Justin Nordine, a Grand Junction tattoo artist, will appear in ‘Ink Shrinks’ on Spike TV | AspenTimes.com

Justin Nordine, a Grand Junction tattoo artist, will appear in ‘Ink Shrinks’ on Spike TV

Caitlin Row
Grand Junction Free Press

Justin Nordine may not be a household name yet, but his face is about to get a lot more exposure.

Tattoo enthusiasts across the United States will meet the Grand Junction-based tattoo artist at 9 p.m. Dec. 16 in Spike TV's newest docu-series, "Ink Shrinks." The pilot special will premiere following the grand finale of "Ink Master Season 5," which, according to Spike TV's website, reaches 1.72 million viewers and is the "ratings driver for the network."

"It's a big deal, putting Grand Junction on the map," said Nordine, who owns The Raw Canvas Tattoo Studio and Art Gallery on Main Street. "It's not a reality show. It's a docu-series, which is more or less completely non-scripted. It's about people going through tough things in their lives, and they're using a tattoo to start the healing process."

Nordine has been working on the project for nearly a year, including an extensive pre-show interview process as well as filming and production in California, he said. The show also features two other tattoo artists — Sara Miller, runner-up from "Ink Master Season 2," and Tim Boor — along with two psychologists: Dr. Gabe Crenshaw and Dr. Helen O'Mahony.

"'Ink Shrinks' features a forward-thinking team of artists, psychologists and other professionals who prescribe blind tattoos as a means of healing," a Spike TV statement said. "After discussing their clients' issues, the team will design a unique tattoo to help jump start the mending process. The clients put their faith in the 'ink shrinks' as they won't know what their tattoo looks like until the session is complete and the artwork is irreversible."

The pilot will show the therapeutic side of tattoos, Nordine said.

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"I am really proud of it," he said. "There's a lot of true substance to the show. People are going to be really interested in what these people are going through. It's opening up tattoos to a broader audience.

"We all have baggage. I am covered in stories from tattoos collected throughout my life, things that I have gone through."

A BIG SECRET TO KEEP

When Nordine got an email regarding possible involvement in the "Ink Shrinks" project in November 2013, he was a little apprehensive but curious. A phone conversation with a casting director about the show's concept sealed the deal, however.

"I was immediately intrigued," Nordine said. "A lot of clients that come in (to The Raw Canvas) are looking at tattoos for memorial purposes. There is definitely a therapeutic side to tattoos."

A flurry of phone and Skype interviews followed, with a face-to-face meeting with folks from the show at a tattoo convention in Minneapolis in January.

"Then I got the call that they wanted me to come out for a chemistry test, and I thought, 'This stuff doesn't happen!'" Nordine said.

The chemistry test, where 10 tattoo artists and six therapists met in Los Angeles for three days of casting work, was a highlight for Nordine.

"The artists there were phenomenal, ones that I looked up to, and there were legitimate therapists from around the country," he said. "I could tell they were putting together a high-quality show. It was also my first time in front of cameras. The first day was rough for me because it was unfamiliar territory with a lot of pressure. Everybody was watching."

Then in March, while Nordine was vacationing with family at Walt Disney World in Florida, he got the call that he was picked for the show.

"I was floored," he said with a smile. "Holy crap!"

Nordine filmed the pilot for "Ink Shrinks" in early summer, staying in Los Angeles for five days before returning home to Grand Junction.

"It was a really cool, crazy experience," he said. "I can't talk much about the actual show. It was a hard secret to keep. Being on national television is a really big deal, and I want to do justice to the craft."

WHAT'S NEXT?

Life is busy for Nordine even without "Ink Shrinks," so he expects little to change after the show airs later this month. He will continue tattooing in Grand Junction and at out-of-town conventions, with international travel for work on the horizon.

"I didn't get into this for fame," he said. "I got into it because I want to share what I do with a broader audience. I hope it opens people's eyes to the deeper side of tattoos. I believe that tattooing is a fine art."

According to Wendy Gill, who manages Nordine's schedule at The Raw Canvas Art Gallery, "In the last year, tattoo requests for Justin have quadrupled. At least 50 percent of Justin's clients fly in from out of state, and someone is flying here in the next few weeks from Australia. It's been crazy. We're just gearing up because once the show airs, I can't even guess what's going to happen."

The Raw Canvas Tattoo Studio is also going through another big change. It recently went under renovations to add two more tattoo booths.

"We still have four tattoo artists, with five booths total now," Nordine said. "We're having one spot specifically for guest artists coming from around the country."

The Raw Canvas shop family is excited for "Ink Shrinks," as well.

"It's been really hard to keep it quiet and not to share it, because it's so exciting," Gill said.

Raw Canvas tattoo artist Meloria Coyle added: "If anything, (the show) is going to be positive. It will give more exposure to Grand Junction and local artists."

Seth Jordan, another Raw Canvas tattoo artist, said: "It's a family here, not just a tattoo shop. I am very glad that Justin was able to embrace the opportunity and do something positive for the community."

ABOUT JUSTIN NORDINE

The Raw Canvas Tattoo Studio & Art Gallery was born in a 500-square-foot space on Eighth Street and Rood Avenue in downtown Grand Junction, where Nordine began building a clientele and developing his signature style — a layering of colors that resemble water-color painting, along with bold linear structures and bright colors; designing abstract tattoos to flow with natural body contours is part of his style, too.

Nordine’s artistic tattoos are a far cry from traditional tattoos, he noted; he’s influenced by fine artists like Vincent van Gogh, and he tattoos original artwork. And because of this, he’s receiving national support, guest spot invites overseas, and instant recognition by fans.

In November 2011, The Raw Canvas then moved to its current downtown location at 507 Main St., where it continues to host quarterly art shows (with 20 rotating artists) in conjunction with Grand Junction’s First Friday art walks. Work displayed on gallery walls includes paintings, photography, sculpture and more.

SOURCE: Free Press, February 2014

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