They never play music on Ink Master. That’s one of the first things Katie McGowan, a central Arkansas tattoo artist, noticed when she began competing on the show during its sixth season in 2015.
Though Katie McGowan and her boss, Matt O’Baugh, were both eliminated from Spike TV’s Ink Master (she made it to week 11; he made it to the final round on week 16), they’ll soon return to the reality TV competition. The current season introduces an old pair of contestants for each new pair eliminated, which means McGown and O’Baugh will have a second chance to compete — this time while working together — for a $200,000 grand prize.
When McGowan does a tattoo in Sherwood, there’s always indie, hip hop, country or metal playing in the background — whatever happens to be on the playlist at Black Cobra Tattoo that day.
She knows her clients well. Some of them have been coming to see her for six or seven years.
The relationship between a tattoo artist and a client is a particular one, bred on trust and pain and fear.
“You know what they had for dinner, their problems with the family,” O’Baugh said of his clients. “You know when they move out of their house, when someone in their family dies.”
On Ink Master, it’s different. Each contestant meets the person who will be their canvas, then immediately goes to work on the image they will bear for the rest of their life.
The whole thing is a bit like a cooking competition, with higher stakes.
Canvases learn what image they will receive the day before, and they have little say in how it comes out. There is a spinoff show, Ink Master: Redemption,…
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