Meet Graffiti Artist Turned Tattoo Genius, Norm Will Rise

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Some of our favorite celebrities’ go-to tattoo artists, like Bang Bang in New York City and Dr. Woo in Hollywood, have become household names for their life-like designs and incredibly detailed pieces, but there are plenty of other artists out there who are rising up in the ranks of U.S. tattoo artists, like Los Angeles-based tattoo genius, Norm Will Rise. Born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, Norm Will Rise (you can just call him Norm) moved to California and got his start as a graffiti writer in 1998 in San Francisco, where he spent a lot of time running from the police.

According to Norm, “I learned everything about graffiti and stealing and everything fucked up about graffiti in SF from [famed Los Angeles-based graffiti and street-art artist] Fate. He taught me all about writing and from then on, it was a big mess of shit. I was around 24 when I started, already too old to start and go through things like get arrested and get beaten up, but I really loved graffiti so nothing could have stopped me.”

Before long, Norm had joined the ranks of three of the best-known graffiti-art crews, AWR (Angels Will Rise), MSK (Mad Society Kings) and TSL (The Seventh Letter), but it was from tattoo masterminds like Marcus Pacheco, Grime and Yutaro that he learned how to put his art to skin. Now known for his incredible lettering skills, Norm first started tattooing about 10 years ago, but wasn’t confident in his abilities in the very beginning. “I didn’t think I could tattoo because I couldn’t draw, but my friend convinced me of the contrary so I [gave] it a try and I liked it. Soon I ended up just wanting to do only letters.”

Norm says his unique and impressive lettering skills are the result of both his graffiti and tattoo influences, a mix of “urban culture and fine art,” and lots and lots of practice. “I made myself crazy trying to do [lettering] because I wanted to be the best. Always. As much as I can. To the best of my abilities,” he recently said during an interview with thehundreds.com. Not only does Norm excel in lettering, calligraphy and other techniques learned from his graffiti days, but he even builds his own tattoo machines, which are used by renowned tattoo artists all over the world.

Formerly a graffiti artist with tons of street cred who’s seen the inside of a jail cell more often than he would like to admit, Norm has become one of the more well-known tattoo artists out there, making a name for himself in both Los Angeles and Honolulu, Hawaii, where he recently opened his own private studio available by appointment only. There’s no doubt he’s got a bright future ahead of him, and as far as upcoming projects go, Norm Will Rise plans to do “everything and anything.” So be sure to keep an eye out for his artwork, in both graffiti and tattoo form!