A new “Ink Master” will be crowned on Tuesday night. From the start of Season 5, Cleen Rock One has been a frontrunner in the competition – pleasing not only the judges, but also his human canvases. Now that the show is down to the final three, it’s up to the artist to beat out Erik Siuda and Jason Clay Dunn to win the title of “Ink Master” and take home the $100,000 grand prize.
His ability to create original and technically clean designs made him the contestant to watch throughout the season, but surprisingly, Cleen Rock One didn’t see himself getting to the finale when he first signed on to do the show. The owner and artist at Chrome Gypsy Tattoo in Las Vegas just wanted to beat out his “rival,” Tim Lees.
“I honestly went there not expecting to do as well as I did,” Cleen Rock One told the International Business Times. “I just wanted to have a good time and do the best I could. Honestly, the first couple weeks I thought maybe I’m the old guy they want to make an example of. The guy they want the young bucks to kind of be like, ‘he he new guys rule, old guys drool’… I don’t know. I didn’t think I was going to get that far. I’m super humble.”
Cleen Rock One was the “Ink Master” cast member to fear – and that was something that Siuda and Dunn took into consideration when it came down to the Season 5 finale twist. Judges Dave Navarro, Oliver Peck and Chris Nunez revealed that the three finalists would not only be doing a 35-hour back piece … but would be utilizing a style assigned by the remaining contestants. For Cleen, that meant color realism – a style that he revealed that he’s not that fond of.
“I didn’t get to really do my forte, I guess you could say,” Cleen Rock One confessed, citing new school as one of his favorite styles to tattoo. But he wasn’t surprised when Erik Siuda and Jason Clay Dunn assigned color realism.
“I figured they were gonna. There’s $100,000 on the line,” he added, mimicking his opponent’s voices. “’Well, you know, let’s go ahead and give Cleen something that he’s really, really good at so he could really go ahead and make us look really bad.’ I honestly only did a few tattoos on the show that I was really, really into. Everything else was just kind of like – ‘this is what you want, this is what you’re telling me to do and this is what I have to do to get to the next level.’”
Fortunately Cleen really connected with his human canvas for the finale tattoo.
“Me and my canvas totally meshed, like, we’re homies,” Cleen said, laughing. “We’re probably going to be bros after all this. He’s a mechanic; I’m a gear head. I’d probably be working on cars if I didn’t do tattoos. I do tattoos to pay for my car habit. We just worked out very well.”
Cleen admitted that the 35-hour time limit had him “sweating” because color realism was a style that he wasn’t as familiar with. The lack of artistic and creative freedom was something that he also struggled with for his final piece. But despite his preferences, he thinks that he could still beat out Erik Siuda and Jason Clay Dunn.
“Erik’s a great tattooer and he’s a great artist,” Cleen said of his opponent. “I’ve seen his photo color realism previously and I haven’t really been impressed. I wasn’t impressed with any of the tattoos that he did. I think he did one or two where I was like, ‘oh wow that was really nice.’”
As for Dunn? Cleen thinks that when it comes to technically tattooing, he has it in the bag … if the judges are “having a good day.”
“That’s the nerve-racking part,” Cleen Rock One admitted of Navarro, Peck and Nunez. “They could either love it or hate it. It kind of sucks because I feel that everything I did get ridiculed on, on the show, was artist preference.”
“Ink Master” fans will get to see how the judges react to Cleen Rock One’s final tattoo during the Season 5 finale on Tuesday, Dec. 16. The episode will air live on Spike at 10 p.m. EST.