In a half-dozen years, Justin Nordine has gone from art teacher to tattoo artist to television star. Now working at The Raw Canvas Tattoo Studio, he's also part of a team of artists and therapists on Spike TV's new television show, Ink Shrinks. The pilot episode will air on Tuesday, December 16; if it's well-received, the show will be signed for a full season.
Nordine, a native of Grand Junction, has been getting tattoos since he was a teenager, but he didn't realize he wanted to practice the art form until he was pursing a different career. While Nordine was teaching at the Mapleton Expeditionary School for the Arts, his students' bad tattoos inspired him to offer a class on the history of the art form. "While I was preparing the class and teaching all that, there was just such a passion," Nordine says. "I always knew that there was, but I never really thought of it as a career. I thought, 'This is what I want to do' -- and I left teaching. Everybody thought I was crazy at the time."
Nordine followed his passion and landed a job at Raw Canvas in Grand Junction, but he never imaged it would lead to a TV role. Although he was a little skeptical when he got a call from a producer to interview for a new show, he was hooked by the concept. "It's a docu-series about people going through traumatic things in their life and they want a tattoo to help celebrate or remember or help them heal," he explains. "As a tattoo artist, I do that everyday. So I was genuinely interested when I found out exactly what it was all about."
Nordine went through a process of interviews and "chemistry" tests with the rest of the cast before he was selected for the team. He was on a family vacation at Disney World when he was called to Los Angeles to film the pilot episode.
On that episode, Nordine and fellow tattoo artists Sara Miller and Tim Boor work with a team of psychologists to create custom tattoos designed to provide some sort of healing or closure for the clients. The clients have to place their trust in the artist -- they don't get to see the tattoo until it's complete and irreversible.
While the experience was exciting, Nordine says, there was also a lot of pressure to create the right tattoo for each client. "They're relinquishing control to us and we have to really understand their story, work with the therapist and come up with something that will be a positive art-piece on their body," he explains.
Having meaningful, therapeutic tattoos himself, Nordine can relate with the needs of the clients. "I went through some rough stuff when I was in college. I was a pretty heavy drinker and just didn't have life quite together the way I probably should have," he says. "I got a big piece on my arm to remind me to not fall back on those personal demons."
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The pilot of Ink Shrinks will air at 11 p.m. EST (9 p.m. MST) on Tuesday, December 16 on Spike TV. While Nordine won't reveal much about that episode, he does share a little preview: "My client, it's his first tattoo and he's afraid of needles and blood. I'll just leave it at that."