Hot! Winners and Judge’s Comments—“Jim Dandy” Small Color Tattoo Contest


Great contest! So many entries and so many different choices from the judges. We really enjoyed reading the comments and hope the artists who created the tattoos appreciate the objective comments about their work. It takes a lot to put your tattoos out 

No. 26 By Piero “Tat-twin” Bockos, Verona, Italy

there for others to critique. Very courageous. Many thanks to the entrants for taking the plunge. The final selection was made based on a point system: 5 points for each first place vote, 4 points for second, 3 points for third, 2 points for fourth and 1 point for fifth. Everyone provided five top choices, except for Mr. G, who made three. Based on this point system, the winner (#1) is No. 26. Second place is No. 4 and third is a tie between No. 33 and 46. The winner will receive a Catfish Carl “Jim Dandy” tattoo machine. Numbers two and three will receive a T-shirt from our T-shirt stash.

We thank all the entrants for submitting their artwork, and look forward to our next contest, which will be announced in a short while. Please let us know what you think about this contest and what you think about the judges’ selections. To view ALL THE ENTRIES, click HERE.

EDITOR’S NOTE: In order to keep the entrants anonymous, we have not printed the names of any of the participants. As a courtesy to our Tattoo Shop Directory artists, if your photo(s) are posted in this story and you would like us to publish your name and shop name, so that readers can know who and where you are, please email me at, indicating the number of the photo(s) you entered, your name and your shop name. If you are not a Tattoo Shop Directory artist and would like your name and shop name mentioned in this article, the first step is to submit your shop by clicking HERE.

Catfish Carl



My first choice is No. 26. The color and placement work well with the light source coming through the water, which gives it a nice effect. Second choice is No. 33. The color combination works well with the fanning effect. Third is No. 46. Very clean script angled right. Fourth is No. 34. Black and color work well with this combo. My fifth choice is No. 2. Crisp lines and clean, solid color.

My favorites are: No. 4 (the mirror). It jumps out like a tattoo should, but I would have preferred an image in the mirror. Perhaps a partial face. I like the detail.

No. 6

No. 6 (the sailor girl) is very simple and feminine. Perhaps a little more detail on the leaves; they strike me as unfinished and detract from the power of the design; No. 8 (ninja) is very well done, but it’s probably not original artwork; No. 20 (the two hearts) is the best tattoo for conveying a message. A good idea that is well done.

No. 23 (tiger lily) is what a good tattoo should be, bright, well-placed and anyone

No. 23

can see what it is from ten feet away. It’s cartoonish rather than photographic. I like it. Well done.

No. 26 (turtle) would make Deano Cook proud, although I don’t think Deano would define his turtle with a black line. Nice placement. Good job on the added detail of the ocean floor. I especially like the little blue fishes in the background and how they are placed against the blue of the water. Blue on blue. Very nice.

No. 20

No. 30 (two roses) looks like two roses, not cabbages. That’s good. I would have preferred a white banner instead of a brownish one, to add some negative space. Nice placement; No. 39 (nun) stands out and is nicely colored, but I wish the cross around her neck had been done with a little more care. It doesn’t hang right and is shaded weird; No. 55 (flying pig) is what a classic tattoo should be: a simple design, well-executed and easy to figure out. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this graphic on posters, but I like it anyway. My winner is No. 20, followed, in order, by 26, 23, 4 and 30.


Here are my picks for the contest, with some criticisms and comments. I also thought I would add some critique for the “runners up,” if they wanted it. I don’t know if all the entrants were open to critiques or if they were just wanted to enter the contest. I don’t want to upset anyone who’s not open to critique, ’cuz its not an easy thing for everyone to swallow. Some people just can’t take it, while others really appreciate it. I just thought I’d put that out there, so you don’t feel you have to send my critiques to anyone who may not be open to them.

Cory Ferguson

No. 54 By Piero “Tat-twin” Bockos

#1: No 54. The Cartoon Turtle
Possibly the smallest piece in the contest, but I’m looking at technique and what flaws each piece have, and this one really has none. I’ve always been annoyed at tattoo conventions when sloppy tattoos win out over smaller, technically perfect ones, purely on size, so I am gonna practice what I preach, so to speak, and give it to this little guy. All others in the contest have many things that could have been better, but the execution on this was basically perfect. The colour blends are smooth as heck, and each colour in this piece has several tones giving great depth to it overall. The outlines are sharp and are super-solid black, leading me to believe that the artist took the time to colour up to them, but not get lazy and just blast the colours over them. The colours chosen all stand out from each other (which makes the tattoo pop), rather than having colours right next to each other that are too similar (which make it hard for the eye to distinguish what is what). This little guy definitely pops in a way most others in this contest don’t. Fantastic job.

