An Ink Master finally has been crowned, and she’s bringing her title back to Northeastern Pennsylvania.
Shavertown tattoo artist Ryan Ashley Malarkey retired her competition in fellow artists Gian Karle Cruz and Kelly Doty on Tuesday night in New York City as she engaged in artistic battle on Spike TVs reality show “Ink Master” and left with the show’s ultimate accolade.
The eighth season of the hit program started with 30 artists but quickly whittled the talent pool to 18 after the first episode. Celebrity tattooers and coaches Oliver Peck and Chris Nunez each chose nine artists for their respective teams, which they mentored throughout the 15-week season that introduced stress-inducing artistic challenges on a weekly basis.
Peck recognized Malarkey’s talent early, choosing her first for his team.
“Ryan’s portfolio really stood out, because she had her own style, but there was a little bit of versatility in there too,” Peck said. “Her artistic eye was obvious. There are a lot of people who are tattooers and a lot of people who are artists, but she seemed to be the right combination of both.”
Malarkey entered the live finale with a chance, along with Doty, to be the first female Ink Master in the show’s history.
Known for her intricate black-and-gray style, which she hones in a studio connected to her oddities parlor, The Strange & Unusual, in Kingston, Malarkey made a statement on the episode leading up to the finale by tattooing a watercolor koi fish, which secured her place in the finale.
Malarkey was assigned a “master canvas” to be completed before the finale, by Doty. Malarkey had to execute a chest tattoo of dueling hot rods in colorful ’90s new school style, which she completed in her Kingston studio in 24 hours.
Prior to the finale, Peck noted the importance of having successful female artists on the show.
“Regardless of who wins this season, I think the inspiration to young female tattooers that this season has given is immense,” Peck said. “It’s shown how there are a lot of strong woman tattooers, there are a lot of artistic woman tattooers, and they are a very viable part of this industry.”
When the finale opened, each artist already had been tattooing for six and half hours in a style that had been voted on by the viewership. Malarkey was assigned fine line black and gray, her specialty. For the first time during the show, Malarkey was able to showcase her personal style.
Voting was opened again to viewers, and Malarkey was the first artist to advance to the top two. Cruz was next to advance, based on voting by the judges, for his Japanese style tattoo, while Doty was eliminated by a thin margin.
For their final judgment, Malarkey and Cruz revealed their master canvases. Malarkey’s new school tattoo was vibrant with thick, heavy lines and stood as affirmation of her ability to design and execute work well out of her comfort zone.
Although Cruz’s piece was a lauded as well, Malarkey’s work was chosen for its dynamism, and she became the first female Ink Master.
Fellow female artist and Kingston studio owner Austina Obscure said she loves the empowered route Malarkey took on “Ink Master.”
“It’s been hard as a female in the industry,” Obscure said. “I feel it’s awesome that she’s pioneering, and I think a lot more women are going to come out of the woodwork now and feel they have the same chance as their male counterparts.”
Malarkey won $100,000, a residency in Peck’s Elm Street Tattoo studio in Dallas, Texas, and a brand new Dodge Charger. She’ll also be featured in an editorial in Inked magazine.
Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or Twitter @TLArts.