Ink Master interview: Justin Nordine looks back at competition, elimination

Justin NordineThrough his time on Ink Master season 12, Justin Nordine had a lot going for him. He was well-liked in the house (and by the fans), he delivered some great art, and it felt like he had the backstory you’d expect from someone who makes it far into the competition.

Unfortunately, things didn’t come to pass in the way in which you would expect. Justin found himself eliminated on the July 2 episode following a challenge about neotraditional tattoos. He presented a striking image, but the judges proclaimed that supposed skin trauma was a reason to send him home over the other artists in the bottom.

In this CarterMatt interview, Justin shares his side on some of those claims, defends his art, and also discusses why he wanted to stick around longer.

CarterMatt – Looking back, how would you sum up your Ink Master experience?

Justin – Too short. I had a lot of game play and tattooing left in me and it’s unfortunate how I went out. I don’t agree with what happened, I will forever stand by that piece and saying there was no trauma. I know what I am doing, and I know my tattoo met the requirements. I hope I get the chance to come back for redemption!

Let’s get into the eviction. Why do you think the judges sent you home over the other two tattoos?

I have my theories about why I was sent home. Of course, the judges’ response would be, “it had trauma so it had to go”. I challenged that for the moment they said it because it was a false narrative to push my piece out and keep others in. As much as I love Ash, her tattoo looked 15 years old and when it heals out, unfortunately, it’s going to look older and choppy. Regardless if my tattoo did have trauma, it will heal beautifully and met the challenge. From what I have been reading online, a majority of people disagree with the call to eliminate me. I won’t say my tattoo was the best, because it wasn’t. My nerves were all over the place while others were finding their ground. I’m the nice guy, I was the “dad” of the house. I tried to focus on the art and not the drama of others. I believe what you saw was me 100% and for that I am grateful.

I’ve seen some trauma in tattoos on Ink Master over the years and I couldn’t see exactly what the judges were talking about with yours, could you tell me a bit more about what happened there?

So when I went to shave my client, I noticed a small scab and after shaving it removed a small bit and caused a little bleeding. I immediately called over Katie my coach to show her that is was not caused by me. I know how the judges are with trauma in a tattoo and I wanted be sure it was known. She agreed and we moved on. We are mic’d 10-12 hours per day, so whatever is said, is heard. Katie time and time again said she loved what I was doing. She praised me for drawing that from scratch, not from placing photos together and also pushing myself. She even told the judges she didn’t see the trauma and it was a damn good tattoo that did not deserve to be in the bottom. Especially over Cam’s – HELLO BLOWOUT LINES!!  DJ even called him out over that while we were all tattooing, yelling it across the studio! It was so bad. Overworked, very little full black saturation as well as color. But here I sit.

Do you think the team dynamic for the Flash Challenges helped or hurt you and do you think there would’ve been a different outcome if the flash challenge was individual?

The flash challenges were fun. However, the guys couldn’t seem to catch a break except for the first one. The team dynamic is what was making this season. Until we battled, alone, we needed to work as a team in order to win. When the first hour of your design is not coming together and everyone has different ideas (aka Cam) that’s when you see me yell at everyone to stop and come together. We had 4 hours left. We needed the skull picks. I would have never given myself a shin tattoo. Not because I can’t do them, but they are tough. That’s a great tattoo to give to someone you hope can’t do it. It’s a delicate area. I know that! So had we won, 100% would have taken an easier placement. That’s the joy of winning a flash challenge for that advantage.

The girls told me how bad they felt because they didn’t think about placement. They thought about color and how good I am at it and would kill it. They wanted Cam out. Period.

What sort of tattoo work do you wish you’d had an opportunity to show off this season?

I was ready to do it all – from black and grey realism to traditional. I was excited to do what I love but on a different scale. I am so well known for what I do, which is amazing, but I was prepared to go outside of my comfort zone. I think it’s tough because I do have such a style. Even in my work that steers clear of “watercolor” you still see my style. It’s in me. It’s apart of me. Again, maybe a redemption is in my future, cause I’d take that opportunity again and play a bit different this time.

If people want to book you for a tattoo what’s the best way for them to get in touch with you?

I typically open my books twice a year. Best way is to watch my Instagram (@justinnordinetattoos) where I tease that books will open soon along with dates. I do get a lot of submissions, so I tend to only keep the books open from 24-48 hours and then they close again. So it’s a short window. I am always taking submissions for my travels and you can go to my website at and fill out a consult anytime.

Related News Be sure to preview some of what’s coming on the next Ink Master episode!

Do you think Justin Nordine should have stayed on Ink Master season 12? Be sure to share in the comments and come back soon for more coverage. (Photo: Paramount Network.)

This interview was conducted by Jessica Carter. Be sure to follow her on Twitter.

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