On Tuesday October 13th 2015, Spike TV unveiled their live finale for season six of Ink Master. Hosted at the Manhattan Center, nestled between 8th and 9th, this live finale was a game of who's who of the tattoo industry's leading heavyweights. This season of Ink Master was centered around the sacred bond between masters and apprentices and over the course of 16 weeks we saw tattoo artists go home one-by-one after rigorous tattoo challenges, leaving the three best artists to duke it out in the live finale. With a $100,000 cash prize, a feature in Inked Magazine, and the glory of the Ink Master title on the line, Chris Blinston of No Hard Feelings Tattoo in Coral Springs, Fla., Matt O'Baugh of Black Cobra Tattoos in Little Rock, Ark., and Dave Kruseman of Olde Line Tattoo in Hagerstown, Md., were all fighting to prove that they had what it takes to claim the throne.
After filming wrapped for the main stretch of the competition, Blinston, O'Baugh, and Kruseman were challenged to create one, big, bold, and badass final piece that would help to decide which one of them had won the competition. They all were tasked to complete a 35-hour back piece in the style and subject of their choice, which would be revealed for all of America during the live finale on October 13th. But in order to be considered for the crown, the artists had to tackle their final elimination tattoo at the live finale. Before showing their work over the last few months, the artists were assigned to create a 6 hour tattoo in a style nominated by America's viewers. This final challenge was crucial as it not only determined who would be going head-to-head in the final two, but gave the winner of the challenge an additional $10,000 cash prize. Viewers at home were given the chance to have their say in who made it to the top two, casting their votes on Facebook and Twitter after each artist revealed their last elimination tattoo. During the time that the final three were completing their live tattoos, the audience got the chance to catch up with all of the eliminated artists from season six.
Returning to the final three artists, voters sided with fan-favorite Blinston as the artist who should advance into the finals. The judges—Oliver Peck, Chris Nuñez, and Dave Navarro—decided that Kruseman should also advance into the top two. This meant O'Baugh walked away with the bronze and his back piece, a black and grey neo-traditional piece, would not be considered for the crown.
All that was left to judge was the 35 hour back pieces. Blinston revealed his tattoo first, a large scale pinup showcasing his speciality of color portraits. The tattoo featured a 1950's style pinup, hitting on Blinston's strengths of capturing the beauty of the female form. The tattoo was clearly finale worthy with the attention to detail and expert finesse, although there were a couple of errors in proportion in the top and bottom parts of the tattoo. Blinston excelled in capturing a beautiful face in his pinup, a critique that has taken down some of the best artists in past seasons of Ink Master.
Kruseman also focused on his style of choice, bringing a traditional style back piece into the finale. Kruseman had been critiqued all season long for being a "safe sally" and not meeting some of the challenges that went outside his comfort zone. Upon inspection of his final tattoo it is clear that Kruseman was not holding back this time. The tattoo is packed with key subjects of the American Traditional style—from roses, to an eagle, the featured clipper ship, sea horses, and other nautical elements. The tattoo excelled at showing viewers why American Traditional has stood the tests of time, as the bold line work, vivid color palette, and distinct imagery of Kruseman's tattoo worked together to create one hell of an overall design. In comparison to Blinston's tattoo, which relied heavily on nailing a realistic portrait, Kruseman let bold colors and flawless shading prove why he deserved to be named Ink Master.
After they both revealed their tattoos, Blinston and Kruseman waited nervously in anticipation of the judges' decision. The two artists could not be more different in the strategies that they'd used within the competition and in the styles that they specialize in. Based on the length of the deliberation it was going to be a close call. In the end, Peck, Nuñez, and Navarro decided that while Blinston had been the frontrunner for most of the competition, Kruseman had hit a home run with his American Traditional tattoo and had won the title of Ink Master.
While Kruseman may be the newest Ink Master to be crowned, do you think he deserved to win? Do you think that Blinston's lack of overalls cost him the title? Let us know in the poll below if you thought that one of the other artists deserved the title or if Kruseman rightfully earned his title. And don't forget to tune in for season 7 of Ink Master: Revenge, where the next crop of talented tattoo artists take on Ink Master all-stars for the title of Ink Master.