Noel Molina has always enjoyed conveying his artwork through drawing and painting, but he never really planned on tattooing. That’s why when his friends wanted him to start tattooing them back in 2011, it didn’t seem like much more than a random idea for a way to kill some free time and provide a service to his homies.
“When I first started, it was just at home on my friends — just for fun,” Molina says. “It wasn’t something I was trying to do. It was just that some of my friends had confidence in me because they knew I liked to draw in the past. From there, it just kept going and friends brought more friends until I started tattooing more than I ever thought I would be.”
Once Molina realized he could potentially make a living tattooing, he started to take the art form more seriously. Rather than using the cheap starter machines he’d been using, Molina looked into buying better equipment and learning more about tattooing as a whole. As the next step in expanding his tattooing skills into a full-blown career, Molina decided in 2014 it was time to make his business more official and begin working out of a real shop instead of a kitchen. A few years later, the artist has already seen his skills skyrocket thanks to the fact that he can now learn from and work with other talented artists rather than relying solely on himself.
“The biggest advantage of tattooing at a shop is learning from all of the other artists that you’re around,” Molina says. “You pick up little things, because everyone tattoos differently and does things certain ways, so you might find something that improves your tattoos. It works both ways, so you just kind of help each other. It’s always good being in a good group and a good team, and I think that reflects on your artwork too. When you’re comfortable, you put out good work.”
But while the artistic side of things may be coming along relatively easily for Molina, the business half of tattooing is an entirely different story. With thousands of tattooers all over Instagram, Molina’s found that the easiest way to separate himself from the herd is by approaching potential clients in person. Although handing out business cards may seem like an outdated marketing solution, it’s been perfectly effective for Molina so far.
“The toughest part for me is the marketing side of it,” Molina says. “I’ve just been trying different things and being creative. I just try to talk with people and network wherever I go. If I see someone with a tattoo, I’ll hand them a card. Social media too is a big part, so I’m trying to grow on that too. You never know what a simple ‘hi’ can get to.”
As a kid who grew up in Santa Ana and moved around a lot as a kid, jumping into the chaos that the tattoo industry can be wasn’t much of a problem for Molina. Now that his unique blend of fine line black and gray and painterly colors has covered skin all over OC, the rising tattooer is looking to expand his clientele to the north just a little bit. Thanks to the help of his friends at a few different tattoo shops and studios, Molina should be able to maintain his business in and around his hometown while also expanding into the bigger markets.
“I’ve always been in Orange County, and now I’m trying to branch out into LA more,” Molina says. “I’m working part time in Fullerton, but I’m also spending time working in a private studio in LA, so I’m trying to expand and market more out there. I want to be more accessible to more clients and more people. I’m trying to take it all the way and run with it at this point.”
Chez Bippy Tattoo Studio, 101 S. Harbor Blvd., Fullerton, 657-217-5363, @tat2noel