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Cam Pohl was one of the breakout stars of the 12th season of “Ink Master,” proving that you don’t need to win it all in order to make it as a top tattooer. Since the season ended, he’s not only finessed his black-and-grey but also gained an understanding of his core strengths as an artist by specializing in beautiful female portraiture. We caught up with Cam to learn how he got into the tattoo world and what he learned from his time on television.

Take us through your upbringing and what led you to become a tattooer.

I was probably 17 at the time and hadn't looked into the medium as a career path much more than [thinking of it as being] something you saw on your sketchy step-brother. One night, I took the $100 I had to my name and begged my mom to let me use her credit card to buy an all-in-one tattoo kit off eBay, which for whatever reason she let happen. A week later, I was tattooing my brother, myself and anyone I could convince it was a good idea to have a child permanently mark their body with questionably obtained products. After a half-assed attempt at going to college and pursuing a “normal'' career, I walked into a local shop that was close to campus and bugged them to let me do anything that would let me get my foot in the door. After about three weeks of consistent pestering they let me mop the floors, ask questions, and begin what would become the most meaningful and passionate pursuit of my life.

How long into your career did you discover your signature style and how did it grow from there? 

It's funny that I find myself working in such a specific style because when I was just starting out, I wanted to be the guy who could do everything. I never understood why anyone would shoehorn themselves into limiting their creativity to pump out one thing. In the midst of experimenting, I found myself constantly drawn to anything that was a bit soft, delicate and feminine. It wasn't until about three years into professional tattooing that the end of a certain relationship sparked a massive desire to improve my black-and-grey abilities, which in turn, ended up mixing really well with the aforementioned delicate aesthetic.

What’s your secret to executing smooth black-and-grey?

I think tattooing is fascinating in that there's hardly ever a one-size-fits-all approach to any one aspect of it, and I feel black-and-grey application is no different. For me personally, it's being able to maintain patience and consistency throughout the multiple hours you might be spending on a tattoo that someone else could finish in 45 minutes. None of this really makes sense to me though because in everyday life I'm wildly impatient.

How was your experience on “Ink Master” and would you do it again?

I'm not sure if I experienced “Ink Master” the same way that most tend to. I was extremely disliked right off the bat despite my efforts to make friends, and I've never done well with feeling alienated in group situations. The actual tattooing didn't get to me until the tension of the living situation wore me down to the point where I didn't know who I was anymore. Looking back, there's at least a million things I wish I could've done differently, but in no way do I regret it. I met some fantastic people, and learned an incredible amount about tattooing and myself—I would do it again in a heartbeat.

 What’s the most valuable lesson you learned from “Ink Master?”

Never stop pushing yourself, and never be content. Complacency is the enemy of everything.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to tattoo like you? 

Find someone better than me. I love tattooing and am always honored when people enjoy my work, but I'm incredibly inexperienced compared to other more gifted and phenomenal artists out there. If you want actual advice, I'd say focus on subjects you’re passionate about and don't be afraid to acknowledge your own shortcomings. Focus on the details and it will always pay off in the end.