No. 43 By Jusmark / Truth Tattoo Truckee, CA

#2: No 43. Monarch Butterfly
I really like the warm colours in this piece, they are bright and realistic to the true colours of a Monarch. The warm colours also blend well from dark to light within the wings, and I can see the effort was made to use darker colours to separate the back wing from the front one. The light blues are a good choice of contrasting colour for the background to compliment the oranges and yellows, but there probably could have been more done with it design-wise, to give it a better flow, because it appears just thrown in randomly around the head and body area of the butterfly. It hints at some flow at the bottom right side of the piece, but barely enough to make it appear that the artist had a certain flow in mind. The white on the end of the wings was great. The only other thing that wasn’t quite perfect was the black on the body It appears a little patchy and could have been more solid. Overall, a beautiful tattoo, which was almost number one, for me.
#3: No 26. The Deano Cook-style Turtle
I really like this piece, and it was hard not to award it 1 or 2, after seeing the amount of effort put into it, but there were just a few things that could have pushed it over the edge for me. Probably the biggest thing was the outline on the turtle; it was kind of weak, in points. It was probably intentional, for the sake of realism, but I feel it would have made the turtle pop more from the background, which is especially important, when your subject matter and background contain the same colour. Although less “realistic,” this would also have helped the tattoo remain readable as it ages through the person’s life. I think the two green items needed to be better separated from the blue background somehow. The last thing was I found: the browns in the turtle shell were a little sketchy and patchy. If the shell was more smooth and solid it would have scored higher in my book. This was a tough choice and that was the deciding factor that took this piece down to number 3, for me. There are some impressive techniques in this piece, for sure. The way the left arm (or flipper maybe?) has no outlines and uses white ink instead. This achieves real depth in the piece, by appearing farther back, and was executed perfectly. The details of the spots in the arms and face of the turtle are awesome. The layers of dark blue just behind the closest, more skin-toned coral show good depth, as well. This amount of solid blue is hard to pull off, so I can definitely respect the artistry and skill that went into this piece.
#4: No. 4. The Old-School Mirror
This was drawn fairly well, the roses aren’t my favorite. The ornamental detail around the mirror was really nice, although more could have been done with the handle. The line work was okay, not stunning. The shading wasn’t too bad. In some parts, the colour blends are good, like around the outside of the mirror, but, in other parts, it needs work, for example the rose on the right, or in the little hearts. I would have done more with the line weights, thicken up the outside ones to make the thinner ones appear more subtle (like the thin detail lines in the rose petals). Old-school tattoos definitely call for bold outlines. The center of the mirror is kinda boring. Too much skin tone. Perhaps blending the bars of colour out further, to fill the area more, would have helped. I think this tattoo loses the most points on the handle; it’s asymmetrical, and not ornamental enough at the bottom. The outside edge around the mirror is its strongest point, having a lot of detail and depth, and the blue beads are a nice touch against the brown/gold tones.

No. 7 By Piero “Tat-twin” Bockos, Verona, Italy

#5: No. 7. Pink Rose with Water Droplets-
Drawing-wise this isn’t too bad, but it had some flaws, from the start. I know it’s not supposed to be symmetrical, however, the left side of the rose looks completely different from right side. Right side is big and fluffy and spacious looking and the left is tight, cramped and awkward. For the shading, I think more black and less grey under the pinks would have made it less muddy, there is some nice colouring here, but a lot of it has a muddy look from the gray and it’s a bit inconsistent. The biggest petal has pure pink, as does the small petal to the left of it, but all the other petals have some gray underneath them. The hard outline around the water droplets take away from their realism, I think. Maybe a blue outline would have been better. The no outline, faded petals in the background is a very nice effect and well done. I would have liked to see more of it rather than just the two random ones. More of that and less of the negative-space leaves, which, I think, is an effect that didn’t really work out all that well. If the leaves were done in that same soft/faded technique but with greens, that would have been super nice and more impressive looking than the negative space turned out to be.
Runners Up

