Does Erik Siuda have what it takes to become “Ink Master”? Fans of the Spike reality show will find out soon enough when the live finale airs on Tuesday, Dec. 16.
The Brooklyn, New York artist and owner at Ghost Gallery Tattoo has 18 years experience tattooing under his belt -- and it has definitely shown throughout the competition. Despite a nail biting final elimination piece in episode 16, Siuda proved himself to be a force to be reckoned with when he beat out Mark Longenecker to join Cleen Rock One and Jason Clay Dunn in the finale. It was a long (and dramatic) road to this point, but Siuda is confident moving forward.
“I really wasn’t afraid of getting sent home because I think I proved a point throughout the whole competition that I was a solid, all around tattoo artist,” Erik Siuda told International Business Times.
Despite his skillset, his finale tattoo wasn’t an easy one. When viewers last left off, judges Dave Navarro, Oliver Peck and Chris Nunez introduced a twist for the competitors -- their rivals would be choosing the style for their 35-hour back piece. Cleen Rock One and Jason Clay Dunn chose to assign Siuda color realism, hoping to throw the competitor off with a style with which he wasn’t comfortable. But Siuda said that’s not the case, citing his hobby painting and working on portraits as something that has helped him with color realism.
“It’s not my favorite. If I had a choice I would have been doing Japanese or something like that,” he added of the style. “I don’t want to sound like a pretentious jerk -- I think that [with] photo realism basically all you have to do is be a good copy machine and it kind of takes the art out of it. I mean, you still have to lay it out properly and stuff like that. But I’m an old school tattoo-er where I like to use my imagination to come up with imagery and not really cut and paste and copy things that I find that are relevant into the subject matter.”
Lack of creativity isn’t the only thing that makes this tattoo difficult. The finalist explained that a 10-by-5 color realism tattoo can take up to 20 hours … and he has 35 hours to complete an entire back piece.
“Photo realism is super intense,” Siuda continued. “You have to get every nook and cranny. You’re basically reproducing a photograph. And you have to execute it flawlessly because if not you’re going to be able to see the mistake. … A back piece 35 hours, photo realism is an epic task. It’s pressure even for a seasoned veteran. [Cleen and I] kind of looked at each other like ‘35 hours for photo realism is insane.’”
There is no denying that stress goes hand-in-hand with this final tattoo. But the added pressure of going up against Cleen Rock One in the same style is not something that Siuda is letting get to his head. In fact, he wanted to assign his fellow artist with color realism because he’s his “biggest competition.”
“I just figured if I’m going to go out I’m going to go in a blaze of glory against someone I find equally proficient in any realm of tattooing,” he said of Cleen. “Nothing against Jason, but I think that both of us have very strong skill sets and I think he was basically the best man to go up against.”
“Ink Master” fans will get to see how Cleen and Siuda’s pieces compare on Tuesday, but there is one other competitor Siuda would have liked to take a crack at in the finale -- Josh Hibbard. For those that don’t remember, Josh was eliminated from the show in episode 11 despite having the strongest tattoo of the challenge. He was sent packing after it was revealed that he had been smoking marijuana to deal with his stress on the show -- something that violated his contract.
“I would have loved to go up against Josh. Unfortunately the situation,” he trailed off, laughing. “Color realism that’s kind of Josh’s thing but I wouldn’t have cared. I would have gave him something that he’s not used to. It is what it is.”
But that doesn’t mean Siuda doesn’t find Jason to be a challenge. According to the tattoo artist, he respects Jason made it to the finale despite his struggles throughout the season.
“I definitely think he’s a formidable opponent,” Siuda added of Clay Dunn. “But I just think that Cleen is a stronger competitor.”
Erik Siuda’s 35-hour color realism back piece will be unveiled during the live Season 5 finale of “Ink Master.” If he wins the $100,000 grand prize he’s looking forward to taking his family on vacation and investing more money into his kid’s college fund.
“Let the better tattoo win,” Siuda said. “Let the tattoo speak for itself.”