Photo: Ben Cohen / Oxygen

Wherefore Art, Romeo?

A nautical-tattoo challenge leaves a couple artists stranded. Crackerjack, or Memento?


Karly's confidence is high after winning last time, but Joe's remains high because he's in the show's Jerky Joe Bragg role now, I guess. Romeo is miffed that Joe, Darnell, and Willy think they're the only "real" competition.

Flash Challenge

Sabina and her cute curly bob greet the Inkers at the beach to intro surfer Laird Hamilton. The brief: paint a unique ocean-inspired tattoo design on a surfboard. "Surfers and tattooists are both artists," Hamilton announces, in such a matter-of-fact tone that it took me a sec to remember that, with all respect to both vacations, ummmm not really.

Lara thinks a jellyfish "metaphor" and a mandala work great for a surfboard. Of course she does. Karly ups the "overinvesting sea life with personal meaning" ante by noting that an octopus sacrifices everything for her children, while Alayna, who can't swim, does a pin-up with arm floaties, which is hilarious. Joe doesn't quite finish, and Romeo unwisely gloats about that.

Willy and Karly finish in the top, and Karly wins.

Ink Challenge

Pete Wentz and Joe Capobianco announce the main challenge: all the skins want symbols of navigating troubled times (ugh; can't anyone just…want a tattoo on this show?) with nautical ink. And the skins have goofier stories than usual, especially the lady with the anglerfish and Karly saying that the male wasting away having babies is a powerful story of feminism. Well, it's a wildlife take on "boys drool." Not sure that qualifies as "feminism," but hey, do you.

Karly has the option of reassigning skins to artists, but since she got the skin she wanted, she declines to change anyone around.


Darnell has to do a mermaid tail on each leg of his skin, and is freaked about time. Lara has to hard-sell her skin on yet another mandala, and the only thing more nails-meet-chalkboard than her insistence on that symbol is everyone else's insistence on pronouncing the word "Mandela." Ah. AH. "Man-dah-la." Argh. (Although if she flipped that script and did a tattoo of the late Nelson Mandela, I would take back everything bad I ever said about her and Bono.)

Capo visits and commiserates with Karly about her skin not wanting the bioluminescent element of the anglerfish, while Romeo continues to jinx himself every way possible by saying aloud that following Capo's advice usually keeps him safe at judging. Lara, meanwhile, continues to ignore Capo's suggestions, including that maybe she chill on the mandala tip.

As time runs out, Karly and Romeo have to edit some elements out because their skins are getting "tender." Willy is done early and doesn't use the time saturating like Capo advised. Joe takes a risk with his color story on an African-American skin.

Biggest Gap Between Challenge Brief And Tattoo Art

Lara's is a busy mess, to my eye, but the real issue is the way the mandala dominates the entire composition and makes it not that nautical. …Well, and that she didn't put Mandela's face on an electrical eel.

Tattoo I Would Consider Copying

I don't know about copying this fish, because it's got a definite vagina dentata thing happening, but on a composition level, Karly's is boss. Audubon-level lines and detail on the teeth.

Client Who's Saving For Laser

It almost comes back around to cool, but not quite…Romeo's is an undifferentiated red mess that looks like the cover of a romance novel, or the label of a bottle of cherry-flavored Malibu. Not a bad idea, just needs more variation.


Very informative this week, including Hannah's notes on opening up Alayna's composition with a bigger background ship, the deft negative-space coral in Willy's, and the sense of forward motion of Karly's fish. All stuff that's right on once she points it out but that I don't have an eye or the vocabulary for.

Sabina tries gently to lead Lara to a "I'm doing too many mandalas" place. Lara isn't going.

Capo's critical, but not rude, and his point that Joe's tat would have turned out better with contrast-y blacks and greys is a good one.

The judges pick a top three of Alayna, Karly, and Willy, with Karly winning. Agreed. Those three pick Romeo, Joe, and Lara for the bottom. Also agreed, and after Capo says they have to look at the entire body of work at this point, it looks like Joe might go home for repeatedly making mistakes he's better than -- but in the end, though Capo gives him an extra few minutes of ripping, it's Romeo who's packing his kit. I'd have booted Lara, but I see the logic.

Quote Du Jour

A nicely done and random "That's what she said" from Joe in response to Karly's complaint that her paint is chunky.

Crackerjack Or Memento?

Memento -- good pacing, a relatable challenge, drama that's work-based and not interpersonal, and edifiying comments from the judges.

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