Premiere Recap: Dark Age's Deanna Smith on Ink Masters

Denton has its fair share of excellent tattoo artistry pouring out of its shops. One artist regularly contributing to the beautiful tattoos in town is Deanna Smith at Dark Age Tattoo Studio on the square where she has been since 2015. 

Smith’s journey to tattooing began with her drawing from the age of 3 on and she is a graduate of the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. She specializes in both color and black and grey tattoos, as well as portraiture often turning out immaculate color realism tattoos of artists and thinkers on many human canvases in Denton. 

It was her color realism and intense artistry that got her to Ink Master: Angels, a spin-off of the original Ink Master show on Spike. The new show features four fan-favorites artists from season 8—Ryan Ashley (winner), Kelly Doty, Nikki Simpson and Gia Rose as they travel the country and challenge some of America’s finest tattoo artists.

 Smith’s performance on the show in Dallas landed her a spot on Ink Master season 10, which aired its premiere Tuesday, January 9. Andy’s held a screening of the premiere where the public could watch along with Smith. Here’s a recap of what happened on the first episode. 

For those not familiar with Ink Master, it’s abrasive, in-your-face and tense from the get go. With their artistry constantly being critiqued and challenges that put them through the ringer in terms of time limits and style parameters, the contestants as a whole can be loud, proud and there for the title of Ink Master and not much else. 

The format of the show this season might add to that. Three Ink Masters—Steve Tefft (season 2), Anthony Michaels (season 7), and DJ Tambe (season 9)—serve as the coaches this season and they each picked 6 artists they will guide and mentor through the challenges. 

If any of this talk made you worry about Smith’s fate, just know her tattooing went above and beyond. In their first challenge, artists were given six hours to tattoo anything they wanted, with no style restrictions, a truly rare moment on the show. Then, the coaches and judges Dave Navarro, Chris Nuñez and Oliver Peck cycled through the tattoos blind and ranked them. Smith came in third, just behind Matt Buck and Josh Payne. These top three artists all chose DJ as their coach, fresh off his own win and excited at the opportunity to take the best of the best for his team. 

Smith is the only female on her team, and there are three other female artists in the competition—Amanda Leitch, Katie Rhoden, and Linzy Michelle. While all the artists who advanced are talented, the journey of these females will be particularly interesting, especially taking into account that even today, five out of six tattoo artists are men

Each contestant has a bio page on Spike’s website and Smith’s really packs a punch. In it, she said she feels as though she’s close to mastering all styles of tattooing, even having been an artist for the relatively short span of 3.5 years, some shops and artists still do not take her seriously. The page finishes, “Now, she plans to succeed on ‘Ink Master’ to show everyone who told her she couldn't make it, that a female tattoo artist can tattoo just as badass as any male.”

Ink Master has new episodes every Tuesday at 10/9c on Spike. You can look at Deanna’s work here and here and show info here