Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7 Editor
Roland Pacheco can’t remember a time when he wasn’t being creative. Now he has a chance to show off his artistic skills to the entire country.
Pacheco is one of 17 tattoo artists featured in the upcoming season of Ink Master.
Spike TV’s hit original and the first tattoo reality-competition series Ink Master returns for a fourth season starting Tuesday, Feb. 25, and this time it’s going to be a street fight. Tattoo artists from around the country will battle it out in permanent ink and sometimes with each other for a $100,000 grand prize, an editorial feature in Inked and, of course, the bragging rights title of ‘Ink Master.’
Although he can’t give away too many details about the show, Pacheco did explain how he got there.
The Big Island native said he spent much of his youth rambling about the family ranch near Volcano, before moving to the mainland.
He bounced between graphic design, animation, rock music and painting for years before he realized he wasn’t cut out to be an industry man.
“You climb up these levels and have cars and motorcycles that you think will make you happy, but it didn’t,” he said. “You lose a part of yourself. I had to come home and stay in my own lifestyle.”
After a stint as a waiter at a Waimea restaurant, Pacheco opened a dive shop in Hawi, but still found himself returning to his artistic side.
“Both sides of my family are extremely artistic,” he said. “Tattooing almost picked me. It was like I’d been involved all that time and now it kind of compelled me to do it.”
So, about eight years ago, he opened Xisle Custom Tattoo shop in Hawi and dove into learning all he could about the history and culture of Polynesian tattoos.
He applied to Ink Master Season 2 and, while he was disappointed not to get selected, he found another project. Last year, Pacheco self-published “Fundamentals of Traditional and Modern Polynesian Tattoo,” a book that delves into the history and symbolism of tattoo across the Polynesian triangle, from the Maori in New Zealand to Samoa, Tahiti, the Marquesas and Hawaii.
“To give somebody a tattoo is personal on every level. The best tattoos let the artist do his thing,” he said, and that’s what he set out to deliver on Ink Master.
“I’m really proud I went to represent Hawaii. There’s a huge community here which had been absent on the show,” he said. “It was a challenge and I wanted to prove to myself that I can do it. I’m a lot more confident now.”
Pacheco spent five weeks in New York City filming the show and learned reality TV isn’t all that real. He endured five weeks of 12-15 hour days of filming in a run-down slaughterhouse in Brooklyn.
According to Spike TV: Each week “Ink Master” puts artists through a series of tattoo challenges that are not only designed to test the artists’ technical skills, but also their on-the-spot creativity, where they must create and execute an original tattoo by command on a ‘Human Canvas.’ Each episode focuses on a different and distinct style of tattooing including realism, black and gray, geometric, neo-traditional, Asian and cover-up, among others. The masterpieces these artists create will last a lifetime, but so will their mistakes.
After every challenge, the contestants face a tough panel made up of series host Dave Navarro (Jane’s Addiction) and world renowned tattoo artists Chris Nunez (“Miami Ink”) and Oliver Peck (Elm Street Tattoo) who are joined by a roster of guest judges including CC Sabathia, Rob Zombie and Brandon Rios.
Once again the Human Canvases, who volunteer their bodies to be tattooed by the Ink Master contestants, will have a say in who gets sent home. The Canvases will form their own jury, deliberate as a group and pick one artist per episode who will be up for elimination. In the jury room, viewers get an inside look at the heated arguments and wicked emotions as the Canvases defend or abandon their new ink and artist.
“It was a surreal experience. I went prepared for what I thought I would experience, but to say it took me out of my comfort zone wouldn’t do it justice,” he said. “It was like, ‘what the hell are they going to throw at us now?’ It was totally not normal.”
Pacheco said he felt he stuck out right from the beginning.
“I never fit into the mold of everybody else, never played those games. I got yelled at a lot. The others dismissed me immediately,” he said. “But I just rolled with it. I wasn’t being a diva. I just tripped everybody out.”
Once he returned to the Big Island, he jumped back into Xisle – right where he’s most comfortable.
“I learned to trust myself and my instincts more. This is just the beginning, just scratching the surface of what I can do as a tattoo artist,” he said. “There’s more to come.”
The Ink Master Season 4 tattoo artists are (listed in alphabetical order):
* David Bell (@davidbelltattoo) – Owner/artist at TLA Tattoos in Fredericksburg, VA
* Ashley Bennett (@ashleybtattoo) – Artist at Body Graphics in South Windsor, CT
* “Gentle” Jay Blondel (@Gentl_jay) – Artist at Alchemy Tattoo Arts in North Bellmore, NY
* Lydia Bruno (@inkbyLydia) – Co-owner/artist at Unique Arts Studio in Glens Falls, NY
* Damon Butler (@hautedraws) – Manager/artist at Extreme Fantasy in Abington, MA
* Keith Diffenderfer (@kdiffenderfer) – Artist at Honor & Iron in Rehoboth Beach, DE
* Kyle Dunbar (@InkbyKyleDunbar) – Owner/artist at Almighty Tattoo in Flint, MI
* Jim Francis (@tattooedjim) – Owner/artist at Milwaukee Ink in Milwaukee, WI
* Walter “Sausage” Frank (@Sausagekingtat) – Artist at Club Tattoo in Las Vegas, NV
* Halo (@tattoosbyhalo) – Owner/artist at Black Lotus Tattoo Gallery in Severn, MD
* King Ruck (@therealkingruck) – Owner/artist at Black Spade Tattoo & Red Elephant Tattoo in Las Vegas, NV
* Matti Hixson (@mattihixson) – Artist at Trinity Tattoo in Virginia Beach, VA
* Bubba Irwin (@bubbairwin) – Owner/artist at Old Town Ink in Scottsdale, AZ
* Scott Marshall (@smarshalltattoo) – Artist at Roselle Tattoo Co. in Roselle, IL
* Melissa Monroe (@Monroever) – Artist at Homeward Bound Tattoo in Port Washington, WI
* Roland Pacheco (@Roland_Pacheco) – Owner/artist at Xisle Custom Tattoo in Hawi, HI
* Randy Vollink (@randyvollink) – Artist at Club Tattoo in Scottsdale, AZ
Xisle Custom Tattoo is in downtown Hawi, and is open noon-6 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.