Ink Master feat. St. Pete artist
Tues., June 23, on Verizon Ch. 54/554 HD, Bright House Ch. 43/1285 HD
Black Amethyst is at 689 Dr. MLK St. N., St. Pete.
Earl Noble, a tattoo artist at downtown St. Pete studio Black Amethyst, enjoys creating images with a surrealistic flourish while incorporating disparate images that “morph into each other.”
His entire life morphed this year when he took a break from work to be a TV star. The 29-year-old New Orleans native, who’ll be 30 in October, can be seen brandishing his needle on the Spike TV tattoo-artist-competition reality show Ink Master, which premieres Tuesday at 10 p.m. New episodes will air weekly on the network.
CL got Noble on the phone after he finished taping the show. While he had to stay mum about a lot of the details of his experience, he did divulge that the series was shot in New York, and that he was there around two months (but he couldn’t provide dates).
“It was tough, and a great learning experience,” Noble said. “They pulled together some of the best tattoo artists in the nation... Everyone I had a chance to work with was very personable and humble. It was a fun experience.”
Ink Master will mark Noble’s first appearance on a reality show.
“The challenges were really tricky this year,” he said. “They were pretty outlandish and will definitely drop some jaws.”
Dropping everything and having to move last-minute is not foreign to Noble. His family was forced to relocate after Hurricane Katrina when he was a teen; Noble moved to Atlanta, where he graduated from high school. The hurricane hit when Noble was one week into an apprenticeship in New Orleans, where he fell in love with tattoo shops “because of the smell of the green soap,” something he noticed when he got his very first tattoo at 15 — a sun. “It was a super ’90s tattoo,” he joked, adding he’s since covered it up.
Ink Master was TV’s first-ever tattoo competition reality series; it debuted in 2012. This season, artists battle it out for an impressive prize stash — $100,000 in cash and an editorial feature in Inked magazine.
A tough judges’ panel, made up of series host Dave Navarro (Jane’s Addiction) and renowned tattoo artists Chris Nunez (Miami Ink) and Oliver Peck (Elm Street Tattoo), are joined by guest-star artists, actors and athletes throughout the season.
Another layer of competition in Ink Master — because you can't have enough confrontation on reality shows — pits master tattoo artists against their apprentices.
The mustachioed Dave Clarke is Noble’s apprentice on the show. The pair are more like brothers, Clarke clarified in a promotional video. The 30-year-old artist, who works at Sacred-X-Pression in Fort Walton Beach, said that he and Noble are close but “squabble like siblings.”
Things get a little snippy between the two on the show, as revealed by some promo trailers, and Noble and Clarke have been outspoken about each other during interviews. Clarke, in his recent promo spot, called out Noble for not respecting traditional techniques, saying that he has strayed too long and the quality of his work has suffered.
“I feel I still do use some traditional techniques, but I have moved into more of a style like painting on the skin,” Noble explained in an email response to Clarke’s critique. “Tradition will always be the base of any great tattooer; some just switch things up, and in my opinion he shouldn’t speak when he doesn’t know!”
Noble adds that they’re both equally critical of each other on the show. “I feel he’s more sensitive,” Noble digs.
How is it that Clarke was Noble’s apprentice if they both are similar in age and had been professional tattoo artists for a decade? “We worked together a couple of years ago for a year and a half, and he was under my wing,” explains Noble, who spent some time in Fort Walton Beach before moving to St. Pete.
Funny coincidence: The owner of Black Amethyst, J. Michael Taylor, was a contestant on a reality show, too — the first season of CMT's Tattoo Titans. Noble's colleagues at the shop, award-winning artists Tiphany Flamel and Angelika Graca, have no immediate plans to be on TV.