A Lockport tattoo artist who has already turned heads on the local ink scene will be competing for $100,000 on Spike TV’s second season of “Ink Master.” The reality series debuts with a double episode at 10 p.m. Tuesday.
“It was probably the biggest learning experience of my life because I’m young,” said Nick D’Angelo of Lockport, who just turned 23. “I haven’t been to conventions a lot to learn from other artists.”
D’Angelo is the youngest gun in the tattoo competition, which tests technical skills as well as on-the-spot creativity. Each week, contestants create and execute an original tattoo on a human canvas. Challenges focus on techniques – such as shading, line and proportion – and styles, including photo-realism, tribal, American traditional and pin-up.
Tuesday’s competition begins at a morgue, where the 16 battling artists are challenged to give tattoo virgins their first ink.
The judges are led by guitarist Dave Navarro of Jane’s Addiction, who is joined by tattoo artists Chris Nunez of “Miami Ink” and Oliver Peck of “Elm Street Tattoo,” and various guest judges.
“It starts out you’re kind of intimidated because you see these people on TV, but then they become people you hang out with, and they become your friends and work partners” said D’Angelo. “Dave [Navarro] was definitely the coolest judge, because he would hang out with us.”
At the end of each elimination challenge, the artist whose tattoo is voted the worst by the judges gets sent home.
D’Angelo, who was born in Hollywood, Fla., moved to Lockport at age 7. He decided to be a tattoo artist when he was 16, after giving up on his childhood dream of becoming an art teacher.
Three years later, he opened a tattoo shop called Black Pearl on Chestnut Street in Lockport. The first tattoo D’Angelo did was a dragon on his own ankle.
“I figured it was better than putting someone else’s skin in danger. I was curious to see how it felt,” he said. “Today, that tattoo would take me a half-hour, but back then it took me four hours, because I took so many breaks because it hurt so much. On my entire body I probably have 20 tattoos, some a lot bigger than others. I have a tree that goes from my hip all the way up the front of my body to my shoulder.”
About the same time he opened his shop, D’Angelo became a father.
“When my daughter Selene was born, I had to grow up,” he recalled. “I had to be responsible. Luckily, I climbed the ladder, as opposed to falling off.”
D’Angelo sees his young daughter regularly. “When she comes over, she usually begs me to draw on her with Sharpies,” he said. “It went from stick-on tattoos to Sharpies.”
D’Angelo said he learned from the other artists on the show, especially from Jesse Smith of Richmond, Va., a New-School artist whose colors are bold and bright.
“My style is very detailed and realistic,” D’Angelo said. “I don’t like to do cartoony stuff. I like to stick with more of a painter’s feel. Since I’ve returned from the show – you can ask anybody – my tattoo work and my artwork have improved 100 percent.”
After each episode, viewers are invited to go online at and vote for their favorite tattoo of the night.
Those votes will tally into the live finale on Dec. 18, when three artists will compete for the top prize.
In addition to the $100,000 prize, the winner will appear in an upcoming issue of the magazine “Inked.”
For the Tuesday night premiere, D’Angelo plans a party in Lockport at Lock 34 on 80 Main St.