Cortland tattoo artist to vie in national TV contest

Ready to make his mark

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Josh Payne of Ascend Gallery tattoos a client Friday in Cortland.

CORTLAND — A low buzzing accompanied Josh Payne’s work on a grenade tattoo on the back of his client’s hand.

Originally from Newark Valley, Payne, a 31-year-old tattoo artist at Ascend Gallery on Central Avenue, began tattooing about 15 years ago. “I wanted to go to school for special effects,” he said.

Shortly after his parents bought him a tattoo kit to help pay his way through college, he left school. Now Payne will be one of the 24 featured artists on the Spike TV network competition series “Ink Master.” The first show airs Tuesday.

Payne likes to try every style of tattooing. “I’m one of the very few artists who try to do everything,” he said.

His brain moves a mile at a minute, Payne said with a smile, so he likes to stay busy.

A few months ago, the show’s producers contacted Payne to see if he was interested. “They’ve reached out to me over the past few years,” he said. “I’ve always been hesitant.”

However, after reaching a point in his life where he was financially stable, Payne said he was ready to take on the challenges “Ink Master” had to offer. “Everything fell into place,” he said.

For the first time, the series will welcome back three “Ink Master” winners to coach and mentor artists on teams, according to a news release from Spike. The former “Masters” include Steve Tefft from season two, Anthony Michaels from season seven and D.J. Tambe from season nine. Payne could not say which team he was on.

“My experience on the show was incredible,” Payne said.

Three judges preside over the competition show:

• Dave Navarro — musician, filmmaker and artist, with Jane’s Addiction and Red Hot Chili Peppers.

• Chris Nunez — “Miami Ink” tattoo artist.

• Oliver Peck — Elm Street Tattoo tattoo artist.

All the judges were great, Payne said. Every morning during filming, Payne and Peck would get yelled at for messing around on set.

While away filming, Payne became an uncle. His niece, Lucy, was born with Pfeiffer syndrome, a birth defect in which the bones in the skull join together too early.

Payne said Navarro would frequently ask how she was doing. “He went out of his way to ask,” Payne said. “He’s a really down-to-earth guy.”

Payne wants to continue to bring awareness to his niece’s condition.

Two things motivated Payne: his family, and the desire to show someone from Cortland can make it big. Growing up, Payne thought if you grew up in Newark Valley, you just didn’t make it on TV. However, now he has.

“My favorite part of the art challenges were creating large scale pieces I was proud to display,” Payne said.

On Friday, Brandon Estes of South Glens Falls, Saratoga County, drove nearly four hours to get a tattoo from Payne. “I’ve been stalking his artwork for a long time,” Estes said.

Estes said Payne likes to play humble, but he’s good at what he does.

The show starts with 24 potential contestants who are put through a series of intense tattoo-style challenges, after which 18 are split into three teams. Throughout the competition, the artists are tested on their technical skills along with their creativity, according to the release.

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