Local Artist Sarah Miller Overcomes Odds to Survive Another Week on ‘Ink Master’

With the finale drawing closer each week, local tattoo artist – Sarah Miller – is hanging on and positing herself as a top competitor in the reality competition.

With the finale drawing closer each week, local tattoo artist Sarah Miller is hanging on and positing herself as a top competitor in the reality competition "Ink Master."

Last week, the artists were put to the test with a focus on balance, or placement of the elements on the body. Balance helps with fluidity and helps move the eye on the tattoo.

In place of tattoo guns during the flash challenge, the contestants were greeted with chaps and cowgirls just itching for a great design burned into their leather.

“I’ve never burned a design before,” said Miller. “Halfway through my soldering iron lost power, the power strip blew out and on the other side of the chaps I had trouble managing to finish in the time limit.”

With the focus on balance, the judges will be looking closely to ensure the elements work well together and are placed well within their canvas. With no other guidelines, the artists took many directions ranging from large-scale designs to smaller, more intricate pieces.

“My girl wanted a cow skull and some cactus,” said Miller. “She was from Texas and wanted to have a scene of something western. It wasn't too bad, I really liked playing with the skull.”

During critiques, the judges were critical of all the elements of balance—from placement to design. Miller received mixed comments from the judges with one side of her design looking unfinished. Elsewhere, Cummings received harsh comments for a backward dragon.

On the positive side, Tatu Baby produced a one-legged design the judges were pleased with and Jesse Smith used a love-hate concept that was well received. However, the big winner of the flash challenge was Jamie Davies who produced a two-legged design that stood out the most with balance and clean lines.  

As the winner, Davies has the power to assign all human canvases. During his quick interview, he made it apparently clear when he stated, “I’m very motivated to strategically **** everyone.”

Since the focus is on balance this week, there was no better tattoo style to demonstrate balance than Japanese. Rooted in mythology and symbols, Japanese style tattoos convey a balance of power and beauty. The true key is the placement of the piece on the body though, which can sometimes fluster even veteran artists.

“I've done Japanese before and I really like the aesthetics of the style,” said Miller. “However, after the traditional challenge I was paranoid about pleasing the judges and I took every bit of time I could to study and research my design. Japanese isn’t difficult to convey, it’s the placement and balance of the foreground and background that can make it tricky. Solid clean lines, bold color and simplicity are the hallmarks of the style.

Miller’s canvas was one of two Bellator fighter canvases (Sebastian Murphy received the other one). While her canvas was quite nice, he was not willing to budge on his concept and she was worried it wouldn’t meet the challenge criteria. Though a battle, she stuck with her gut to deliver what the client wanted.

“At first I was really happy with my client—I thought I would be able to do something epic with what he wanted but I had never heard of a daruma doll before,” said Miller. “I thought it would be more of a traditional Oni style Buddhist monk design, and finding out it was a doll threw me for a loop. Once I started trying to work with him he had a lot more than the doll that he wanted to put in. A temple piece for his time in Japan, water, and a lotus because it was a part of the martial art style he practiced. I really wanted to do something more traditional but he wanted what he wanted.”

We didn’t see a lot of Miller during the tattoo phase, usually translating to a great tattoo period. In the end, both Miller and her client were happy with the end result.

“There are a few things I would do differently looking back at the challenge but I am pleased with the outcome of what I did,” said Miller. “I think it has everything that the client wanted included and even if it is a little busy it still is something that reflects his life which is the base elements of Japanese tattoo.”

One of the more amusing points in the night was visiting Murphy with his Bellator fighter. When he saw the man, he was simply thrilled to learn they were paired but soon into the tattoo he was not so happy. While his fighter makes a living in a ring beating up people, he was extremely uncomfortable with the pain of a tattoo.

During critiques, the judges (as usual) were anything but kind, nitpicking even the smallest details. Despite a fidgety canvas, Murphy received a relatively positive response from the judges. Steve Tefft dive-bombed with nothing but negative reactions from the judges.

Miller received mixed comments—both positive and negative—for her lack of balance in the design, open space and too much background. However, she received positive comments for her design of the doll and the lantern.

 “I agreed with some of the comments,” said Miller. “I do think that it has a little more balance than they were giving it credit for but this wasn't a bad critique for me. There are things that I would do differently, not use as much black and try to simplify the design a lot more. It was really difficult trying to work with what my client wanted and I should have put my foot down on what was feasible to accomplish in the time limits and not be rushed. The people on the show are getting free tattoos - they are there for the artist's to work on as they compete for the prize. Letting the artist have more freedom results in much better tattoos.”

The judges were not overly glowing about Tatu Baby’s design with a stiff lotus and zero effort on the curves, though she had great shading and color. Finally, Cummings was clearly the victim of Davies quest to screw the cast by giving him another dragon, which he struggled with during the flash challenges. Simply put, the judges had no favorable comments for this tattoo, claiming the true victim is the client who would wear the monstrosity. Ending on a positive note, Davies received rave reviews for his Koi fish that overall, pleased everyone.

“I loved Jamie's Koi fish, it was beautiful even with the flowers added at the last minute,” said Miller. “By this point in the competition everyone can recognize who is in the top and bottom before we even go into critique so I wasn't really surprised with the top and bottom.”

When the contestants return to the elimination room, it’s clear that Davies was the only superior tattoo of the week landing him the top spot and leaving Tefft and Cummings to fight for their lives in the competition. In the end, Cummings clearly dropped the ball this week and was sent home.

“I don't think Clint should have gone home just yet in the contest, but the dragon was not his best piece,” said Miller. “You could see his heart wasn't in this challenge and I think the harsh comments from last week got to him. I know they got to me, everyone got to see my meltdown in the moment.”

Tune in tonight to see how Miller fares as we draw one step closer to the grand finale! 

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