No. 50

Papa Smurf (No. 50): Execution wasn’t horrible. I can see this artist can pretty much put the ink in. The colours in the big wave are in there pretty good, and that’s hard to do, with so much white. But having that much white in a tattoo is never a good idea, mostly for the aging of it. This tattoo needed a lot less white, a lot less blue and a lot more black. I think the choice to put a blue Smurf next to a blue wave, next to a blue moon was a terrible one. If those three things have to be in there, find a way to separate them. The tattoo is basically a big smattering of blue, with a red hat and pants. Way too much. Papa Smurf especially needed to be defined using black lines and shading.
Blue Tree (No. 34): This was a beautifully done tattoo. I just didn’t think it had enough colour in it to win a colour tattoo contest, because the trunk and grass were all black. But they were well done, as was the colour in the tattoo. The blues and whites were very well done. Really nice. Not much bad I could say, so I wanted to give it some credit, even though I didn’t feel it should win.

No. 28 By Jusmark / Truth Tattoo Truckee, CA

(No. 28): This one was really hard to read. I’m pretty sure it was a bird skull, but not sure what’s going on above it. This is a tricky one to figure out, and that’s never a good thing in a tattoo like this. It’s unfortunate, because it does look like one of the most skillfully coloured tattoos in the bunch. And by that I mean that the colour saturation is very impressive. It is solid as hell and super smooth. The bird could probably have used more black, so that it popped as much as the black area above it does.

No. 21 By Jusmark

Magenta Chrysanthemum with the Sanskrit Writing (No. 21): This was very well coloured, but the center of the mum does get a bit milky or muddy looking and could have used some definition. Also, it’s a bit too busy for this much colour. I worry how it will look over time. The fact that the Sanskrit doesn’t really wrap or fit in around the flower in any way lost it some points as well. It looks awkward, and some effort to create some interplay between the two would have helped the piece a lot.


Darcy Nutt

First of all, it’s great to see so many entries, and such a variety! When judging each tattoo, I kept the category at the forefront of my mind, so the winners that I chose were what I considered to be exceptional for their “small” size, and the use of color had to play an important role in finished piece. This doesn’t mean that every tattoo needed to be outrageously colorful, but I was looking for colors that created contrast, creative color palettes, the use of contrasting colors and just generally using color to make the designs pop. Of course, in judging tattoos in general, I was looking for clean line work, good color saturation, overall drawing or design, readability and contrast. It wasn’t an easy decision, but here are my winners:
#5: No. 26. The Sea Turtle.
It is lovely and well done, but needs a little more contrast, though. More black.

#4: No. 30. The Roses and Banner. Love this piece! The color palette is great, the roses and leaves are well-drawn, the lettering is great, and I especially love the different line weights throughout the piece. A bit large for this contest, however. If they had entered just the bottom half of this tattoo, I would have given it first place! The curly things get a little busy at the top.

No. 31 By Eric Johnson / No Guts No Glory, Lincoln City, Oregon

#3: No. 43. The Butterfly.
It is indeed a small tattoo, and it packs a good punch with that much black. The bright orange and pale blue compliment one another and pop against the fuzzy black detail in the wings. I particularly enjoy the brush-stroke-style line work in this piece.

No. 4 By Eric Johnson / No Guts No Glory, Lincoln City, Oregon

#2: No. 4. The Mirror.
Nice composition and color palette. Gold and light blue shades compliment each other well. The addition of red and lavender made for a tasteful and well-balanced palette.
#1: No. 31. The Skull.
It’s small, its got great contrast and good use of black and outlines. The bone colors add detail, and the green background makes it pop. Well done!

Other Noteworthy Submissions
(No. 51): The Lotus. I really like the lotus and how it’s drawn and the effect of the waterfall over the leaves. It has a bold and rich color palette. The blue of the lotus really pops against the other colors. The composition of the purple smoke, music notes and cherry blossoms gets a bit busy, though. The smoke becomes rigid and loses it’s organic nature (flow).

No. 51

(No. 49): Pinocchio. Clean lines good saturation.
(No. 33): The Buddha. Very colorful and creative. I like the use of yellow and white stipple. This piece definitely needs more contrast in order to hold up well over time, especially on the outer edge. More black. More outline.

