Dani Ryan entered Ink Master season 12 with less experience than just about all of her competition. Yet, she proved herself in the early going as a force to be reckoned with. She was determined, versatile, and also a team player — she was willing to do whatever she could in order keep up the quality of her tattoos as the season went along, so it wasn’t a surprise to see her in the final three.
Dani is entering the finale with a lot of momentum, but could a biomechanical tattoo be her undoing? It’s a challenge since she has never done this style before, but it’s one that she is excited to take on. In our interview with Dani, she details what she’s been doing to prepare for the big finale (airing Tuesday), plus also how she’s worked to overcome her fears and anxieties as she’s rocked her way to the final three.
Jessica Carter – What was it about Ink Master that made you want to be a part of the show?
Dani Ryan – I think I was skeptical at first. My colleagues and I had talked about if we got an opportunity to do Ink Master, if we would do it — I always said no (laughs). The anxiety, I thought, would be too much for me to handle, but I got contacted by them by some miracle and my friends convinced me to go through with it.
So what is it like then being in that environment? I’ve done exit interviews for years and I know it can be stressful.
I think it’s designed to stress us out at times — I mean it’s television, so you want the drama. Being in a loft with 17 other people that you don’t know very well, and you don’t get a lot of alone time. You’re getting thrown into these scenarios that you’ve never done before — especially for myself. That was incredibly stressful. It was just something that I had to shove down deep and move past as much as I could. It still stayed stressful the whole time and it’s not over yet. Still stressed.
What was the moment that you felt the most afraid that you were going home?
For sure, when I was in the bottom three for the eagle — I was almost eliminated, and you could see it in my face (laughs). I’m very hard on myself and my own worst critic to the max. It’s a very bad habit and it’s something that I’m working on, but I’m not always very confident. There were a lot of tattoos where I was like ‘why am I even here’ and like ‘this is madness,’ but the eagle for sure. It was really dramatic.
When you heard that you were doing color biomech for your final tattoo what were your initial thoughts?
Hearing biomech, I was definitely nervous. I do like the freedom with it because it is organic. Unfortunately with biomechanical, I definitely wish I had more time to do it and with that style, I feel like you could just keep working on it and working on it.
Since you had never done color biomech before, what was the process like preparing for this tattoo?
I tried to pull from all the greats as much as I could, but they all do it in such a specific way. Some people are a little more mechanical, and some people are a little more organic. It was really hard to pick and choose what I liked the most, so eventually I had to step away from what they were doing and pull important things from it and do it the way my brain sees it. It’s not the same as how someone else does it, but more of my own style. I took what I could and had to use my own imagination after that.
If you had gotten a choice to showcase any style in the final tattoo what would you have chosen?
I have no idea (laughs). Maybe a black-and-gray piece, but I really love traditional tattoos. Honestly, throughout the competition anytime I was given the subject matter I was happier that way. I need a solid cornerstone to build off of. That’s why at my shop we do custom tattoos — people come to us with their ideas and we just build off of that. So when someone comes to me and they’re like ‘do whatever you want on me,’ I’m like ‘what?! There’s so many things I could do!’ (laughs).
I love a lot of different styles — I get bored if I stick to one thing. I have no idea what I would pick.
What would an Ink Master win mean to you?
It would spiderweb out into a lot of different things. The money would be incredibly helpful. I went to art school, as a lot of people know, so I am drowning in student debt. Getting on top of that would be really nice. And, I would be able to contribute more to home bills more and my husband wouldn’t have to leave as much.
Then, just having the title itself. I’m not that confident and had learning disabilities growing up, so getting to this point, especially with the struggles that I’ve had with anxiety, winning something like this would be incredible. I don’t know if it would validate me, but it would give me a little bit of a boost.
You mentioned on the show that your boyfriend was being deployed during filming, so I guess you got married since then. Congratulations! Was he back to watch the show with you and what did he think?
Thank you! Oh, he’s been very supportive. He’s all about it — he was one of the people who pushed it. What really sucked was that while I was away filming, he was home for those three months. By the time I was home, I saw him for two days and then he left for Afghanistan. But, then he came back and he’s off doing school right now.
What is it like going into the finale with the least amount of experience?
Definitely intimidating. Just to make it to the top anything was incredible to me. Going in, I was like ‘I’ll be back in a couple of weeks, don’t worry about it’ (laughs). I had that mindset, but after the first tattoo I was like ‘okay, I think I can do this.’
What have you learned about yourself and your art through this process?
Working with veterans of the show and having them coach me was huge. I don’t think I would’ve made it as far as I did without them, because when doing styles that I’d never done before, they brought little tips and tricks — doing different line-weights and different styles. I learned a lot of different techniques that I really enjoy doing on my own.
Then, there was building a little more self-confidence — which was huge — and being able to put aside my worries and self-confidence. But, I showed that I can do it and I made it this far which is insane to me. I have my family here and my whole shop too which is so great — I have a really great support system. They always lift me up when I’m in one of those modes where I’m like ‘I suck. I can’t do this!’. It’s been an uphill battle, but it’s been wild. Totally wild.
Are you rooting for Dani Ryan to win Ink Master season 12? Be sure to share in the comments below. (Photo: Paramount Network.)
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