O.G.'s Story

10486414_816329168423835_2407673183149631076_n How do I know if someone will become a good tattoo artist? As the talent evaluator in our studio, it’s my job to predict the future of a tattoo artist. It’s a scary proposition because I know I can’t be right all the time. It’s also scary because the words I say in a job interview can lead to consequences I may not have intended. However, I find some comfort in the fact that I believe if something is meant to happen, it will happen regardless, fate just decides whether I'm supposed to play a part. It doesn’t lessen the responsibility I put on myself but it certainly diminishes my own importance and allows me to make critical decisions. In the fall of 2011, I met Marilyn Nguyen. She was referred by her friend who was an apprentice with us at the time. I remembered looking at her portfolio and thinking it was okay but not spectacular. It didn’t blow me away, at least that’s how I remembered it. So why did we accept her as an apprentice if it wasn't the art? I remembered I was gravitated more to WHY she wanted an apprenticeship. She told me about her struggles with trying to find what she wanted to do in life. She had dropped out of her Microbiology and Immunology course at Western and decided to try Art and Design Foundation at George Brown. On top of that, she told me her parents were not thrilled with her choices but she was determined to be happy for herself, and not settle just to please others. That struck a chord with me because I went through a lot of the same in my life. I knew the pursuit of happiness can be a powerful motivator. I saw a person that was trying to find herself. The difference is she wasn’t just talking, she was actually doing something about it. She wasn’t exactly sure how to go about it, but then who is? She consciously changed her education, she was here in front of me, and that meant a lot in my books. And then there was her personality. She wasn’t the type of person who would wow you at interviews. She didn’t have jokes to make you laugh, and it became clear quickly she didn't enjoy talking about herself. What she did have was an inner strength and calmness about her. She was criminally shy when we first met but she had a determination that you knew can be more powerful than chest-puffing bravado. She was also painfully honest and analytical. We talked about why she wanted to be a tattoo artist and I remembered her saying she had nothing to lose. She wasn’t sure but she said she wanted to try, and even in her uncertainty you can tell it was going to be a honest effort. She wasn’t going to short change me or herself. Most of all, she was honest about finding her own happiness and you can tell she wasn’t going to stop until she found it. So fast forward to 2014, Marilyn is one of our most sought after artists and she recently won her first award in October. She is also one of those rare artists who excels at two styles - realism and Japanese, a testament to her ever growing skills and versatility. Knowing what I know now, I’ve asked her to bring in the original portfolio she showed me 3 years ago so I can go back and learn to identify what I missed. She said she can’t find it anymore so I can’t confirm this, but I believe the secret sauce that’s made her into the amazing artist she is today can’t be found in those sketches. It’s inside of her. It’s who she is. It’s her determination to be happy, and it’s her instinct to do what’s right for herself. So yes, I might have underestimated Marilyn - the girl we call O.G. because we think oxymorons are fun. Looking back, I think we both took a chance on each other without knowing exactly what to expect and it didn't matter, because the motivation was genuine. When she bought herself a Subaru Forester recently, I asked her, “Why a Forester?” She said, “When I was 11 or 12, I drew a picture in my sketchbook of me in the future. I remembered I had a dog, Adidas pants with the stripes on the side, and a Subaru Forester in the background.” I might not have known exactly how good Marilyn was going to be but I always knew she would find her path. And, that’s the greatest reward for the both of us]>>