Masters Of Ink: Meet The Artist Specializing In Tattoo Cover-Ups For People Of Color

Masters of Ink is a Konbini original series introducing you to a wide spectrum of tattoo artists from all over the world, featuring custom designers specializing in every style, from modern dotwork to traditional Americana tattoos – tune in for something new every week!

When Ricky Havok hears "it can’t be done," he fires back: "challenge accepted." Tattooing in one of Atlanta’s top studios, City of Ink, Ricky is known for pulling off cover-ups that no one else will try.

He first saw a spike in cover-up requests when reality TV and social media brought tattooing into the mainstream. A huge rush of self-taught, amateur artists are entering the game, and their experiments don’t always go well. Ricky tells Konbini:

“[Tattooing] is kind of like hip-hop. Once it blew up and you could get rich and famous for doing it, everybody wanted to pick up a mic. And now everybody wants to get a tattoo machine.

You have cats who say, ‘Oh, I can draw a bit, I’ll start tattooing,’ knowing nothing about it at all. I’ve been tattooing for about 10 years, and there are way more cover-ups now than ever before.”

Some artists won't take on cover-ups at all. Many also reject bright colors for dark skin tones, saying it's not possible. Ricky takes pride in always finding a way to make it work, no matter what.

"It bothers me to hear somebody tell me it can’t be done. I just got finished doing a huge cover-up on this guy’s chest. He went to 5 other artists who said nothing could be done. So we pulled out sharpies and I started drawing.

I realized, ‘we can work with this.’ If I see some kind of light in the darkness, I try to run toward that. I’ll make it happen, point blank period."

Before-and-after cover-ups by Ricky Havok:

Read More -> Masters Of Ink: Austrian Tattoo Artist Paints Permanent Murals On Flesh

Morgan is a New York-based archivist of contemporary tattoo art. She is Founder and Editor of the digital gallery Tattrx, works as a freelance writer and agent for modern artists.