After watching “Planet Earth,” the BBC nature documentary, Lou Di Monaco first got the idea for having an underwater scene full leg tattoo, and he knew the tattoo artist he wanted to do it.
So Di Monaco brought his idea to Mike Tacji, the owner of Addicted to Ink in White Plains, and Tacji was on board immediately.
“I came to him and he showed a passion for the idea right away, and when an artist is passionate about something, that’s when you’re going to see their best work,” said Di Monaco, of Yonkers. “With Mike, he has this incredible realism in his work. I wanted something realistic, not something cartoonish.”
It’s that ability and talent that landed Tacji a spot with 16 other contestants on the second season of Spike TV's "Ink Master,” which debuts Tuesday Oct. 9 at 10 p.m. The artists will compete for $100,000 in various challenges.
Dave Navarro, who played guitar in Jane’s Addiction and has his own share of tattoos, hosts the show. Navarro joins Chris Nunez, a tattoo artist who is featured on TLC’s “Miami Ink,” and Oliver Peck, an accomplished tattoo artist from Dallas, TX, as a judge on the show.
After 14 years as a tattoo artist, the show is an opportunity for Tacji to showcase his skills to a national audience.
“I was doing all other kinds of art, airbrushing, all kinds of drawing,” he said. “I started drawing tattoo designs for friends and family and it just seemed like the next logical step to get into.”
Tacji got his first tattoo at 17-years-old, probably illegally, he said. It was a rose. He’s since lost count of how many tattoos he has.
Because he isn’t allowed to talk about specifics of the show until it airs, Tacji didn't disclose much about the show itself. A preview for the second season shows artists working on people who have never gotten tattoos before, veterans and famous athletes.
“We all had a mutual respect for each other because everybody was a very talented artist,” Tacji said. “Everyone had their individual style. It’s a hard competition to go through with such talent."
While the actual competition was difficult, Tacji said there was another aspect of the show he found particularly daunting.
“It was a pretty challenging experience living in one house with 15 other artists,” he said. “It was tough being away from everything for such amount of time. Mentally, it’s a pretty tough thing to go through.”
Although he couldn’t say where the show was filmed or how long he was gone, Tacji said leaving behind his business was also a challenge.
“Being away, what’s going on in the business is always on your mind,” he said. “It’s not easy to be away.”
Tacji watched the first season of "Ink Master" last year and was a fan of show. He found out about the second season when a friend e-mailed him an ad looking for people to attend a casting call. Along with earning the title of “Ink Master” and showing the country his skills, Tacji said he was also interested in the show to help get the word out about Addicted to Ink, which has been open five-plus years on Westchester Ave. in White Plains.
“The kind of exposure you get from being on a TV show, it’s like worldwide, basically,” he said. “It’s a really good opportunity.”
Tacji hopes to show people the kind of work he does in White Plains and bring in more people looking for interesting tattoos, like Di Monaco.
About 60 hours have gone into the tattoo on Di Monaco’s right leg. As of Saturday, the tattoo contained an ocean blue tattooed fully around Di Monaco’s leg starting about an inch above his ankle and running up to the top of his calf. Neither is entirely sure how much longer it will take to reach the top of the water, which has a boat floating on the water. There are various kinds of fishes swimming around Di Monaco’s leg and different types of plant life on the ocean floor.
“We did some research before starting, so we made sure all the fishes and things would actually be in the same area,” Di Monaco said. “Like I said, I just wanted it to be realistic, and there’s nobody better for that than Mike.”