After weeks of grueling eliminations, the 15 contestants on Spike TV’s reality show, ‘Ink Master’ are whittled down to four—and Pittsburgh artist, Sarah Miller, is one of them!
Tonight we will learn Miller’s fate as the last pre-taped episode will air at 9 p.m. followed immediately by the live finale at 10 p.m. As we in Pittsburgh count down the minutes to watch her fate, we’re hopeful the spotlight might turn to Pittsburgh this evening.
A look back to last week’s episode, Miller was elated to learn it was finally portrait week—her tattoo specialty. This episode picks up as Sarah shocks the entire room by walking back in after the elimination of Jamie Davies. After landing in the bottom for several weeks, she knows it’s time to step up her game.
“Portrait week was the one thing I wanted to get to when I started the competition,” said Miller. “It’s my specialty. I think this was the first time in the competition I was 100 percent comfortable with the challenge.”
As the contestants walk in for the flash challenge, they notice that judge Oliver Peck is tattooing a mini style tattoo on a canvas. Dave Navarro then introduces this week’s flash challenge—mini tattoos! The contestants must tattoo the Jagermeister logo in about a quarter size or smaller using Peck’s sketch.
“Mini tattoos are tough because you seriously have no margin of error,” said Miller. “In a bigger tattoo, you can calligraphy a line to hide any imperfects. You don’t have that in a little tattoo.”
Most of the artists took Peck's sketch and used it as a guide, but Steve Tefft and Miller decided to ahave a shrinking tattoo competition opting to do a smaller version of Peck’s tattoo. Additionally, Sebastian Murphy opted to do the logo off the bottle rather than the premade design from Peck.
“I was just trying to have fun with this assignment,” said Miller. “I’d done small tattoos before and my main goal was to experiment. They wanted to use a single needle to do the tattoo and I’d never used one before. I wanted to see the difference between that and a slightly larger needle. I don’t think it was a struggle, but Jagermeister and I don’t get along too well, ha ha!”
During critiques, Jesse Smith did a nice, clean tattoo (with no googly eyes). Tefft’s smaller design paid off with a clean tattoo the judges were happy with. Sadly, the same couldn’t be said for Tatu Baby who struggled with some of the lines.
“I think I should have done it the size Oliver did,” said Miller. “I don’t really have any regrets though. I learned a lot from doing the tattoo.”
While the judges seemed impressed with Murphy’s tattoo, he received a lot of flak from using the bottle versus the stencil. Miller didn’t fare much better with the judges concerned her lines weren’t clean and smooth.
“I didn’t think I did a bad tattoo,” said Miller. “I did a pretty good job all things considering and you can tell what the logo is. I do agree with the majority of their comments.”
During deliberations, Tefft and Smith were clearly above the other artists due to their attention to detail and the ability to replicate. However, there can only be one winner and today that was Tefft. Not only was his tattoo smaller, it was clean and precise.
“I thought Jesse had a really clean tattoo but Steve also had a nice one,” said Miller. “It was a coin flip and that’s what the judges are there for.”
Back at the loft, the contestants begin arguing with each other about who’s the better artist. Tefft, fresh off his win, starts getting a big head and a bit sexist with regard to the two ladies left.
“It wasn’t the first time I’d heard [the comments],” said Miller. “He had taken to calling us ‘sweet potatoes’ since the ‘potatoes’ were out of the competition. I didn’t really take him seriously but comments like that can be really annoying.”
For the elimination challenge, the artists continue to focus on precision by tattooing a portrait. Portraits are as personal as a tattoo can get because they are a based on a realistic image, which can make or break that tattoo overall.
“I really wanted to get the baby (which I got), the one Steve selected or the one Jesse got,” said Miller. “They were all beautiful reference pictures but I would have been able to rock whatever was handed to me so I wasn’t sweating at all.”
Miller received the only child portrait on the panel of canvases with a mother who wanted to capture a gorgeous image of her blond haired and piercing blue-eyed son. When the duo met to go over the concept, the canvas was adamant about having the tattoo in color to showcase her son’s eyes. Though Miller is thrilled with the idea, she’s concerned about the competition since the guest judge was a legendary black-and-gray portrait artist.
“I loved my canvas,” said Miller. “She was such a sweetheart and very easy to work with. She originally wanted the tattoo in black and gray, but after seeing my color portraits she wanted it in color. I wanted to make her happy and I jumped at the chance but the more I thought about it, I felt the better decision was to do it in black and gray. This was one of the easiest consultations I’ve had. She is so down to earth.”
Murphy received a tough canvas with an older picture that is blurry and grainy. Lack of detail in the photo can make it tough to create an amazing tattoo. Tatu Baby wasn’t fairing much better receiving a canvas with the smallest photo and least amount of reference to work with. Smith also didn’t get a walk in the park with a canvas that’s a bit concerned with his ability. As a new school artist, Smith simply doesn’t have a background in portrait artistry and that’s concerning when you’re about to get inked.
