Anthony Michaels was the underdog heading into Season 7 of Spike’s hit tattoo reality series “Ink Master.” As a tattoo artist with only five years under his belt, no one expected him to end up as one of the top three finalists. However, that’s what he is heading into Tuesday night’s finale.

It’s clear from watching Anthony compete all season that he’s a talented artist. But Anthony’s not your typical “Ink Master” contestant. While he did form an alliance with fellow castmate and finalist Christian Buckingham, Anthony didn’t resort to any controversial tactics in order to make it to the end.

“Coming in I was laughed at when I told people that was my strategy,” Anthony explains to International Business Times of avoiding being a “bully” or “loudmouth” on the show.  In fact, he says his fellow contestants told him that wasn’t going to go far if that was the route he was going to take. “None of that makes sense to me. I was there to tattoo.”

His desire to simply tattoo clean and creative pieces obviously worked. Last Tuesday he beat Cleen Rock One in a head-to-head challenge, securing his spot in the top three.

“I was confident, not in arrogance, but more strategically,” he says of the black-and-gray tattoo he threw at Cleen. “I know Cleen doesn’t do a lot of black and gray. I’ve seen him do black and gray, and it was damn good. I knew the style that I wanted to go with was pretty hard to do, even for myself, without tracing an actual photo reference but to make it look photo-realistic. I was confident in the sense that it was thought out. I never saw myself being able to beat Cleen off of sheer application alone, because his application is exceptional.”

Anthony admits that he was able to “relax a bit” after securing his spot in the live “Ink Master” finale, but that was before judges Dave Navarro, Oliver Peck and Chris Nunez revealed what the final challenge would be. Anthony, Cleen and Christian were tasked with a 24-hour chest tattoo with a style assigned by the judges, as well as a 24-hour sleeve of their choice. Anthony was challenged to do a Japanese-style chest piece, based on his struggle with that style this season.

“I was dreading both of them,” Anthony says. “I don’t do Japanese, but I love Japanese and respect it. Where I live I don’t get the opportunity to really do super-creative stuff for all of the genres in tattooing. I don’t get to do super-large scale stuff like that all the time, and that’s what I want to do eventually. That’s all I want to do. I’ve only done maybe two sleeves, and that’s not nearly enough experience to go up against these guys, as far as the layout and composition and how it fits. I think that’s one thing they’re definitely going to have over me.”

“Ink Master” fans will get to see Anthony Michaels’ final tattoos when the live finale airs on Spike on Tuesday, May 24, at 10 p.m. EDT.

Anthony Michaels “Ink Master” fans will get to see Anthony Michaels’ final tattoos when the live finale airs on Spike on Tuesday, May 24, at 10 p.m. EDT. Photo: Spike