MATTHEWS – Two artists from Sink or Swim Tattoo were featured as contestants on the season premiere of the Paramount Network show, “Ink Master: Angels” on March 27.
The show follows three former “Ink Masters” contestants as they meet and compete against some of the country’s best tattoo artists. The first episode of the spinoff, titled “Showdown in Charlotte,” was filmed mostly in the Queen City.
The first challenge, however, was filmed at Sink or Swim Tattoo in Matthews. The hosts entered the shop to find Terry Darkman, a 52-year-old specializing in black and gray tattoos.
“They call me Darkman because back when I first started, I was the only black tattooist,” Darkman said on the show.
Darkman was very familiar with the other two contestants.
One was his Sink or Swim Tattoo coworker, Jon Ronzka. The 31-year-old specializes in fully saturated color tattoos. He joked on the show that he enjoys working in black and gray but doesn’t get as many clients working alongside Darkman.
Then walked in Teej Poole, 31. Darkman described Poole as someone who went from watching him at conventions to becoming an artist he admired.
“I used to peek over his shoulder,” Poole said of Darkman. “I feel like it could be a passing of the torch situation.”
One artist would be eliminated after each round. In the third round, the winner would challenge Doty in a showdown for a chance to compete on “Ink Masters” for the $100,000 grand prize.
Poole, of Greensboro, wound up winning the competition and defeating Doty in the final round, but the Matthews tattooists put up a good fight.
Darkman was eliminated in the first round, in which artists had to tattoo an eastern box turtle in under two hours using any style.
The show briefly touched on Darkman’s craft as a means to turn his life around and make his daughter proud after serving time behind bars.
“I feel terrible,” Darkman said after getting eliminated. “This was my time to shine but that doesn’t mean I didn’t do a great tattoo. It doesn’t mean I’m going to quit. There’s always tomorrow.”
Ronzka bowed out in the second round, which was filmed inside 510 Expert Tattoo South in Charlotte’s South End neighborhood. He and Poole had four hours to tattoo a crown in honor of the Queen City.
Poole got to choose the style since he won the first round. He opted for black and gray realism.
“The blow isn’t as bad losing to somebody like Teej,” Ronzka said on the show. “it was a black and gray challenge and the Angels still had a hard time choosing. That speaks volumes to me as a tattooer that I can do this. It doesn’t matter the style.”
Ronzka explained how he worked 18-hour days when his son was born to provide for his family while pursuing a tattoo apprenticeship.
In the final round, Poole and Doty had six hours to create a tattoo based on the preference of a domestic abuse survivor. The hosts noted how domestic violence and sexual assault in Charlotte exceeded the five-year national average by 20 percent.
Poole described defeating Doty as a career milestone, but the best may be yet to come for the artist.
“Ink Master: Angels” airs 9 p.m. Tuesdays on the Paramount Network. Visit www.paramountnetwork.com for details.
Want to go?
Sink or Swim Tattoo is located at 11100 Monroe Road, Matthews. Artists participate in local conventions, such as the Queen City Tattoo and Arts Festival on Oct. 26 to 28, as well as national shows. Call 704-841-1065 or visit www.sinkorswimtattoo.com to make an appointment.