In OC, it's almost more surprising if a tattooer (particularly one who's been in the ink slinging business for a little while) hasn't done some kind of Disney tattoo. On the other hand, it's a lot rarer to meet someone like Fullerton Tattoos' Noemi Barajas, who actually used to be an artist for Disney.
Barajas wasn't exactly spending her days drawing Mickey and his companions; she was actually one of the portrait artists in the park itself and was therefore not allowed to sketch Disney characters at work. Although it might've not the same glamour as one of Disney's sought-after illustration jobs, sketching one visitor's face after another was likely a much more viable way to sharpen her tattooing skills.
"I originally wanted to be an animator, but it's all digital now," Barajas says. "I got to learn from a lot of people with art degrees, and I think painting can apply to tattooing. So does talking to people and building a relationship like that with someone."
The tattooer grew up watching her neighbor tattoo out of his home while she was still in high school, so it was certainly something she'd been interested in before she was legally allowed to do it herself.
After three years at Disney and slinging ink on the side, the Anaheim native decided to take tattooing more seriously and seek out apprenticeships in Orange and Fullerton. There, she learned to combine her art skills with those necessary to tattoo for a living, and she picked up a thing or two about work ethic.
"There are a lot of people tattooing without an artistic background, and it's like I put my blood, sweat, and tears into it while other people are just in it for the wrong reasons," Barajas says. "They're in it to make money and all that, but it's not a job or a career, it's a way of life. It's not like a 9-to-5."
For that matter, Barajas has "DEVOTION" tattooed across her knuckles in case anyone ever questioned her commitment to the craft. She's also taken up a whole new skill set to begin working in a different aspect of tattooing.
"I'm doing welding right now to learn to build my own [tattoo] machines," Barajas says. "I don't know any females building machines, and I only know of one who's ever really had any success with it."
No matter which parts of the tattooing world she branches out into, Barajas will likely never entirely put her Disney past behind her. She dabbles in various styles and does plenty of portrait work (which also goes back to her D-Land days), but considering that she grew up miles from Disneyland, she takes pride in putting her own spin on Walt's creations.
"I've done some of the princesses in lingerie, like a pinup, or all covered in tattoos," Barajas says. "Those are always fun, but I'm still scared of it because [Disney] can really be Nazis about their characters."
Realistically, Barajas doesn't have enough time in the day to worry about whether or not Disney will try to sue her (or the thousands of other tattooers using Disney images), because she's too focused on her art to even have time for things that are a normal part of life for the rest of us. Forget building more business relationships; it's the personal ones Barajas doesn't have time for due to her demanding schedule.
"Tattooing definitely affects relationships, because it's hard to find a boyfriend who can handle me being so busy all of the time," Barajas says. "Sometimes I don't have time to go to the bathroom because I'm too busy and I don't like to waste time."
Fullerton Tattoo, 165 N Raymond Ave, Fullerton, 714-738-7201, Instagram: @noemitattoos