Mr. G

Here are my choices and why. All of the tattoos entered were of a professional caliber. With the recent trend of large coverages and Japanese influences in tattoo size, small has become larger. The title “small,” to me, means it is between the size of a quarter and a silver dollar, or what I was taught to a be called a “popper,” which is a little tattoo off the “pork chop” sheet on the wall, for the minimum price of the shop. So, in picking a small color tattoo, I tried to choose from some of the smallest of the tattoos entered. If I had to do this three times, I would probably pick different ones each time, as tattoos, to me, are living and always look different in changing moments of time.
#1: No. 55. A very tiny tattoo. The artist’s use of color tones, positive or negative shapes as, well as depth and highlights make this small tattoo possible to read from a reasonable distance. A very hard achievement, when doing small color tattoos. Photographs of small tattoos are very revealing of good or bad technique, and I see a good amount of seasoned skill. This little flying pig works so well for its size. It even has a great expression or, should I say, personality! A WEINER!!!!

No. 55 By Jusmark / Truth Tattoo Truckee, CA

No. 46

#2: No. 46. Looking at the skin’s pores is the smallest tattoo. I see in the group that is done with a small precise line, probably a 3 or 4 liner. It has very crisp, clean lining that will hold a small tattoo or any tattoo together over time. This tattoo, though very small, has very solid color using a nice range of tones. To me, this is a very well executed “small” tattoo.

No. 37

#3: No. 37. Tiny, tiny small. A very hard thing to pull off as a tattooist, this is like a miniature water color. To view this, in person, I would want to use a magnifying glass, in order to enjoy all of the detail and care given to this little piece of living art ! Any of the three I chose could be rotated first, second and third, on a whim. I only do first, second and sometimes third, at the racetrack, often choosing the wrong animal.
I wish all the tattoos on the blog could be winners as I enjoyed looking at them all, I truly appreciate the hard work and love of tattooing that went into each one. I eliminated many for size alone; my prejudice for the title “small.”

Matty Jankowski

South Brooklyn born and bread, I was witness to most kids getting their first tattoo, from a friend using India ink and a sewing needle wrapped with thread. If you were a little older, like sixteen, you would save up for a real tattoo that would entail hitching a ride on the back bumper of a city bus to Coney Island; that would save you fifteen cents. At a Brooklyn gathering of underground ink slingers some years later, I was asked to judge a tattoo contest. The judges were crammed together on a couch, in the basement. It was Vinny and me, with a young lady on her way to total coverage sandwiched between us, and none other than Coney Island Blackie himself. Blackie took charge of snaggin’ some ballpoint pens and paper, as a hoard of eager exhibitionists lined the steps out to the backyard.
Blackie was not all that thrilled about the competition idea. He said, “You have good days and bad; you’re not a machine.” The array of Christ heads, names, daggers, eagles, black panthers and little hot devil stuff became a blur as did the long list of numbers that we had somebody else to tally up.
It was fifteen years ago that the first ever New York City Tattoo Convention celebrated the legalization of tattooing in the Big Apple. The inaugural event was at the legendary Roseland Ballroom, the home of inhumanely grueling Depression-era dance marathons. One of the traditions that has followed tattooing from underground backrooms, basements, circuses, carnivals, sideshows by the seashore to Lower East Side dive bars and tenement art galleries had made its way uptown to the Broadway Theater district. Following right along was the judging of whose ink and what tattooist is “the best.”
As the defacto M.C. for the Roseland convention, I announced and schmoozed the thousands of contestants across the stage, in front of the crowd and, of course, parading past the judges. It was a privileged experience to see tattoos from around the globe close up with some very personal stories to tell. The who’s who of tattoo luminaries that sat in judgment was a big part of the annual event. Which brings us to this information highway rest stop competition on the Tattoo Road Trip. The submissions came through a website blog viewed by judges, not huddled together shoulder to shoulder, but independently perusing the complete cast of collectors.
Lyle Tuttle was always frustrated by the fact you would give a contestant their well deserved top mark, then somewhere down the line another tattoo comes up that blows your top-marked competitor out of the water. Not this time . We see them all, before delivering our final verdict. That said, here’s today’s favorites:

