Image Credit: William Nguyen @Willyumn
Today we’d like to introduce you to Emilee Truong.
Emilee, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I’ve had a love for the arts starting at a very young age. Growing up in San Gabriel Valley, I had taken art classes on and off. It soon developed into painting on canvases, nails, shoes as a hobby. My love for tattoos began when I was in high school. I became more and more exposed to tattoos through Tumblr and eventually started drawing my own designs. I was not very good at it, at all. I eventually stopped drawing them as my love for tattoos was rejected by my family.
During my senior year of high school, I had to face the dreaded question of “What am I going to do for the rest of my life?”. At that time, I really wanted to be a fashion designer, so I applied for Otis College of Art & Design and Art Center and was accepted into the fashion program. I then went on to attend Otis, switching from fashion to animation and then finally to motion graphics.
During my freshman year of college is when my love for tattoos began to seep into my life again because everyone was doing stick-and-poke tattoos for fun. Two years later, I then went on to create a portfolio to find a tattoo apprenticeship and eventually landed one with Eddie Smucgyz at Mr. Inkwells.
I had apprenticed for about a year and started tattooing at the shop under supervision at the same time. I learned so many things from a wonderful mentor, all while juggling between motion graphics, tattooing, and work. Throughout my time at Otis, I’ve met many amazing mentors, clients, and friends who have all given me their love and support. I am super thankful to have been on this journey and can’t wait to meet more people to execute their ideas in works of art to last forever.
Solid mentorship can make such a difference! Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It was never a smooth road. I had to hide my tattooing activities from my family for roughly a year and told them that I was just always busy with school and work. There have been a lot of challenges physically, mentally, and emotionally. I knew that my parents had supported my art career in motion graphics but never in tattooing, so there were always mixed feelings about everything.
I also struggled a lot with hand strength and troubleshooting while learning how to tattoo. It was something I really needed to build upon and get used to as my hands were always smaller than traditional tattoo machines.
What else should we know?
As of now, I am a tattoo artist at Mr. Inkwells and a freelance motion graphics artist/illustrator. I’m more known for tattooing in the social aspect, but I can’t really say I’ve made a name for myself at all. There’s always so much to learn in every field and lots of room for constant improvement and growth.
I’m happy that Mr. Inkwells strives to not be like every other intimidating tattoo shop. I can’t say tattoos are “family-friendly” but the owners try to make it as friendly as possible without the scary and intimidating vibes that you usually get in a tattoo shop.
I prefer to specialize in botanical flowers and whip shading for tattooing, cell animation/typography in motion graphics. I’d like to stay as humble as possible and really just be grateful for who sees me.
If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
This is a tough question. I’ve met so many amazing people who have loved and support me in every path of the way. If I had to start over, I would have probably chosen to attend community college and get an apprenticeship to save money in comparison to set my heart on art school and then not being sure what I will do with my degree.
I still love motion graphics, so it’s really hard to say. I’ve met lifetime friends and inspiring instructors while I was at Otis and it has helped with my design skills, understanding human anatomy, and basic drawing skills. I would prefer to keep the life that I have now, without it, I wouldn’t be who I am today.