Nicky on 106: I felt like I had to defend my choices.

What I got from the show is priceless and I will never forget my experience.

When I walked into the fashion studio for the Flash Challenge, my brain was in overdrive. I was trying to think of all the possibilities of what we could be doing. All the bright colors and all the different textures were extremely stimulating to my eye. So while I was extremely puzzled as to why we were there, I was also excited to find out.

I have experience with fashion design. My dad calls me a "Jack of all Trades" because I can sew, cut hair, paint/draw, tattoo, write, etc. Because of my small stature, it can be virtually impossible to find clothes in my size, so at a very young age, my mother taught me to sew and I began to alter my clothes to fit me better. Pretty soon I was making my own clothes from scratch. Fashion designers are artists as well, especially when it comes to the actual design sketch. Being an artist, it was an easy transition into learning to create fashion, from the beginning steps of drawing a design, to the execution and production of a garment.

For the Flash Challenge, I was inspired by Andy Warhol and the Pop Art of the 1960s. I got the Giraffe so I basically painted the spots in bright, contrasting colors like one would see in an Andy Warhol painting.

The biggest challenge with creating art on a boot like that was that it's made out of leather. It took me a minute to figure out how to get the paint to stick to it. We were using acrylic craft paint which is water-soluble so it kept beading onto the leather and not really saturating correctly. Once I pretty much got the hang of it, I was pretty crunched for time to get it completed.

When the skins came in with their pets, I knew right away we were going to be doing pet portraits. I thought it was pretty cool that we got to meet the skins AND their pets. It was so awesome to get to hold and study their animals in person. It really helped with nailing their "personalities" and individuality.

I really wanted to get the Chihuahua, it was so cute! But I was the last one to pick (before London) so I didn't have a whole lot of choices left. I had the choice of a snake and the pink dog. As much as I would have liked to tackle the challenge of tattooing a portrait of a fluffy pink dog, I honestly could not handle getting yet another first timer! I picked the snake because the skin had a lot of tattoos already. This might have been my downfall, however, since I had so much trouble coming up with a design to capture the snake's essence.

Doing animal portraits is just like doing a human portrait. Every animal has their own personality and different individual characteristics. You want to make sure you tattoo THAT specific pet, not just a generic animal of the same breed. This can be a little harder at times than a human portrait because your client knows their pet inside out and will know if it looks like their specific pet, or just an animal of the same breed.

The snake tattoo design was initially challenging for me because I wasn't really sure where I wanted to go with my snake design at first. I had probably come up with five different sketches, all different styles, before settling with my final design. I wasn't sure if I should have gone realistic or not. A realistic snake tattoo could be easily misconstrued as JUST a snake tattoo and not a portrait of a pet. I wanted to characterize it to give it more personality, and I added the rat for a more personal touch, since my skin told me a story of how he acquired his pet to begin with. This story involved his niece (the original owner of the pet) witnessing the snake eating a rat which she could not stomach, ultimately giving the snake away.

I thought that my tattoo came out well in the end. I wasn't extremely satisfied with my design from the start, but I didn't have all day to keep trying, so I settled, basically. Either way, I think the tattoo itself came out clean and well done.

I wasn't really surprised with the judge's comments. I pretty much understood everything they were saying, except I felt as though Kim kept trying to challenge me on the fact that I went more stylized with my design. I felt like I had to defend my choices, so I wasn't at all surprised that I was eliminated. Honestly, I felt that it was my time. I had only been tattooing for three years. I stated in previous interviews that I had been tattooing 5 years, but I was including my apprenticeship in that since I did get to tattoo here and there during it. I didn't start tattooing full time on my own until three years before Best Ink however. A lot of the contestants on the show had far more years under their belt. I felt like I was getting more and more out of my league as each challenge came and went. It began to weigh on me, and it was hard for me to take the pressure. But rather than cry and say that I couldn’t handle it, or claim that I've never done this or that before, I just kept quiet and tried my best. I only hoped to be able to keep up with the incredible artists I was competing against.

I have so many things in store for myself. The sky is the limit at this point. I have learned so much while being on Best Ink and I continue to grow and learn everyday. I made eight incredible lifelong friends that I made a deep connection with and that I will never ever forget. I keep in contact with almost everyone from the cast on a regular basis and they've all helped boost my confidence so much! I originally did not even want to do the show. I just imagined being humiliated on national television and pictured all the haters that I would have for the rest of my "15 minutes". My boyfriend convinced me to do the show, so I did, and I am so grateful to him for pushing me into it. All my cast mates, especially my BFF Alexis and my boy Jon have praised my talent and made me feel so good about myself. I don't always have the best self-confidence, and I'm always really hard on myself. Alexis and Jon genuinely helped me embrace myself and my art and taught me to keep growing and learning and made me feel like I had won that $100,000. What I got from the show is priceless and I will never forget my experience. I plan on opening up my own tattoo shops and art galleries. I want to also be known for my painting and make a name for myself in that world as well. No matter what the future holds, I know that I will be friends with these amazing people for life.

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