It didn’t matter if you were from the streets of LA, the boroughs of NY...it didn’t matter if you were living in London or Tokyo or on the Shaanxi River in China...if you had a deep love for tattooing or graffiti, you knew Norm. And even if you didn’t know him personally, his work has reached every corner of the globe...he was a Titan, a legend, and an icon. Whether on skin or solid brick, Norm’s creations were a huge influence on the modern landscape of underground art forms.
After his passing last week, an outpouring of thoughts, love, memories and memorials came from everywhere. It wasn’t just his artwork that touched so many...it was also his positivity, inclusivity, and compassion. Born as Eric Rosenbaum, but better known as Norm Will Rise, he tattooed everyone from Travis Barker, Marilyn Manson and David LaBrava, who all recently took to social media to speak their heart and share their experiences. But it wasn’t just celebrities that shared condolences...it was tattoo artists like Grace Neutral, Ant the Elder, Adam Vu Noir, Big Meas, Nox...not to mention all the sweet sacred souls out there, random names in a now closed book, who were able to be tattooed by him.
Born in Baltimore, Norm moved to California in the early 90’s to quickly be a game changer within graffiti. He became a member of widely respected graffiti crews AWR/MSK and TSL then started tattooing, empowered by his love for letters. Learning from Marcus Pacheco, Grime, and Yutaro, Norm was dedicated to always making better work...but it wasn’t ever about fame. It was about a dedication to creation. Which is part of the reason why so many people were inspired by him...he’d let you know immediately that hard work is a huge part of success, whatever success may mean to you. He once said in an interview, “If you wanna be the best, just do everything necessary to reach your goal and don’t give a shit about the rest.” He didn’t let obstacles turn him away from anything...he just learned how to make the best of them, or how to get around them.
And the love letters keep pouring in...photographer and friend ZekaDezign said, “You inspired me more than I ever could imagine and gave me keys for the future. Always telling me how hard work pays off and what steps to going thru to build your legacy.” Adam Vu Noir stated, “I’m absolutely devastated. You took me in when I was a kid and I rode with you all the way. I can’t find the words. I’ll miss you dearly Eric.” Apro Lee shared, “You tattooed on my face, you wrote my name on my banner. I can’t forget you, I’ll remember you for forever.” And El Whyner, a constant travel companion, lettering master, and friend who literally just shared a booth with Norm at the LTC, opened up saying, “At the end you were the hardest worker I knew and with a heart of fucking solid gold! Since your passing, people that loved you have hit me up from all over Europe, Mexico and state side. Giving their condolences and or sharing their stories that they had of you, whether it was when they first met you or some funny story that they will remember you by. I admire you and I will miss our convos, the plans on which countries and shows to hit or just family talk. I will miss you for an eternity. Many people share that same sentiment….”
His artwork, his machines, his aid to studios and tattooists around the world, his clients, his family, friends...his kindness...he leaves behind a massive hole in our hearts, in the industry, and in the community. Our deepest condolences, our thanks to what he gave.