Ink Master interview: Hiram Casas breaks down portrait day, top tattoos

Hiram CasasHiram Casas had an incredible run on Ink Master season 13. Just think about everything that he managed to pull off! He was a strong player on Team West, he delivered a wide array of great tattoos, and he was only eliminated recently in what was a particularly difficult portrait challenge. Easily, he did enough to be memorable and earn consideration for another season (if producers so decide).

Following his exit, Hiram was kind enough to go in-depth with us from a number of different things, whether it be his time on the show, what he learned, his art, and a whole lot more. Check out the interview in its entirety below.

Jessica Carter – How are you feeling about your time on the show at this point?

Hiram – I honestly had a great time while filming the show, when I first got there it felt like I was in a tattoo summer camp, I was motivated, inspired and ready to compete. I thought that having the cameras recording all the time was going to be something that I had to adapt but to my surprise, it was extremely easy for me to forget they were there and just be myself. The format of the competition was exciting. I was often in situations where I had to push myself to learn and try styles of tattooing that I don’t produce on a daily basis. I enjoy competing and I love debating, I don’t shy away from any challenge or confrontation so everyday presented a new opportunity. It wasn’t until the very end of my journey that I started feeling the stress of being away from home for that long of a period.

Now with the experience I gathered I’m able to look back and identify mistakes I made that I wish I could do differently. At the same time, I’m proud that I was able to represent myself honorably and for being away from the elimination zone until my last day.

Did you put immensely more pressure on yourself because it was portrait day?

I’m not sure, every time I had to tattoo a style that I wasn’t familiar with I did a lot of research, I pulled many references and I paid attention to every detail constantly. I asked for input from my teammates and foes, just to make sure I was going to be able to put a solid, clean tattoo and a dynamic design to make it up for my lack of experience on the style.

Maybe was the opposite. I love doing portraits, I love the intricacies of the human expressions. It’s what I enjoy drawing on my time off and if it where up to me, I’ll do a portrait tattoo every single day. I was waiting for that specific challenge since the beginning of the competition. Ironically, it was the only challenge that I thought I was going to be secure and never anticipated any possibility of failure. I was relaxed, I was ready, I studied my reference and I was confident that it was something that I could deliver with no issues. There was pressure, because I understood I was one of the few artists that actually does that kind of tattoo regularly and the high level of expectations. But, I was sure that I only needed to clear my mind, stay focused and that challenge was going to be an easy ride to Tattoo of the Day contention.

And then I started tattooing… as soon as I touched the skin with my lightest value it turned red and irritated, and it was hard to identify the tone of my grey. I was applying different values of grey but they all seems to look like a medium tone. I didn’t forget I was in a race against the clock so I couldn’t allow myself to just wait for the redness to disappear after every pass. I just trusted the order of my greys and started applying them almost blindly ’cause I couldn’t see the real values I was injecting. That made me hesitate every time I had to apply a darker tone.

Eventually, I just decided to let the skin settle for a little bit to see if I could come back to start softening the areas. I still thought I was going to be able to fix everything, just to find out that my canvas was uncomfortable about the pain and that he couldn’t take it for that much longer. At that point I realized my dream of being Tattoo of the Day dissolved and I just focused on at least presenting to the judges something that looks finished. If I have to deal with this kind of skin issues at my shop it wouldn’t be a problem at all, because I have the chance of doing a second session if the skin is that sensitive without compromising detail. We don’t have that luxury at the competition and I freaked out. At the end I was overthinking everything and I couldn’t control the situation. I was frustrated and honestly embarrassed because even when I thought my portrait wasn’t the worst in the room, it still was a poor performance in comparison with what I know I’m able to produce.

What made the West such a strong team for most of the season?

In my opinion, besides that we were lucky to have so many talented artists in one team, the fact that from the very beginning all the other teams targeted us. It made us bond with each other. We were able to leave our egos at the door and work together to compete strong, and we became friends. We realized that we didn’t have to battle ourselves until it was totally necessary so we could focus in taking out the competition. Because we knew we had a target on our backs it seems like we always had something to prove the day of tattooing. We wanted to let everybody know that to take us down, mind games, skull picks and alliances weren’t going to be enough and they had to tattoo better than us in order to hurt our team. My goal was to have a Team West finale with three of us competing for the title.

Is there any one tattoo from the season you’re the most proud of?

I can’t pick just one, My favorites were the New School ship in the bottle — I did it for the compass rose challenge. It was my first time doing a New School tattoo and I had a lot of fun creating the design and tattooing it.

The dinosaur wearing a Hawaiian shirt for the Neon challenge — that one was just super cool from the beginning and I was able to create a really dynamic illustration.

The Statue of Liberty for the shading challenge. I love the landmark. It was the biggest tattoo I did on the show and unfortunately, I had to rush it at the end in order to finish in time. Give me another hour and that tattoo will be flawless.

The black and grey woman face for the versatility challenge, I was comfortable from the go with my own design and I just focused on making a simple, solid and clean tattoo.

Would you like to go back for another season down the road?

Definitely, I had a great time but most importantly, I gathered so much experience and understanding of how to compete there that I’m confident I’ll do better if I have another shot. Experience is everything in that kind of competition. If they give me another opportunity I’ll be there for sure! Every time.

I know we’re in a difficult place in the world right now (and I’m sure it’s hitting the tattoo industry hard); is there a way still for people to book tattoos with you down the road?

For sure, I’m always excited about new projects and challenges. This hiatus is difficult for us because we were used to tattoo everyday, but is important to recognize the complexity of this situation and do our little sacrifice. Tattooing is my job and my hobby, and I’m eager to come back as soon as possible. If someone wants to book a session they can also contact us through our social media @hiramksas, @basilicatattoo I appreciate you all for supporting my art.

Related News Be sure to get some more news when it comes to Ink Master, including interviews with some other contestants

Where you rooting for Hiram to go far on Ink Master season 13?

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

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