Continuing my snarking about Ami James on NY Ink

I went in with Saira today for her tattoo appointment with Shane Faulkner, where she got a bunch of Hindi script done in nice light grey-wash letters because she has some really subtle flowers that Shane did years ago in the same area that they didn’t want to overpower. So I spent the afternoon around tattoo talent, and an artist who while they earned their wings in the early 90s, has kept learning since then and has never been afraid to push past traditional tattooing — I think for example I can give him some of the credit for the popularity of all heavy white tattooing as he was one of the first artists to publish quality work of this type. Why was he willing to try something like that when no one else was doing it? Because he knows that tattooing is perhaps limited only by the medium, not by the portfolio of the artists that came before him. I’m happy to say that these days, most good artists understand that and there’s a lot of talent to be found. But then, when I got home, I turned on the TV and watched this week’s dumb television offering…

Ami James of the reality tattoo show NY Ink makes a big deal about wanting to run the best shop in the world with the best artists available, and positions himself as the king of that hill. He constantly belittles and abuses his apprentice — if it’s not all acting for the cameras, he’s a complete asshole to his “friend” — and goes on and on about how incompetent the apprentice is and how much he has to learn before he can call himself a tattoo artist. Problem is Ami James isn’t much of a tattoo artist himself. Sure, he can lay in solid flat color and draw a line that isn’t too shaky, but every single tattooist should be able to do that. Seems to me that Ami James got to the point where he could do the basics and then decided that there was nothing more to learn. Let me give you an example from the most recent show.

A woman came in with a painting that her grandmother had done wanting it put on her skin. She told Ami that what was important to her was that it look “like a painting” and “not like a tattoo”. The only thing she wanted changed was to have a New York skyline added. So what does Ami do? He changes the design in order to make it look “not like a painting” and “like a tattoo”. It’s as if he heard the exact opposite. The color is typical flat shading/blending and most obviously and most glaringly, he gives it the trademark of cheap tattoos everywhere — a heavy black outline.

Just think how great that could have looked if, for starters, the cloud was done in white ink with no outline. Not that it didn’t stop the dumb-ass client from exclaiming, “it’s exactly what I wanted!” Maybe people get the tattoo they deserve, not the tattoo they asked for.

But come on, Ami!!! Can you seriously not do a tattoo that doesn’t have a black outline around the color? Did you learn to tattoo from colouring books? Are you seriously not able to lay in textured color so it looks like paint? These are basic skills. I know that the painting the client brought in isn’t particularly well done either, but come on, this tattoo is crap. Kat Von D must be so happy not to be on the same show as you any more. Why must you make me yell at my television, and then further embarrass myself by writing about it on the Internet? Gawd, I hope one of their producers reads this and hires me to teach Ami how to tattoo. They don’t even have to put me in the credits. I’ll even pay for my ticket down to NYC just to cut down on my irritation level from future shows.

God, the guy couldn’t be more mundane and boring. A good tattoo artist is always learning, always pushing themselves, always improving as an artist — I know that if I was a tattoo artist that landed a TV show, you can bet that I’d be taking every spare moment taking classes — and just practicing new things — to make sure that I don’t look like a fool. In the episode he had the gall to insult his apprentice about not being good at watercolor, and then went and showcased his own small-minded view of what tattooing can be. It’s embarrassing. As I’ve said before, if I want a something that looks like flash from 1995, Ami will surely be able to do a superb job. But if I want anything that can stand up alongside the caliber of art that should be expected these days, forget it. I wouldn’t care if it weren’t for the fact that he continually brags about his status as a tattoo sensei and egotistically looks down on everyone around him. <Insert aggravated primal scream here>


  1. Leslie wrote:

    One more thing I noticed about the difference between the tattoo and the painting is that in the painting the star is a 6 sided star. I have no way of knowing if it’s a Star of David or if it carries any meaning for the client or her grandmother- or if she okayed the change- but I thought it was interesting.

    Saturday, January 28, 2012 at 7:19 pm | Permalink
  2. Brit wrote:

    True story, as I was watching Ami doing that tattoo I was thinking about how I couldn’t wait to read what you had to say about it. It’s truly terrible.

