Season 4: Contestant Biographies
(in alphabetical order)
“Ink Master” Season 4 Premieres on Spike TV Starting Tuesday, February 25 at 10 PM, ET/PT
David Bell- Fredericksburg, VA
20 years experience
Owner/ Artist at TLA Tattoos (www.tlatattoos.com) in Fredericksburg, VA
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 perfecting 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.
Ashley Bennett – South Windsor, CT
6 years experience
Artist at Body Graphics (http://instagram.com/Ashleybtattoo ) in South Windsor, CT
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 fiery attitude. Bennett 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. A native of Saratoga Springs, NY during the filming of “Ink Master” Bennett worked at True Tattoo Studio in Clifton Park, NY
‘Gentle Jay’ Blondel- Massapequa, NY
14 years experience
Artist at Alchemy Tattoo Arts (www.jayblondeltattoo.com) in Bellmore, NY
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.
Lydia Bruno- Albany, NY
9 years experience
Co-owner/Artist at Unique Arts Studio (www.inkbylydia.com) in Glens Falls, NY
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.
Damon Butler- Boston, MA
3 years experience
Manager/Artist at Extreme Fantasy (www.hautedraws.wordpress.com) in Abington, MA
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.
Keith Diffenderfer- York, PA
13 years experience
Artist at Honor & Iron (www.facebook.com/keith-diffenderfer) in Rehoboth Beach, DE
Twitter: @ kdiffenderfer
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 and bold tattoos but refuses to categorize himself, he believes he can do it all.
Kyle Dunbar- Genesee County, MI
20 years experience
Owner/ Artist at Almighty Tattoo (www.facebook.com/almightykyledunbar) in Flint, MI
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.
Jim Francis- Milwaukee, WI
12 years experience
Owner/Artist at Milwaukee Ink (www.jimfrancistattoo.com and www.mkeink.com) in Milwaukee, WI
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.
Walter “Sausage” Frank- Las Vegas, NV
13 years experience
Artist at Club Tattoo (www.facebook.com/waltersausagefrank) in Las Vegas, NV
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 specialties include HD realism, portrait and black and gray. But don’t let his humorous ways fool you, he’s a solid and fierce competitor. Having worked alongside last season’s winner Joey Hamilton, Sausage has picked up a thing or two about strategy and winning this competition.
Halo – Baltimore, MD
9 years experience
Owner/Artist at Black Lotus Tattoo Gallery (www.blacklotustattoos.com and www.tattoosbyhalo.com) in Severn, MD
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.
Matti Hixson- Virginia Beach, VA
10 years experience
Artist at Trinity Tattoo (https://www.facebook.com/matthew.hixson1) in Virginia Beach, VA
Matti Hixson, speaks bluntly, but he claims it’s all in the name of artistic passion. This self-taught artist from West Virginia, his devotion and respect for his craft sometimes can come off as abrasive, but he really isn’t interested in what anyone else thinks. Well known on the convention circuit, Hixson is a well-rounded artist who thrives in color realism and likes tattooing with a dark twist. He brings his passion and competitive spirit to this season’s competition openly acknowledging that he’s here for the notoriety, the money and of course the title of “Ink Master.”
Bubba Irwin- Scottsdale, AZ
7 years experience
Owner/Artist at Old Town Ink (www.oldtownink.com) in Scottsdale, AZ
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.
King Ruck- Las Vegas, NV
6 years experience
Owner/Artist at Black Spade Tattoo (www.blackspadetattoo.com) and Red Elephant Tattoo (www.redelephantcompany.com) in Las Vegas, NV
King Ruck is a former graffiti artist who has made a smooth transition to tattooing. He went from bombing and painting on walls and building his reputation as a respected graffiti artist, to owning two of the premiere tattoo shops in Las Vegas. The nickname “King” was given to him by his mentors because of the dues he paid as a graffiti artist and “Ruck,” which is short for Ruckus, was the main name he used while getting up on walls. King Ruck is known for his fine lines, smooth grays and attention to detail but really enjoys the bold lines and bright colors as well and jumps at every chance he gets to do so.
Scott Marshall- Chicago, IL
15 years experience
Artist at Roselle Tattoo Co. (www.facebook.com/scottmarshalltattoos) in Roselle, IL
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, making sure to adding their personality into the finished masterpiece.
Melissa Monroe- Farmington, WI
5 years experience
Artist at Homeward Bound Tattoo (www.homewardboundtattoo.com) in Port Washington, WI
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.
Roland Pacheco- Hawi, Hawaii
8 years experience
Owner/Artist at Xisle Custom Tattoo (www.rolandpacheco.com and http://www.xisletattoo.com/) in Hawi, HI
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.
Randy Vollink- Mesa, AZ
9 years experience
Artist at Club Tattoo (www.randyvollink.com) in Scottsdale, AZ
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.
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