Gabe Merino, Mentor Extraordinaire
When Gabriel Merino began his career, he didn’t even know what a piece of sandpaper was.
“Career” is too strong a word, even—Merino started at Bud’s Collision (Oakville, Ontario) in 2006 as a high school student through a cooperative program offered by his school.
“I didn’t like to study,” he says, “but I liked the idea of working on cars. I did everything at the shop, I enjoyed it, one thing led to another, and I started painting.”
“Everything” truly means everything—like many automotive employees, Merino started his journey with a mop and a bucket, a wooden broom and a plastic pan. You know the type.
Now, however, things are different. On a sunny morning in late April 2019, it’s “just another day in the life of a production painter—go, go, go,” he says. “I go, go, go at work and then am 100 percent at home.”
Gabriel Merino is the Motivated Painter. Through his work at Bud’s Collision, Merino has committed himself to improving the cars and community of those around him. Merino’s laser focus on the paint and refinish industry (along with his affable personality, willingness to listen and learn, and slew of Motivated Painters YouTube videos and website) have made him a bright fixture in the paint industry, one who’s willing to mentor and encourage those around him.
Be the Difference
“I hope that I can encourage people and make a difference in their lives in a positive way,” he says.
“When people write to me and say they learned something or that they were going to give up before seeing my videos, it fuels me. It encourages me. If I can help people, that’s a good day for me.”
Merino’s story starts roughly 3,600 miles—give or take—south of the shop on the western coast of South America. Merino is originally from Ecuador, and his parents emigrated to Canada when he was 12 years old.
Merino works hard to perfect his craft specifically so he can keep traveling and expanding his boundaries. He’s never satisfied.
“I haven’t painted a car that I’m happy with in 13 years!” he says, with a laugh.
For Merino, the perfect paint job doesn’t exist. A perfect paint job, after all, implies there’s nothing else to learn and aspire to.
In the shop, the SATA TrueSun handheld lamp is his go-to SATA product—you can’t fix what you can’t see. He also enjoys the precision of the SATAjet 5000 B RP, which he believes is the first gun he ever used. Now, he likes to diversify depending on the paint, the vehicle, and the repair.
He also uses PPG Envirobase High Performance waterborne basecoat; it's easy to mix, easy to apply and is able to match any color imaginable.
Diversification is key to Merino’s outlook, and something he believes has helped him become the painter he is today.
“As someone who likes to learn and keep learning, I think the biggest thing is not comparing yourself to anyone in this industry—especially with social media,” he says. “There are many painters who do good work but they feel they’re not good enough; they see so many ‘perfect paint jobs’ online and those don’t really exist. Painters should run their own race and try to be better than they were before. Be better than yesterday.
“It’s the same thing in life.”
Merino understands that it’s possible to love your job and to love painting; there are many who do it because they have to, but he finds real joy in the process.
“It’s a very rewarding career,” he says, “especially if you find a great shop that will take care of you.”
He believes that putting good energy out into the world comes back to you tenfold.
“Caring and having a sense of pride with the work you do is very important. You have to do the best job possible,” he says. “You take care of that car in front of you—you say, ‘Hey, that’s somebody’s car, they need it and it’s important to them’—and I get to work on it. It was in an accident; I get to restore it.
“It’s a privilege to be able to do so.”
More Than a Job—A Vocation
Looking ahead to 2020 and beyond, Merino hopes to continue to add value to painters through his videos, products and services. He’s not always certain painters get the recognition and care they deserve.
“I think for the most part, painters in general are not getting taken care of properly,” he says.
“Companies are so worried about distribution channels, they’re not worried about the end users—the people holding the gun,” he says. “I created a paint suit that I wanted to wear, for example. I hate every paint suit and this is better. I created a brand and a movement that I care about, and that can help people achieve more in their painting careers.”
Merino believes that the key to overcoming something as simple as a bad day is to change your perspective on the work you’re doing.
“Our worlds become huge and our minds become focused on our own little problems, but helping others around us—things begin to change.”
What started with a mop and a bucket has become something so much more. In service to others—and some mad paint skills and resources as the Motivated Painter—Merino has found his purpose. In this industry, maybe the best refinishing job is the one that occurs inside.
The Painter's Playbook is presented by PPG and SATA/Dan-Am Co.