When the canvases return after the sketching period, Miller has managed to convince her to switch from a color portrait to black and gray. She seems extremely confident in her ability and has high hopes for an amazing tattoo.
“Changing my canvas's mind ... well, I just told her how I felt,” said Miller.”There was the best black-and-gray portrait artist on the panel, and I wanted to deliver to the judges but also that I felt it would look more classic and I could take my time with the details in black and gray. I saw she was disappointed and if she had wanted to go color I would have to make her happy. I was relieved that she was on board with me and together we made that tattoo happen. She sat so well!”
While the judges snoop during the tattoo time, Peck and Chris Nunez are torn on the dark face in Tefft's design. Smith was also is extremely embarrassed with his awful excuse for a tattoo. Before critiques, it’s looking like Smith may be standing on his last leg. Before critiques began, Miller’s canvas was elated with her design which future solidified Millers confidence heading into the elimination room.
“Going into elimination I was confident,” said Miller. “I knew I rocked that tattoo and even if I didn't win, I felt it was as perfect as I could have gotten. Plus Bob Tyrell, one of my idols, loved it! You can't ask for more than that!”
Back in the loft, Smith knows he’s going to be in the bottom if not the eliminated player. The contestants know the critiques will come down to just how close the tattoo looks to the picture and Smith was way off.
During the elimination critiques, Tatu Baby was up first. She was confident working with the reference she had. There were great elements of the tattoo with smaller details. The way she captured the skin tone using light and another consistent tattoo.
As Tefft stepped up, the judges were impressed with everything from the hair to the wrinkles. Though there were concerns with an area of the collar, it was generally well done. Peck did comment on the darkness of the skin, but generally everyone was happy.
“I liked Steve's and Baby's tattoos, they were clean and well executed,” said Miller. “Steve's seemed a little grainy, and there was that black spot behind it. Didn't they ding me for that just last week?”
Kids can be tricky, but Miller did an amazing job. The judges were very happy with the shadow of the chin and it was awesome. Doing it in black and gray, Peck was happy with her use of time. He also commented on her nailing the shirt and seeing the haircut. Nunez said it was her best tattoo to date.
“This redemption meant everything,” said Miller. “This is the beginning of my drive for the end zone; I had to nail this one if I wanted a chance at making it to the finals.”
As Smith walked up, he knew he dropped the ball. Peck was extremely unhappy with the lack of detail in the tattoo. It doesn’t look real. The hair was more like fur and the enter perimeter of the face was bad. Murphy didn’t fare much better with the judges as they tore his piece to work. Though he tried to make excuses for a blurry photo, it didn’t go over with the judges. The biggest downfall was not following the photo and completely reversing the light and dark.
Murphy got defensive which just further irritated the judges.
“I thought that Sebastian's was the worst,” said Miller. “He changed the face on his portrait, I thought it looked nothing like the picture AND he damaged the canvas's skin. There was a whole section that was torn! Jesse had a solid tattoo that would heal a lot lighter, and I thought it looked more like his client's picture, but it was still not as good as some of the others. You can see the effort he put into it.”
Back at the loft, Tefft was cluing Smith on how to fight for his life. Murphy hasn’t won a single challenge so it may be a point to fight on. During the judge’s deliberation, the group is nitpicking on the smallest details. Tefft and Miller are clearly the top two picks of the day. There’s no question with the judges that Murphy and Smith are on the chopping block.
When the contestants return to the elimination room, the judges have decided the top tattoo of the day goes to Miller. In tears and smiles, Miller redeemed herself from last week. When the tables turn to the elimination facing Murphy and Smith, the duo turns on each other picking. As Smith remains silent, Murphy continues digging his hole deeper and deeper with his attitude towards the competition and the challenge. But in the end, the judges have decided that Smith will be going home.
“I don't think Jesse's tattoo was the worst,” said Miller. “I thought he was a better artist than Sebastian, and that he had more precision in his tattoo. Jesse was the best artist on the show, the most creative, and I feel the most deserving of the title of Ink Master. He is a MASTER at what he does. Sebastian didn't have the creativity that Jesse did.”
As we anticipate the final episodes tonight, Miller is surely on pins and needles if she is indeed in the final three. On a parting note, she had this to say about winning the title of “Ink Master.”
“I know the judges say that an Ink Master has to be well rounded, but I think an Ink Master is just a master at art,” said Miller. “Jeff Gogue - you can tell it was a Gogue piece no matter what style he is doing, like you can DaVinci or Michalgelo, Alphonse Mucha, or Andy Warhol! Every master has their way of doing things that set them apart from everyone else. That's just my feelings, and someday I want to be recognized as a master like them.”