No. 30

#5: No. 30, Veritas Rose.
This tattoo would have ranked much higher, if not for being extremely busy and a bit cluttered design-wise. It had all the bells and whistles. Clean lines, shading, blending and solid fill color and lettering, yet trying hard to fit ten pounds of potatoes in a five pound bag sometimes results in mashed potatoes. I also felt a small tattoo should be more like a big fist rather than a half sleeve. Don’t get me wrong, it could go the other way, like an Anile Gupta postage-stamp-sized Renaissance master in a gilded frame, measuring an inch and a quarter square.
The choice of “Veritas” surely gives the wearer a mouthful of info on world mythology. Both Roman and Greek deities representing the virtue of truthfulness. It appears in the mottos of colleges and universities, representing Truth, Kindness and Beauty. Yale, Harvard, Johns Hopkins and various religious institutions proudly display Latin phrases touting their high ideals.
#4: No. 19. Pegasus and Voodoo Doll.
The plush, stuffed Pegasus with detailed zig zag stitching and tacked-on heart-shaped eyes are convincing representation of a doll. All the linework is crisp and fluid. There are cascading curls and fine line wisps of purple hair and flourishes with a dangling heart charm. The voodoo doll contrasts with its stiff, worn, hodgepodge construction and button eye dangling out of its torn socket. The blue lady’s minute, anatomically accurate hand and bent wrist was conveyed with few lines.

No. 19

The Voodoo doll is handmade from organic and found materials such as twigs, moss, buttons, cloth etc. Part of a powerful mythical practice used to invoke gifts and blessings with spectacular results, they help us to enrich our lives and have many other positive influences. The melding of intense magical symbols wrapped around a woman with purple hair like the mane of Pegasus. The color purple is a symbol of both nobility and spirituality. From being Cleopatra’s favorite color to military medals and a wide array of flowers with calming properties, it can boost creativity, imagination and wisdom, making us one with the universe. A very deliberate choice of objects and details for a powerful tattoo.

No. 33 By Jusmark

#3: No. 33. Buddha.
This tattoo is a creative depiction of Buddha. The absence of black outlines has been replaced with transparent colors and patterns. Buddha is a person who has achieved the spiritual state of bodhi. The word “Buddha” literally means “the awakened one” (someone who has no ignorance and can see the universe as it really is). People who have achieved this state can be called a Buddha. There are many Buddhas, and no one has the right to say, “I am the one and only Buddha.” Buddhism is one of the major religions in the world. It began around 2,500 years ago, in India, when Siddhartha Gautama discovered how to bring happiness into the world. Buddha said, “The mind is everything. What you think you become.”

#2: No. 7. Rose with Dew Drops

Rose tattoos are classic designs found on numerous flash, pork chop sheets and design books. I inked my first rose from a Grateful Dead album cover, and the bold line and even color fill looked like an embroidered patch belonged on blue jeans or jacket. This particular rose tattoo is an excellent, flawlessly rendered, realistic representation of the cup-shaped, deep-pink and strongly scented American Beauty rose, bred, in France, in 1875. Originally named “Madame Ferdinand Jamin,” it wasn’t introduced in the United States until 1885, and a best seller until 1920.
What sets this tattoo apart from other rose tattoos is the lack of a bold, black outline. In its place are light-pink and white highlights and petal edges against a background of soft monochromatic blue leaves.
The final cherry on top are the juicy drops of dew that you want to reach out and touch.

#1: No. 26. Sea Turtle
This sea turtle tattoo provides us with a moment frozen in time, for our voyeuristic satisfaction, without getting wet. It is an exercise flawlessly rendered with light and shadow, perspective and color shading.

# 1: No. 26 By Piero “Tat-twin” Bockos, Verona, Italy

# 2: No. 4 By Eric Johnson / No Guts No Glory, Lincoln City, Oregon

# 3: No. 33 By Jusmark / Truth Tattoo, Truckee, CA

#3: No. 46



  1. Wow, what an interesting read. Thanks to all the great artists who took the time to judge and comment on the tattoos.

  2. I want to thank the judges for the obvious time they spent while looking at the pieces I entered. They can know for sure that they will see more work from me, and that they will also see a marked improvement in my work, due to their gracious, constructive criticism. THANX AGAIN, Jusmark.

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