Ink Master: Angels interview: Ryan Ashley Malarkey discusses season 2, new talent

Nikki Simpson, Ryan Ashley, and Kelly DotyInk Master: Angels recently kicked off its second season on the Paramount Network, and as new episodes air (Tuesday nights at 9:00 p.m. Eastern) you are going to have more opportunities to visit new cities, meet new artists, and hopefully see some future Ink Master contestants.

Alongside fellow Ink Master contestants (and season 1 Angels) Kelly Doty and Nikki Simpson, you are going to see Ryan Ashley Malarkey serve as a judge and frequent source of entertainment. We had a chance to talk to Ryan about what fans can expect this season in a new interview below.

CarterMatt – After traveling so much, how often do you even wake up and not remember what city you are in?

Ryan Ashley Malarkey – Actually a lot. We’ve been to so many different cities — in the past four months I think that this is the fourteenth city I’ve been to. Every single week you wake up in a different city in a different place. It’s funny — in my mind I remember all of the tattoos that were done and the different hotel rooms, but I can’t pinpoint which city which one happened in.

In going back to season 1, has it been fun seeing artists like Deanna [Smith] and Daniel [Silva], who won individual episodes, end up doing so well on Ink Master this season?

I think sometimes with art, what’s amazing is that these artists really, truly surprise us. Sometimes they pull stuff out of their hat that we can’t believe and we’re so impressed. When it came to Deanna and with Daniel, when you see the first tattoo that they did within just two hours, you see the potential. It screams at you. The first time we saw Daniel tattoo in San Francisco we were like ‘holy s–t. We just uncovered a diamond in this man.’ His talent is so strong and so perfect. It’s hard to deny that.

I see in Daniel the same opportunities that I’ve been given and I’m so happy for him and so proud that we got to be a part of his journey and his success. Hard-working, amazing artists deserve all of the opportunities they are given. I’m very proud of those guys.

What’s going to be different in season 2? Are there any big shifts to the format?

I don’t think there are any big changes format-wise — what’s really exciting is that we have a whole lot of guest judges that are joining us this season. Not only are you getting our voices but you are getting the insight and the voice of an artist that is very different from us. You get so many different perspectives this season and opinions when it comes to art and judging it. Having these guest judges gives everyone some more insight into what you could see in a piece.

Did your approach change at all for season 2 after the first time around?

When you see pure talent it never gets old and it’s amazing; but, as a judge I think we’re looking at things really critically because the caliber of the art this season is really intense, almost to the point of being intimidating. I can’t believe the quality of talent that we found this season, all over the country. These artists are so unknown that it is insane to me that we are the people who have an opportunity to discover them. It’s unbelievable, the level that they are at already.

Is it surprising in any way how competitive some of the contestants are? I remember watching the first season and they would really go at each other the moment you and the other judges would leave the room.

I think something we found this season was that because we, as judges, were more comfortable in our own skin, our personality really shines through and shows. Because we’re so confident and welcoming to these artists that this is our game and our home, they get a sense of comfort from that. They feel more likely to be themselves. They’re more comfortable to speak their minds.

What we found this season was that there was not so much adversity in the sense of these artists wanting to be so competitive and harsh with each other. Instead we were surprised at how much some of these artists supported each other and encouraged each other to want to be better. That’s something we admire so much because it’s something that happened with us when we first came together. We weren’t just putting each other down to build ourselves up; we supported each other and the art was better because of it. This season we’re seeing a little bit of that in some of these cities.

What’s it like tattooing in that Angel Face-Off environment? Do you feed off of the energy of so many different people?

I think that it’s such an unusual atmosphere. As tattooers we do so many different conventions. For example, at the Philadelphia convention there were 25,000-30,000 people there so you have eyes on you constantly.

But, what’s interesting [with the face-offs] is that you never know what reaction you’re going to get from people. Some people are so excited and so opinionated that it’s intimidating. You’re not only performing for you in a competition sense but I feel like we, as judges, have a reputation to uphold. We’re coming in as these strong competitors and the ones to beat. Even though we are confident in ourselves and in the game and the work, a lot of the tattooers say ‘you’re only as good as the last tattoo that you do.’ You’re getting pressure from all sides but I think that’s good because it makes it a really even fight. That makes it so that we don’t have this big advantage over the competitors.

What’s been the evolution of the friendship between you, Kelly, and Nikki? How are things within season 2?

Nikki and Kelly and I aren’t even friends at this point; we’re really more like family. They are the strongest relationships I’ve ever had with other women. S–t hits the fan personality-wise — we really let it rip. Some of the s–t that comes out of our mouths is unbelievable. We make each other laugh and we make the other competitors laugh. Even though we’re competing, it’s like our personalities show and it makes everyone more comfortable and it makes them more likely to be themselves. When you feel like yourself, it shows in your artwork.

This season overall is more full of life in just about every aspect.

What there any city this year you found especially memorable?

Every single city I was the most excited about turned out to be my least favorite city, and every single city I didn’t know that much about, these cities that aren’t as known, turned out to be the best, coolest cities. I was really surprised by so many of the places that we visited that I wouldn’t have thought to visit myself. Traveling with the Angels made me realize how amazing these places are.

Are you already starting to think about a season 3, or is that something you’re hoping comes about a little bit later down the road?

Obviously we all hope for a season 3 because we all realize how amazing this opportunity is on so many levels, truly. I think my favorite part about filming is visiting these places and seeing these amazing things I never thought I’d see and doing it with a group of people I love and respect so much. Nikki, Kelly, and I are experiencing these things together. Who wouldn’t want to see the country with their best friends? It’s unbelievable.

That being said, I haven’t really been home for more than ten days since January (laughs) — that’s fine, but I have three dogs and I miss them very much. Were it not for them and my grandma, I would be okay with never going home and just being a gypsy. But obviously, we would never say no to a season 3. It’s so incredible what we are able to do.


As mentioned, new episodes of Ink Master: Angels air on the Paramount Network on Tuesday night. You can read our take on the first one over at the link here!

Also, be sure to like CarterMatt on Facebook for more insight into the series right now. (Photo: Paramount Network.)

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