Dave Navarro's respect for the art and culture of tattooing makes him perfect for host and judge of Ink Master. With his six-string skills best described as a merger between heavy metal, psychedelia, and modern rock, Navarro is one of alternative rock's first true guitar heroes. Best known as the guitarist for Jane's Addiction, the band recently released their highly anticipated new album The Great Escape Artist.
Chris Nunez sits on the Ink Master judge's panel along with Dave Navarro and Oliver Peck. Nunez, 38, is of Cuban descent and grew up in Miami, FL. He entered into the realm of tattooing after beginning his career as a graffiti artist. At 21, Nunez packed his bags for a short trip to Brazil and ended up staying for five years. He then traveled through Europe for three years, which enabled him to work with his favorite tattoo artists. The experience expanded both his artistic sense and his knowledge of tattooing. He was a star and fan favorite on the popular tattoo-reality series, "Miami Ink." Nunez is a partner in Ridgeline Empire, a strategic multiplatform content and media corporation, which operates the subsidiaries Ink Skins and Upset Gentlemen and an animation studio with two animated series in development, "Hoodbrats" and "Toothians." He is also getting ready to open a new tattoo venture to be based in his hometown of Miami.
Oliver Peck, judge of Ink Master, is an artist whose whole life revolves around tattooing. He began tattooing when he was just 19 years old in his hometown of Dallas, TX and has perfected his precise and traditional tattooing style making him one of the best and well-known 'old school' American style artists. In 2008, Peck inked his way into the Guinness Book of World Records when he completed 415 tattoos of the number 13 in a consecutive 24-hour period. He is one of the most traveled tattoo artists on the circuit, tattooing all over Europe including England, Ireland, Italy, Germany, Sweden and Norway and in the Far East, including Japan and Thailand. Peck is co-owner of Elm Street Tattoo in Dallas, TX and the owner of True Tattoo located in Hollywood, CA.
Bennett takes great pride in what she's achieved as a female artist in a male dominated industry. An apprenticed and self-taught artist, she's got a competitive spirit and firey attitude. Bennet has worked hard to gain the respect of her peers and clients wants to prove that women in the tattoo industry are just as good, if not better, than their male counterparts. While she describes her style as colorful and bold Bennett enjoys tattooing traditional styled pieces.
Irwin takes deep pride in the fact that he is a 100% self-taught tattoo artist. Everything he knows about the tattoo industry he's learned through trial, error and practice, making him the confident artist that he is. Competitive and determined by nature, Irwin attributes much of his business success to the work ethic instilled in him by his father while growing up. His ambitious nature is clearly evident in his quick rise from doing tattoos out of his home for friends and family to opening up his own shop where he specializes in realism and portraits.
Growing up in the projects of Boston, Damon Butler could have easily ended up another victim of drugs and violence. However, he could draw from an early age and earned a reputation in his neighborhood as a talented artist. He was encouraged by his local peers to make use of his talent and eventually attended art school. Damon is a self-taught tattoo artist and clearly the determined and hungry rookie in this year's competition, having bought his first machine three years ago and began practicing on fruit before working up to his first human canvas.
David Bell has been tattooing for more than 20 years and is widely known on the convention circuit. A confident artist, Bell got his start apprenticing at a studio in Arizona and moved around to shops in California Washington and Nevada to perfect his tattoo abilities. Two years ago he brought his West Coast tattoo style and his love of black and gray work to the East Coast when he set up his own shop TLA Tattoos in Virginia. Bell believes he had the fundamentals and creative experience to bring a real challenge to this year's competition.
Don't let his moniker fool you, Gentle Jay is no shrinking violet. After brief stints in art school and as a party decorator Jay found his way to tattooing and body piercing in 1999. He prides himself on his tattoo versatility, not sticking to just one style because his goal is to come up with something new. Gentle Jay looks at this season's competition as his coming out party and believes his meticulous work and fine lines is what will set him apart from his competitor and prove that he can hang with the big boys.
After winning more than one hundred fifty awards within the past four years for his artistry and tattooing at two hundred conventions last year, Halo joins the cast confident and ready to claim his next prize. But this artist is more than just a winner in his art work, he's a successful shop owner, but more importantly a cancer survivor. After his diagnosis Halo set out to break the rules by going a holistic approach to treat and cure his illness. He also set out to make his imprint on the tattoo industry, working 24/7 practicing his craft and building a name for himself with his realism and new skool work.
After living life in the fast lane and spending time in both jail and rehab for drugs, Francis found stability in tattooing. A self-taught artist who began his tattoo career in California, he is primarily known for his Japanese and black and gray photorealism tattoos, but he personally favors working in the traditional style. Little do his clients or his fellow competitors know that he works his craft with a slight disadvantage, he's partially color blind, but Francis has an uncanny ability to turn that weakness into a strength. He owns the only tattoo shop in the world located within a Harley Davidson flagship dealership in Milwaukee.
