Atlanta’s Corey Davis competing on Spike TV’s ‘Ink Master’ season 7

Corey Davis has his own shop on Sweet Auburn Ave. "City of Ink." CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

Corey Davis has his own shop on Sweet Auburn Ave. “City of Ink.” CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

By RODNEY HO/ rho@ajc.com, originally filed Monday, February 29, 2016

Corey Davis is the latest Atlantan to take part on the seventh season of Spike TV’s “Ink Master,” which returns Tuesday night at 10. It will feature a mix of newbies (like Davis) and artists who had competed before.

He works at a Sweet Auburn Avenue tattoo parlor called City of Ink. He has been inking for a decade and prides himself on his versatility.

“I’m very competitive already growing up playing video games and sports,” Davis said.  “I like testing my abilities and seeing how good I am. It’s a great opportunity for a tattoo artist. It’s a pretty big platform. It’s a good way to gain a little exposure and get your work out there to people.”

He said “most of the stuff [the judges] look for is actually stuff I like to do.” And as a painter and artist, he entered thinking he could do the flash challenges well, since those often involve mediums other than human skin.

Based on previous seasons, smack talk is part of the equation. “I’m from the ‘hood,” he said. “I came from a place where we smack talk all day. You have to be ready to come back or people will make fun of you all day. I went in there with a strategy ready to let my work speak for itself. I also know it was important to build alliances.”

As a child in Ohio, he said, “art kept me focused. I came from a f***** up neighborhood. It kept me off the streets, kept me from doing dumb stuff.”

Davis eventually moved to Atlanta and graduated from North Springs High School, the same school as Usher, Raven-Symone and John Schneider. He attended SCAD and loved to paint and draw. He was looking for a way to make money with his artwork so he began an apprenticeship under Miya Bailey, who owns City of Ink.

“It’s really hard to get an apprenticeship,” Davis said. “Tattooing is hard. There were a lot of closed doors. I shopped around. Nobody was trying to let me in. I went by Miya’s studio. I showed him my portfolio. He liked my work.”

So for two years, he learned the craft as quickly as he could. “Eventually, Miya ran out of things to teach me,” he said. In 2007, he became a full-time licensed tattoo artist.

He said he tried out for “Ink Master” a couple of times but didn’t make . The third time was the charm.

He filmed last August. Right before he left, he sought advice from Carrollton resident and Skinwerks owner Craig Foster, who finished fourth season six, just missing the finals. (My interview with Foster last fall.)

Foster, in an interview, said he gave Davis some sage advice from his two trips on the show.

“I told him to pay attention to his surroundings and pay attention to the judges’ critiques because when you start off, they’ll be hard on you,” Foster said. “You take their advice and show improvement and that will take you far.”

While Foster likes Davis’ work and is rooting for his fellow Atlantan, he is also cheering on Jime Litwalk, one of eight tattoo artists returning from previous seasons. Litwalk came in second season three, the first season Foster was part of. “Jimmy’s my guy. We’re close. We do a lot of conventions together and travel together.”

TV PREVIEW

“Ink Master,” 10 p.m., season debut starts Tuesday, Spike TV

When I visited Corey at City of Ink, he was prepping a tattoo so I took some shots below as he worked with Chris Boyd, who was having his first tattoo ever.

Chris Boyd, a new client, is getting his first tattoo from Corey Davis earlier this month at City of Ink in Atlanta. He wants a pocket watch tattoo on his left rib cage which represents his father, who died six years ago when he was 16. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

Chris Boyd, a new client, is getting his first tattoo from Corey Davis earlier this month at City of Ink in Atlanta. He wants a pocket watch tattoo on his left rib cage which represents his father, who died six years ago when he was 16. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

Corey Davis' pocket watch design. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

Corey Davis’ pocket watch design. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

Corey Davis readies the tattoo design. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

Corey Davis readies the tattoo design. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

Corey Davis starts his work. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

Corey Davis starts his work. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

from above again More ink shots

Chris was nice enough to send me the final ink. CREDIT: Chris Boyd

Chris was nice enough to send me the final ink. CREDIT: Chris Boyd

Corey Davis also paints and some of his work is on the wall of his work station. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

Corey Davis also paints and some of his work is on the wall of his work station. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

How does Davis describe his work?

“I draw neotraditional tattoos with a little bit of realism,” he said. “I’m an illustrator. I like plain lines. I like super bold, nice line work mixed with smooth shapes.”


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