Photography courtesy of Spike
A few months ago I interviewed Ryan Ashley from Ink Master Season 8 never thinking she had a chance to win. I thought she was an amazing artist, but no female artist had ever won Ink Master previously. I thought Megan Jean Morris would possibly win last season, but it was not to be. This season, Ryan formed an "alliance" with the other females on the cast and the finals included Kelly Doty in addition to Gian Karle.
In my last interview Ryan and I discussed everything from the artists she admires to her belief in extraterrestrials. After I mailed Ryan her Steppin' Out interview, she wrote me a nice note that came along with the skeleton of a bat and a t-shirt from her Oddities Parlor in Pennsylvania. How could I not root for this talented woman?
Dan Lorenzo: What have you been doing since you won?
I've been working over sixty hours a week while trying to wrap my head around what the heck has even happened in the last two weeks! Life has been nothing less than a whirlwind! Since I won, I've been trying to settle back into home life and try to gain some normality back with projects I've been working on, and enjoy my family and friends for the holiday season. Honestly I've been so busy that we didn't even get to put a tree up! Aside from tattooing fifty to sixty hours a week, I've had to help with both of our Oddities Parlors, Christmas rushes, press, interviews, and all kinds of side projects!
How do you feel when people say Kelly should have won?
As for people who are saying Kelly or Gian should have won, here is what I said on my personal Instagram that addresses these opinions:
It was a close race, and a controversial decision, and there are a few things I'd like to say. If you think Gian should have won, that is completely justified. If you think Kelly should have won, you are equally as justified. The two chest pieces that they completed were AMAZING, and any one of them would be equally as deserving of the win. What I would like to say is that Ink Master is a competition where artists play a game to get to the end, but tattoos are ART and art is completely subjective. In no way does winning this competition make me a better tattooer than any of these other artists. Just as any of the eliminated artists aren't any worse than those who lasted longer during the competition. SO MANY of the artists who got eliminated before the finalé deserved a spot in the top 3, it could have gone so many different ways and they would have kicked ass just as much as we did! What we all went through together was a once in a lifetime experience that you can't really understand unless you were there with us day in and day out. So please, remember that we all worked our asses off and pushed as hard as we could both as artists and competitors, and that nothing good ever comes from negativity or putting another person down. My only regrets from the show were all of the moments I was negative or unkind, and would like to make it clear that I have nothing but respect for every person that got to be a part of this experience.
What will you do with the winner's check?
I'm being smart about the winner's check! Doing a bunch of grown up stuff like paying off my debts, paying off my credit cards, paying off my student loans. After that I'm going to save what's left as a rainy day security blanket so I can comfortably travel this next year and do conventions all over the country and maybe someday all over the world!
Gian Karle Cruz hails from Puerto Rico. He made it all the way to Ink Master Season 8 finale to come in runner-up.
Dan Lorenzo: Ryan Ashley speaks very highly of you and your work. Now that a few weeks have passed, how are you feeling about coming in second?
Gian Karle: It really sucks to make it this far and not be able to claim that title, but to be honest Ryan and Kelly are amazing artists and there are no other two people in the competition that I would rather lose to. I was honored to know that I was one of the last two artists standing and extremely happy for Ryan when she won. Ink Master was a really wild ride. I never expected to make it this far, especially with so many good artists this year. I am over the moon with my achievements and the challenges I have overcome.
Check out Gian Karle's work on Instagram @giankarle.