This was one heck of a roller coaster season for all of us on the judging panel, as well as for the 14 artists who gave it their all. We judges don't get the opportunity to see a lot of what happens with the artists behind the scenes until the final season is wrapped and aired -- yep, we watch it just like everyone else! So it was especially interesting for me to get a chance to see the final edited episodes every week and get a little more context and insight into each of these terrific artists.
I had a lot of favorite moments throughout this season, but these are among my favorites:
1. It was such a complete joy to be able to work with my brother again. He's a born teacher, and witnessing how he interacted with the artists (and knowing firsthand how seriously he took every aspect of the critiques!) was a treat. He also took time after the challenge to chat with them and answer all kinds of questions about tattooing, giving them even more of a chance to take advantage of a great learning opportunity. I love watching him work in that capacity, because he's so gifted at it.
2. This is less of an individual moment than a story-arc thing, but it was still one of my favorite aspects of the season: watching Karly's ascent, growing confidence and, ultimately, her victory. She began with a clear talent, but not necessarily the self-confidence needed to take herself all the way to the title and $100,000. Dealing with gender-related adversity during the competition was one of the things that goaded her to keep going, while remembering her family at home kept her inspired. Each week I could witness her confidence growing and it was a gorgeous thing to see! And then at the finale when she finally spoke to her husband Tony on the phone after winning the title, I was tearing up along with everybody else. Hooray for Team Karly! I was incredibly proud of her and all of her myriad achievements this season.
3. It was hysterical seeing the artists' flabbergasted reactions in Pershing Square when The Enigma and Serana Rose did an impromptu performance with their ShowDevils. Watching their expressions as BoomBoom began pouring a pitcherful of chocolate pudding all over his corpulent torso was a case study in hilarity. Talk about shock and awe...plus, the episode featured one of my very favorite people ever, the great Matthew Bone! If you're unfamiliar with his work, you need to check it out and be amazed.
4. I also just about busted a gut watching Joe and Sabina duking it out, debating what constitutes a "real" pinup tattoo. Each has their own perspective - one as a model of classic pinup, the other as an artist who pushes the boundaries of the genre - and neither was willing to back down.
5. Lastly, just like everyone else I was really touched during the couples episode when the artists were reunited with their loved ones. Seeing the faces of people who have been in such a high-stress situation for so long watching the person who constituted their greatest support system walking through the door - well, it was heartwarming and beautiful. It was also tremendous to watch the usually tough-as-nails Lara showing a side of herself we had never had the opportunity to see, in a beautiful and intimate photo session and the resulting painting she did of herself with her boyfriend.
It was a real privilege and a lot of fun to be a part of this great season of Best Ink. I'm so proud of everything these artists achieved, and I know they've got nothing but incredible things ahead of them!