Ink Master Season 12: Artists Get Roasted on Episode 2

Please note: This post contains spoilers about Ink Master Season 12: Episode 2

Coffee. It’s a staple of morning routines and afternoon pick-me-ups. A must-have drug for baristas and java snobs. It’s also—apparently—a key material for making art according to this week’s episode of Ink Master Season 12: Battle of the Sexes.

In the second episode of the season, we saw the return of the non-tattoo-related flash challenges. We also saw the return of two Ink Master winners—Ryan Ashley Malarkey and Joey Hamilton—who came back as coaches to lead each gender-based team.

This is a new feature of the show that we expect to see throughout the rest of the season. But, in a not-so-surprising twist, Malarkey worked with the men’s team and Hamilton helped the women in both the flash challenge and the elimination tattoo showdown.

The Boys Win the Beans

This week’s flash challenge was based on shading, and each team had to use different colored coffee beans to create a large piece of artwork that showed smooth transitions and depth.

The women’s team got off to a relatively rough start due to internal bickering and a lack of communication, but they eventually settled on the idea of a landscape with water. Artist Dani Ryan took the lead in helping Hamilton draft out the outlines for the piece. Looks like that class on Dutch Landscaping in the Baroque Age is paying off!

On the other side of the room, the men made a more decisive start, in part due to Ryan Ashley’s leadership. They decided to create a castle-like image and used tape to create grids and straight lines to keep themselves in check.

Between coffee-bean-crushing montages, members of the women’s team seemed to be frustrated and annoyed with each other. In a huddle about how to best make the sky in the image, contestant Ashley Anoneison said, “I”m already feeling like our team isn’t working together,” and afterwards Elva Stefani stressed that nobody was listening to her.

Artist Ash Mann summed things up with a little more viciousness. “I’m going to snap somebody’s neck today,” she said.

Despite difficulties working together, the women’s team produced a legible, nicely-shaded landscape scene and gave the men a run for their money. But in the end, the guy’s team brought home the win due to their precision and technical application.

Busted Black and Grey Elimination Tattoos

To continue with the theme of shading, the judges told the contestants that they would be responsible for creating black and grey tattoos for the elimination challenge. Because they won the flash challenge, the men had the opportunity to assign the skull picks and gave the women some tricky pieces and difficult canvases.

Fon tattooing during the elimination tattoo

But at the end of the 6-hour time allotment, all of the artists struggled. On both sides of the fence, the judges called the majority of the pieces tonal, too dark, or too harsh. In fact, Fon from the men’s team won tattoo of the day even though he presented an unfinished piece.

Artist Justin Nordine put it succinctly: “We have to step up our game,” he said.

Because Fon won tattoo of the day, the men’s team formed the “jury of peers” with their coach and decided on a female contestant to put up for elimination. At the encouragement of Malarkey, the men decided to put Alexis Kovacs down for elimination, despite her tattoo not being the worst showing by far.

“You guys have to remember that this is a game of strategy,” Malarkey said to the men’s team during deliberation. “You might want to start sending down the biggest threat.”

Facing the judges at elimination were Alexis, Elva Stefani, and Big Jazz from the men’s team.

A Shocking Elimination

The episode took a surprising turn during the final judging as Elva Stefani told the judges that she would be excusing herself from the competition to focus on her mental health.

Stefani revealed on this episode that she suffers from bipolar disorder, and she felt like some of the other contestants—particularly Alexis—were not sensitive about how they handled that information.

Elva Stefani announces she’s leaving the competition.

Both the judges and the other contestants appeared shocked when Stefani made the announcement that she was leaving the competition.

“I believe in what I do, what I am, who I am, as a woman, as a fighter. I’m not saying that I’m not weak, I’m just saying that this is not for me,” Stefani told the judges. “There are ladies who are going to fight the fight for me and they’re going to kill it and bring it to the end.”

Judge Dave Navarro chimed in about the importance of self care and backed Stefani’s decision to leave. All judges wished her the best.

Exclusive: Elva Stefani on Her Decision

In comments to FemaleTattooers following the airing of the second episode, Stefani addressed her choice to bow out. “Being bipolar you teeter totter between manic and depressed. I was finding it hard to rebalance myself,” she said. “I normally keep to a routine: workout, meditate, things like that to keep myself healthy physically and mentally. It’s kinda hard to do that during filming, it’s fast paced and a lot harder than it looks.”

She says that she knew she couldn’t perform at her best, and when she was down for elimination with two other artists that she respects and admires, she knew it was the right choice. “Jaz is a mentor to me and Alexis is fierce lady tattooer,” she says.

Stefani says that she hopes the episode and her decision helps other tattooers realize that taking time for mental health important.

“It’s bittersweet. An opportunity like this is huge for any artist, but owning what was going on made me realize that I had the chance to speak to a larger group of people that needed to be spoken for,” she says. “As artists, many of us—if not all—suffer from some sort of mental struggle; anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, many different things. Tons of people around the world suffer from some sort of mental illness or disease, and I got to shed some light on that.”

Stefani says that since leaving the show, she’s been focused in on her art and has been traveling and taking care of herself away from the bright lights of the Ink Master workroom. She says she regularly keeps in touch with both the women and the men from the show. “We all talk most days in a big group chat,” she says. “As a squad this season is filled with some pretty rad humans. I’m glad I got to meet everyone and make a new family.”

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