City Life

Madison tattoo artist to appear on reality series 'Ink Master'

Janelle Hanson works at Iron Quill Tattoo

Janelle Hanson, a Madison native and tattoo artist, is competing in the newest series of "Ink Master," a reality tattoo competition.

"There's a lot of heavy hitters," Hanson said. "A lot of people who have been in the industry far longer than I have and their portfolios are solid. So, going in, I was kind of meek and timid just kind of like, 'Oh, man. What am I doing?"

Hanson flew out to New Jersey for a month and a half to film part of the series. 

"They reached out through email and asked if I wanted to take part in this, so I agreed," she said. 

Hanson's 'yes' came as a relief after a lifetime of 'no's'.

"In 8th grade, I had thrown together a whole bunch of papers that I would doodle on and I would bring it to tattoo shops. I asked if I could apprentice and they were like, 'no you're too young'." Hanson said. 

The 'no's' early on lit a fire for her, and pushed her passion far more than just skin deep. She would pursue this career one way or another, even if it meant doing it illegally at 14 years old. 

"I was at my friend's house and we got a tattoo machine and I was like, 'Yeah, alright. Let's figure out how this works.' So that's how I practiced on people," Hanson said. 

She got around all the 'no's' this way, until she graduated from high school and took a different path.

"I was in the military for four years," she said. "Right out of high school, I was very immature and I wanted structure."

Even after returning from the military and pursuing tattoo artistry, the 'no's' kept coming, even after getting a job at a tattoo parlor. 

"They didn't want female artists at the shop. They only wanted counter girls. I wound up at two different shops in town. The first shop was a lot of sexual harassmant and whatnot and I'm not someone to put up with it" Hanson said. 

Eventually, she landed at Iron Quill on Madison's west side. After finding her happy place after a lot of soul searching and job hunting, she posted her work on Instagram and eventually, the right people saw her work.

We won't give any spoilers to the show, but if there's one thing Hanson can say, it's this:

"If someone slams a door in your face, open up another door. If there's no doors, open up a window. You know? Just make something happen."

According to a press release, this season is called "Battle of the Sexes," and features teams of male and female artists competing against each other to win $100,000, an editorial feature in "Inked" and the title of "Ink Master."

Throughout the show, artists are tested on technical skills and creativity. Each artists has to create original art on "human canvases." The episodes change focus each week to feature different styles of tattooing.

The series airs June 11 at 9 p.m. on Paramount Network.

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