Artists: Durb Morrison
What year did you start tattooing?
I was primarily self-taught from the beginning. I started tattooing professionally when I was 17 years old in 1989. I had been visiting and hanging out in tattoo studios when I was 16 years old, always trying to absorb as much visual information as possible. I was always very excited and passionate about tattooing, the lifestyle, the freedom of the art, and I loved the energy that came with being in a tattoo studio and around other artists.
How did you get into tattooing?
I was introduced to tattooing from being around the skateboard and punk community back in the late ’80s.
The older kids had tattoos and I loved the art form from the moment I began seeing a lot of artistic tattoos on people. There was already art on everything I was around. From the skateboards themselves to the vinyl record collection of mine, from the skate magazines down to my sticker collection from skate contests and live punk shows. I was saturated in art already, so it was somewhat my destiny. I did a handful of small tattoos on skateboarding friends and myself when I was 14 years old. They were hand-poked, little band symbols I did using a sewing needle wrapped with thread and dipped in black ink. I didn’t have a clue what the hell I was doing but had been an artist for years at that point, so they actually didn’t come out too bad, but not great, which drove me to want to dive into tattooing and get better. After that, I didn’t do any more tattoos for almost three years and just continued taking art classes throughout high school. Then at the age of 16 I began collecting professional tattoos on myself from artists that I’d later learn from and work next to. One year later at the age of 17, after graduating high school, I began tattooing at a reputable tattoo studio in Columbus, Ohio, and haven’t looked back.
Do you have any special training?
I’ve learned a lot from many amazing tattoo artists along my journey in tattooing. I had the honor of learning a lot from Tim Miller when I started working in a studio. I traveled heavily and hit a lot of shows while traveling. I met Sailor Moses when I was 19 years old and ended up working for him shortly after. Sailor Moses was a huge inspiration for me. He was like a tattoo father, always breaking things down for me and helping me truly understand how the art form worked as well as the equipment, needles and so on. Working with Sailor Moses really allowed me to take off with my tattooing with a complete understanding of all aspects of the art.
What conventions have you worked at?
Have you won any awards? I’ve put on the Hell City Tattoo Festival in Columbus, Ohio, and Phoenix, Arizona, for the last decade. I continue to make the fest better every year, focusing on the artists and the community, giving them an experience unlike anything they’ve witnessed before. Throwing the Hell City Tattoo Festival came from working something like 60 conventions over the years and realizing what we, as tattoo artists, really want and need with doing conventions. Having worked my first convention when I was just 18 years
old, I’ve met many artists and developed a real sense of unity within the tattoo community by doing these shows. I began winning many awards for my work by traveling to conventions, working hard and entering my work in the competitions. When you realize your work is award-winning, it pushes you even further to do better and really try to produce an award winning tattoo every time. These travels, tattoo conventions, and the people I’ve met along the way have carved many memories in my mind. Tattoo conventions give artists a sense of community and realization of just how big tattooing is nowadays. Like a big, happy family!
How do you describe your style?
What I look for in a tattoo is exactly how I apply my tattooing. I definitely have a traditional foundation, having learned from many old-school tattoo artists from the start, but have always strived to incorporate more of a painterly effect with a traditional base. My painterly traditional style is very solid with smooth color gradations, always keeping composition in mind while designing tattoos for clients. Longevity of the tattoos I do is an important factor in the final piece. I try to not use too much black, rather using deep colors to replace tons of black, allowing my work to appear very rich and colorful.
What inspires you as an artist?
Inspiration from other artists is apparent in my work if you look closely. It’s important to always stay inspired by others within your field—there’s no shame in that. Not just tattoo artists, but painters, designers, sculptors, and more. I feel you take a bit of every art form that grabs your eye and subconsciously apply it to your own work. I’ve always enjoyed skateboard art from the time I was a teenager. It always had strong elements to it that conveyed great tattoo art. Today, seeing all the new styles and images on skin is very inspirational and continues to inspire and motivate me every day.
What sets you apart from other artists?
I don’t really set myself apart from any other artists, I rather look at myself as another part of this art form we all try to make better every day. I’ve always stayed involved in the community and industry with intentions of pushing the boundaries and making tattooing better, more recognized, and more respected. My work ethic has always been a strong point to my lengthy career of 22 years now. I’ve always strived to give back in one way or another to the art form that has given me so much. This is something I never want to overlook or take for granted. My true love of all aspects of art, including sculpture, painting, tattooing, design, photography, videography, and more have kept the fire burning inside all these years.
What other mediums do you work in?
I enjoy acrylic and oil painting, watercolor for its tradition with tattooing, as well as metal and wood sculpture. Doing sculpture gives me a chance to be more aggressive and rough in comparison to tattooing, which requires a more delicate application. Over the last five years I’ve really enjoyed doing design and video, which
have been contributing arts to my current businesses. So essentially, I enjoy many mediums, all of which contribute to my art overall.
How have you branched out from tattooing?
Tattooing for 22 years now, you have to branch out and enjoy other aspects that surround what you’ve dedicated your life to. Throughout my career, I’ve always tried to produce interesting products and images for collectors to have; I’ve done everything from prints, tattoo clothing, machines, flash, and more. In 2002, I branched out and started the Hell City Tattoo Festival, which has grown into one of the industry’s favorite tattoo conventions. Hell City has allowed me to change the way tattoo conventions are organized, the way the artists are treated, and how the industry is perceived. Recently I’ve been focusing on my newest product, called True Tubes, which are steel tip disposable tattoo tubes. We just released our second True Tube, called ErgoSquish, which is the first adjustable, ergonomic, disposable tattoo tube ever! Making innovative products has been a new passion of mine. I feel as though I am giving back every day to the industry and really making changes that have been needed for many years. I have many ideas and plans for the near future with True Tubes products that will continue to change the game a bit.
What tattoo artists do you admire most?
There’s too many to mention. I look up to any tattoo artist that you see really pushing it constantly and getting better with every tattoo they do. I’ve always looked up to artists that have inspired and influenced me, like Timothy Hoyer, Rob Koss, Grime, Aaron Cain, Joe Capobianco, Nick Baxter, Guy Aitchison, and tons more. I can’t really say that one has affected my style more than the other, but I’ve definitely grabbed much visual information and technique from their work and tried to apply it to my own.
What kind of tattoos do you look forward to doing?
I pretty much look forward to doing any color tattoos that are challenging and a little different, yet staying within the traditional or Japanese style. I’m not really looking to change what I do, as I’ve found comfort and fluidity with my personal application of tattooing. You won’t find me branching out into doing portraits or realism with my work as I feel there are artists that already have dedicated their careers to that style, so I’ll continue to do what makes me happy as an artist and what my clients are looking for with my tattooing.