Scribomania is our series where we look at the ornate work of the best black and grey script tattooists in the world. This time around, we’re looking at the work of a graffiti artist turned tattooer, but be sure to check out our previous installments featuring the mind-blowing lettering of David “Vandal” Ruiz, Samuel Taylor, and BJ Betts.
Whether it’s the spray painted script found scrawled along the sides of overpasses or meaningful phrases inscribed on people’s skin, Norm Loves Letters’ handle says it all: the man is passionate about typeface. He cut his teeth as an artist doing graffiti on the West Coast, and now he’s channeled his street smarts spelling out highly stylized script into tattoos. His work is not only extremely refined, but incredibly inventive; through remixing various elements from the two mediums, it represents the crossroads of street art and black and grey tattooing in a powerful way.
Norm didn’t always plan on a career as a tattooist, but around 10 years ago he took up the art form when his piercing shop fell on hard times. Prior to that, his focus had been on just getting by and making enough to finance his greatest passion — graffiti. In 1998, he moved from Baltimore to San Francisco and got into the street art scene. He befriended the renowned artist Fate, who gave him a crash course in graffiti, and Norm’s been writing on walls ever since. His experience spray painting buildings, train cars, and any other surface naturally transferred into his tattoos.
Since first picking up a tattoo machine, Norm has earned a reputation for his loud, proud, and impeccably clean calligraphy. It’s nearly the only style he works in, and over the years he’s blurred the boundaries between graffiti and tattoos. His murals frequently feature the narrower and precise aesthetic of black and grey lettering, while many of his tattoos capture the outspoken vibe of street art.
Norm’s body of work illustrates how graffiti and tattoos are, in many ways, sister art forms. They’ve both been with humanity for thousands of years but entered into mainstream popular art simultaneously. By using them in such an interchangeable manner, Norm highlights this relationship, showing that tagging and tattooing are anything but mutually exclusive: they live on the same two-way street.