Milwaukee’s Ink Master

After 12 years of tattooing, Milwaukee-based tattoo artist Jim Francis has taken his talent from the streets to his own shop to reality television in pursuit of the title “Ink Master.”

Francis, owner of Milwaukee Ink inside the Milwaukee Harley-Davidson dealership at 11310 W. Silver Spring Road, is one of 17 competitors vying for the title on season four of “Ink Master,” a reality show produced by Spike TV. Through the show, which wrapped up filming in New York last December and aired its first episode toward the end of February, contestants face tattooing challenges that test their creativity and technical skills on the spot.

During a live finale in May, one tattoo artist will be crowned “Ink Master” and take home a $100,000 cash prize.

Francis is one of two tattoo artists at Milwaukee Ink, which is located inside Milwaukee Harley-Davidson.

Francis, who launched his career in southern California and is largely self-taught, specializes in black and gray tattoos. As a partially colorblind artist, he is limited in the color palettes and styles he can work with.

While tattooing has served as both a passion and a personal outlet for him, it has also become a lifestyle that on most days is all consuming.

“It’s all that I do,” Francis said. “It’s something I think about 90 percent of the day all the time. Everything I do has some kind of thought about tattooing.”

Through his appearance on “Ink Master,” he hopes to strengthen his reputation as a top tier tattoo artist and build up the reputation of Milwaukee Ink, which he took over last May.

“This is my life now,” Francis said. “This is what’s going to put my daughter through college and help with retirement, and I need to make this shop known.”

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