Leading into the premiere of Ink Master season 13 on the Paramount Network Tuesday, we know that you can expect some tough competition! There are twenty artists on this season, including four returning artists with something to prove.
What’s the twist this time around? There are four teams of five, with each one representing a different part of the country. That includes the subject of this interview in season 10 alum Frank Ready. He’s representing the Midwest, and he’s coming on the season with a lot of confidence and artistic flair.
In our mind, Frank is one of the best artists to not make the finale of his first season — he had received high marks aplenty from the judges, and that made the suddenness of his exit even more shocking. We break down here Frank’s journey to coming back on the show, including what he’s learned about himself as an artist over the past few years.
CarterMatt – I know being on Ink Master can be challenging and exhausting. After what you went through the first time on the show, were you actively thinking about returning? Or, were you just letting the show go and if they call you, they call you?
Frank Ready – I would definitely say that you try as best as you can to leave it where it’s at, but you never do. It’s not possible. You’re sitting up there and doing the best you can do and the judges are not just giving you pointed feedback; there’s some real honesty that is shed on how people see your work. These are people who really have an eye for what they’re looking for. If you care about what you do, and we all care, that stuff sticks to you.
Everything that I’ve done since I got home has been done to correct some of the problems [the judges] saw in my work before, the things that didn’t get me further. I think it changed everything that I do — my work ethic. It lit a fire under my butt. I had no clue I’d be asked back and if it ever happened, I just wanted to be ready.
How do you prepare for a show like this? I mean, they could ask you do a black-and-gray rabbit one day and then something full-color and outside the box next. Do you just have a better idea of what the judges are looking for the second time around?
It’s definitely a twofold thing. You do have a sense of what the judges are looking for, but it’s ever-changing and ever-evolving. They will throw something at you that you’ve never seen before every time out. But, you can have some sort of a primer, something saying ‘this is what [they] like,’ and that can play to your advantage.
When it comes to prepping for the show itself, you can’t. The best thing you can do as a tattooer is work on every aspect of your craft. If you don’t do a lot of color-work, then between the first time and your second you need to do a lot. Work on your saturation and pay attention to your lines. You’re prepping for the unexpected — it’s dang near impossible, but you can always improve on what you do every day.
Because of the twist this season, did you find yourself being put into a leadership position on your team?
I didn’t have a clue that we were going to be going in there in something other than a solo matchup. But, being in that position and realizing that there are four of us, one on each team, we all have that experience that other people don’t. It’s just a natural thing where if people are smart, they’d look up to the person who has the experience. I don’t think it put me into a leadership role so much as a role of support. I could be a concierge for people the first time through — if anyone had questions, I had somewhat of an educated guess. That’s how I felt about it.
One thing that struck me about the first ten minutes that were put online is that they had a moment where you talked about wanting to play with integrity. Ink Master has become over the years more strategic and cutthroat. Are you thinking about strategy while you’re there, or are you focusing mostly on just the work you put out?
I believe that strategy is amazingly important, but being strategic doesn’t mean being underhanded. That’s what I mean when I say I’m going to play with integrity. I want to look everyone in the eye as I beat them and feel good about it. That’s important to me — you can win a competition like this being on the level and doing things the right way, but still stopping people when you have to or making sure people don’t get the jump on you.
Did you find yourself feeling more pressure this season, since everyone already knows how good you are?
The pressure is always there — there’s no way to walk in there and be like ‘I got this.” But it really felt like home this time around. It’s like a pair of shoes you find in your closet. You put them on and get back in the house. I felt more prepared and a little more at ease knowing that it’s not all brand-new. I know how things generally work, and that was really good. I didn’t anticipate feeling that level of comfort while being stressed out, but there was something that was oddly familiar about it. I would guess that every time you go back, you fall back into that groove.
What’s the bigger challenge for you — dealing with the time constraints, or dealing with a tough canvas? Let’s say someone comes in and says they want an enormous dragon skull surrounded by a solar system on the ribs and they’re not flexible on it.
I would say that both of those things are equally confounding. The time limit puts a damper on the artistic [side of things]. If someone came in and wanted that dragon skull on the ribs with the planets, I could play that over two different sessions and create the coolest thing people. But, in six hours, you have to create the coolest thing possible in an efficient manner. You also have to outshine everyone in the room. That is a delicate balance (laughs) and it’s really hard to do. It challenges you, but I think it sticks with you after the show — you get that much more efficient.
When you have a canvas who has a difficult idea, at least within the time restraints, I feel like I’ve had an easier time finding common ground. I try to relate to people and get them to understand that these changes I want to do to their tattoo are to their benefit, just as much as it is mine. I’m not trying to sell you what I want — I want to give you a great tattoo and while your idea is amazing, that’s an idea that is better suited for a more relaxed setting. As long as people are accepting and understand you have their best interest in mind, that part gets easier.
Entering this season, what’s changed about you as an artist? Where is your head at entering this season?
This time around, I’m just a stronger artist than I was before. I have a different eye than I did in 2017. I have the guidance from being around the judges, and I’ve taken those lessons into everything that I do. It’s really transformed how I look at tattooing and art, how I approach it. I consider myself a jack-of-all-trades, but there’s always a next level. Being a part of Ink Master has set me on a personal course of achieving that next step towards being a great all-around tattooer.
What are you hoping to see on the new season of Ink Master?
Are you rooting for Frank? Be sure to share right now in the comments, and remember to stick around to get some more news on the series.