    Saturday, January 28, 2012 at 8:46 pm | Permalink
  3. Shannon wrote:

    Leslie you read my mind! NY ink contacted the tattoo studio I’m affiliated with (sacred tattoo NYC) and many other NYC tattoo studios looking for talent, and bypassed a lot of world class level headed artists to cast a crew for maximum drama; and it comes off as being very scripted, and dishonest. When Ami was on Miami ink they claimed he owned the studio, but it was only Darren’s name on the lease, they chose to cast Ami as the owner and told him what to say. I can’t even watch NY ink because it insults my intelligence with what I perceive as absurd scripted set ups and outright lies.

    Even their financial troubles are scripted; the only reason they didn’t have loads of customers is because they deliberately didn’t use the backlogged client list from their previous shows, and to create fake drama didn’t seek out clients in advance.

    This industry has a long history of twisting words around and putting them into people’s mouths for personal profit that predates celebrity tattoo artists, and it only seems absurd to those in the know, and we are the minority and outsiders of the entertainment industry. To be blunt our world-class artistic values would make the show more educational and less entertaining. Does the tattoo industry really want to encourage free educational shows about learning how to tattoo?

    Saturday, January 28, 2012 at 11:47 pm | Permalink
  4. Shannon wrote:

    Leslie – Fascinating, especially given Ami’s jewish background. I hadn’t noticed that. I guess he can only draw five pointed stars?

    But the whole thing is amateur. The blobby shape of the feet or the blurry nothingness that he’s shaded into the face are other examples of problems in it…

    BTW, I just wanted to clarify that the “Shannon” comment about this one is not me (as in me, Shannon Larratt)

    Sunday, January 29, 2012 at 7:09 pm | Permalink
  5. Dan wrote:

    I guess the whole “angel dangling a star of David over NY” thing opened the possibility of some negative connotations. I found it surprising because I remember Ami complaining about not wanting to do rosary tattoos because he’s Jewish. Why didn’t he pass on this opportunity?

    Sunday, January 29, 2012 at 10:34 pm | Permalink
  6. Felipe wrote:

    You people really don’t seem to know what TV is about, huh?

    Wednesday, February 1, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Permalink
  7. Shannon wrote:

    I don’t normally approve anonymous posters like “felipe”, “”, but his IP address may resolve to someone involved with the show or the people on it so I figured I’d let my curiosity allow it.

    Anyway, Felipe, I’m aware that reality TV has a certain amount of illusion on it, which is why I’m not snarking about Ami’s reprehensible behavior and attitude. It’s why I’m commenting on the quality of the tattoos, which are not changed by the veil of television!

    Wednesday, February 1, 2012 at 4:20 pm | Permalink
  8. Emily wrote:

    Amen Shannon….I have watched that show off and on…and though I think Ami and Kat Von D are famewhores…clearly the only one of the two with talent is Kat…Ami is just mouth, muscle and drama…

    Tuesday, February 7, 2012 at 7:17 pm | Permalink
  9. Lizzard wrote:

    I think it’s an insult to all the awesome artists out there (like Michele Wortman, Joe Cap, Eric Merrill etc.)to call Ami a tattoo master. He’s average at best. After I watch this show I wonder why they don’t show some REAL talent. There are tons of better talent in the NYC area.

    Thursday, February 9, 2012 at 4:02 pm | Permalink
  10. talby wrote:

    I’m watch the show for the first time, and Ami just told his apprentice that he “has to be submissive!!!” This show is ridiculous, and I, for one, would love to hear more snark from you!

    Thursday, February 9, 2012 at 7:00 pm | Permalink
  11. Kristen wrote:

    Unfortunately, if you’ve ever had the extreme displeasure of actually meeting Ami, your snarky opinion would not change. He came to our city a few years back as part of a big charity bike rally; one of the other guests was Dee Snyder. Part of the celebrity guest deal is that you do a meet and greet for a donation to the year’s cause, which was the local children’s hospital. People paid money to stand in line for hours. Dee Snyder was pleasant even after several hours of the usual fan comments and photos. When I got to Ami, he was a complete dick.

    Monday, April 2, 2012 at 11:00 pm | Permalink
Wow Shannon, that's really annoying! What is it, 1997 on Geocities? Retroweb is NOT cool!

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