Keith Diffenderfer has been relentless since he was young. As a high school student, he showed up at the same tattoo shop every day for a year until they finally agreed to give him an apprenticeship. That apprenticeship is what Diffenderfer believes sets him apart from newbies who never paid their dues in the industry. He believes that the lack of art education and working your way up in tattooing is a disservice to the customer. Diffenderfer has earned a reputation for bright, bold tattoos but refuses to categorize himself, he believes he can do it all.
King Ruck, a veteran, feels he let people bully him during Season 4 and didn't play the game right. He feels as though he has a lot of unfished business and has learned from his mistakes. King Ruck enjoys all styles of tattooing, but tends to lean toward animal realism, realism, new school, and any illustrated style of work and is confident that he has what it takes to be the next "Ink Master."
Kyle Dunbar is a self-taught tattoo artist who hasn't built his reputation on being the nice guy. He says that he worked at almost every tattoo shop in Genesee County, MI, his hometown, only to have been fired from every one of them because of his abrasive attitude. Dunbar dislikes tattoo styles with strict rules and prefers to create his own world of "badass art" where he can control gravity and twist reality to his own liking. Dunbar opened his own shop Almighty Tattoo in 2003 with his wife and has clients coming to him from all over to get inked in his signature extreme realism tattoo style. In last year's competition Dunbar made it all the way to the final four before being eliminated. In the season finale fans voted Kyle Dunbar and Chris May back to face off in a first-ever live tattoo challenge, that Dunbar won, earning him a chance to redeem himself in Season 4.
Bruno's motto is "burn your own path," something she has done for herself ever since leaving a career in the mental health industry in order to deal with a whole different breed of crazy people – tattoo artists. An artist since childhood, Bruno learned her tattoo craft through an "old school" apprenticeship. She specializes in black and grey photorealism and is particularly drawn to morbid imagery. Bruno is poised and ready to defend her work and fight back on this season's competition. A go-getter with an adventurous spirit, Bruno's got plenty of practice fighting back as she is also a boxer who has been told she's "too aggressive" in the ring. Lucky for her there's no such thing as "too aggressive" when it comes to tattooing.
Matti Hixson speaks bluntly, but he claims it's all in the name of artistic passion. Well-known on the convention circuit, Hixson is a an artist who thrives in color realism and likes tattoos with a dark twist. He was featured on season 4 of "Ink Master" and placed third overall. With a second chance, Hixson no longer plans to come into the game sincerely. This time around he'll do whatever it takes to bring home the $100,000 prize and title of "Ink Master."
Donning platinum blond hair, a variety of piercings and countless tattoos, Melissa Monroe is a small town girl who proves herself to be bold. Her laid back demeanor of a sweet Midwestern gal only goes but so far, as she is always ready to push back. She finds herself lucky to work among men because she feels women tend to be severely more dramatic. Living in a small town, Monroe doesn't have the luxury of specializing in one form of tattooing. She enjoys doing pin up, dark nature, traditional and neo-traditional pieces. Monroe is confident in her work and dares anyone to question her ability to rise above the competition.
Randy Vollink is a former manager of various law firms, his love of art inspired to pursue more creative endeavors. Tattooing started out for him as a hobby and quickly became a passion. A self-taught artist, Vollink has worked hard to earn his tattoo stripes just like everyone else, but he also had the added difficulty of being a gay man in a heterosexual male dominated industry. He's a confident artist who specializes in black and gray portraits and photo realism.
Roland Pacheco is a 6th generation Polynesian, self-taught tattoo artist and published author from the Big Island of Hawai'i. He owns and operates Xisle Custom Tattoo in the historic town of Hawi where he has been practicing his craft and researching Polynesian tattoo for the past 8 years. Art has been a part of Pacheco's life from an early age - he enjoys oil and acrylic painting, watercolor, charcoal, gyotaku, digital art and animation. As a child he created his own comic books to not only entertain himself but to further develop his artistic skills. When he isn't tattooing or writing, Pacheco enjoys restoring motorcycles, spearfishing and spending time with his wife, Anna.
Sausage isn't just a tattoo artist, he's a true entertainer whose stage is the tattoo studio. He enjoys making people laugh and couple that with his meticulous tattoo work, Sausage is a much sought after and appreciated artist in Las Vegas where his specalities include HD realism, portrait and black and gray. But don't let his humorous ways fool you, he's a solid and fierce competitior. Having worked alongside last season's winner Joey Hamilton, Sausage has picked up a thing or two about strategy and winning this competiton.
Scott Marshall graduated from the American Academy of Art in Chicago in 1998 and apprenticed for one year before starting his own tattoo career. A truly confident artist, he prides himself on being proficient and efficient in any tattoo style and knows that his customers value and appreciate his professional opinion. For Marshall its all about the creative process behind the tattoo. He doesn't work off of templates, but rather likes to get into the mind of his client and derive the tattoo design from that, makign sure to adding their personality into the finished masterpiece.
It’s the most intense Ink Master season yet. Not only is fan favorite Kyle Dunbar back to compete against 16 new artists, but this time, the competitors will put a fellow artist up for elimination each week, taking the game to a whole new level.