Reality check: Miller faces 'Ink' portrait challenge

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Throughout history, portraiture has been a celebrated art form.

It's particularly challenging when the medium is tattoo ink.

With five contestants left on Spike TV's "Ink Master" this week, Pittsburgh's Sarah Miller tuned out the pressure and turned out the best portrait of the night. Her victory sent her to the penultimate episode, which will be broadcast Tuesday at 9 p.m.

Following that episode, which was filmed last summer, is a live finale in New York City. The top three will receive critiques from a special challenge, with the Season 2 winner taking home $100,000 and various prizes.

For Ms. Miller, co-owner and manager of Wyld Chyld on Brookline Boulevard, victory could not have come at a better time. She'd been in the bottom two the previous week -- "I had started to really, really care about impressing the judges, impressing the producers, impressing everybody, and I was overthinking things" -- but the portrait challenge was her specialty.

A young mother who wanted her son's portrait done was assigned to Ms. Miller.

"When I saw that picture, I felt a sense of calm come over me, and I just thought, 'You know what? Winning, losing, it doesn't matter.

" 'This person, this tattoo, it's why I'm here,' " she said recently.

Next week's taped episode features four professional athletes as human canvasses, including Scott McKillop, the Buffalo Bills linebacker who played his college football at the University of Pittsburgh.

Elsewhere on reality TV ...

• Every cycle of Syfy's reality competition show "Face Off" has featured at least a few artists from Tom Savini's Special Make-Up Effects Program in Monessen. Season 4 has Eric Zapata, 22, a Texan now living and working in Austin.

As mentioned previously, Pittsburgh's Autumn Cook, 35, also is in the cast. "Face Off" debuts Jan. 15.

• And from the "no kidding" department: David Hester, a regular on A&E's "Storage Wars" who was not asked back for Season 4, says the so-called reality show is fake.

Mr. Hester is suing Original Productions as well as A&E Television Networks on the grounds of wrongful termination and unfair business practices, among other things. "Storage Wars" features experts who pick through abandoned or unclaimed storage facilities for hidden treasures.

The plaintiff claims some of those treasures were put there by the production company.

This is an example of a practice not uncommon on non-competition reality shows, which often prefer to call themselves "docu-series" or "docu-soaps."

Kim Kardashian's most recent wedding? That was legal.


Maria Sciullo: or 412-263-1478 or @MariaSciullo. First Published December 15, 2012 5:00 AM


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