Season 3 “Ink Master” contestant Jason Clay Dunn proved that he’s a force to be reckoned with on the Spike reality show. The Montclair, California tattoo artist came in sixth place during the 2013 season, but returned for Season 5’s dramatic twist – “Rivals.” With fellow Season 3 competitor Josh Hibbard at his side, Dunn set out to show viewers and the judges that he had the chops to take the title of “Ink Master” – and he’s definitely on the right track to claiming the name and $100,000 grand prize.
During episode 16 it was revealed that Dunn, owner and artist at Tattoo Alchemy, would be joining Erik Siuda and Cleen Rock One in the Season 5 finale. The three finalists were tasked with completing a 35-hour back piece, and in usual “Ink Master” fashion, judges Dave Navarro, Oliver Peck and Chris Nunez dropped a curve ball – each contestant would have a style assigned to them by their rivals. But for Jason Clay Dunn, the surprise twist actually turned out to be an “advantage.”
“I remember mentioning to them before that that I hate doing new school,” Dunn told the International Business Times of his assigned style. “I think it just works in my benefit, honestly.
Dunn is a self-proclaimed “product of the 90s.” According to the tattoo artist, new school style first started “coming out and getting invented” during the 90s, right about the time he first started in the industry around 1992.
“They think that I don’t have the skills to do [new school] well,” Dunn continued. “It worked to my advantage. I do, it’s just that I don’t like to do it. I flipped the script on them, and pushed them.”
Siuda and Cleen Rock One might have failed at sticking Dunn with a tattoo he’d struggle at, but Dunn believes that he managed to assign his competitors a difficult style – color realism. He decided to go with color realism after watching the pair tattoo throughout the show.
“I think there [are] only a handful of artists out there that can really, truly capture color realism,” Jason Clay Dunn said of the tattoo style. “And neither of them are that. And in that regard I stand out alone on my own anyway. If you have two guys going at it with color realism they’re probably going to end up doing something similar in choice or whatever. Then mine’s going to stand out that much more.”
Jason Clay Dunn doesn’t have to worry about facing off with Erik Siuda and Cleen Rock One in color realism, however that doesn’t mean that his finale tattoo has been stress free. Despite 18 years tattooing, Dunn suffers from anxiety – something that was recently highlighted when his blank human canvas walked out on his episode 16 geisha pinup tattoo. Dunn explained that his panic disorder had him sleeping as little as three or four hours a night during filming for “Ink Master,” and that one of the things that the reality series doesn’t show is that the contestants have limited prep time before tattooing. But the few hours they had to design a piece wasn’t Dunn’s biggest concern moving onto the 35-hour back piece. For the artist, the setup of the 35 hours is what had him sweating.
“I wish I had more healing time in between sessions because normally I wouldn’t rush a major back piece like that,” he told IBTimes. “It’s not so much the 35 hours as it is how they have it set up to tattoo every two weeks. Sometimes you need longer healing times. Everybody’s body is different ... What ends up happening in a rush situation like that you end up tattooing over skin that’s very fresh and fragile and you end up damaging it that much more.”
No matter the outcome of the Season 5 Dec. 16 finale, Dunn certainly seems like one of the success stories of “Ink Master.” He joined the show to “conquer” and “deal” with his “old demons,” and feels that he was able to “put a handle” on that. However he doesn’t feel like he got the opportunity to truly beat out his “rival” – Josh Hibbard.
Hibbard was eliminated from the series after being caught smoking weed by his fellow competitors. His extracurricular activities were called an “unfair advantage,” and he was sent packing after breaking his contract.
The elimination had “Ink Master” fans in an uproar with many taking to social media to express their anger over Josh’s removal from the contest. Dunn simply said that “there was way more than that going on” with Josh’s “weed issue,” and that the depiction of him being made out to look like a “nark or snitch” was far from the truth.
“I think what the public is missing is that Josh cheated me out by his behaviors on the show,” Dunn explained. “He was doing great on the show, but what I think the public fails to realize that Josh really doesn’t have the drawing skills that it takes to be an ‘Ink Master.’ Is he technically flawless on a lot of tattooing? Sure, I mean if you give him an image to copy, which is great. But when it comes to designing something his compositional flaw and actual drafting skills [are] lacking. We were just getting to the part of the competition where you needed those skills, and that was rather evident in the episode where we were doing the amputees and he had to draw a girl in fire or something. If you look at the girl and the anatomy on that thing – it’s wacked, it’s not good, you know? So I never got to really beat him out … they don’t realize that he cheated me out.”
Jason Clay Dunn might never have a chance to prove himself against Josh Hibbard, but he’s not making a new “rival” moving into the finale. Although he thinks that Cleen Rock One is the artist to beat, Dunn sees himself as his “biggest rival.”
The “Ink Master” Season 5 finale will air on Spike on Tuesday, Dec. 16, at 10 p.m. EST.