Master
Holli Marie leaves Ink Master.

“There’s no fucking tears in tattooing, man. I’m proud of what I did today. I’m proud of what I’ve done in this competition,” said Holli. “I did show the world what I could do and it’s not the last the world is going to see of me.”

With Holli gone, only two female artists—Laura and Dani—remain in the competition and both of them are gunning for a spot in the finale. While they may currently be outnumbered, neither of these women are going down without giving it their all. Here’s hoping they both make it to the end.

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