SKIN: THE MOST CHALLENGING CANVAS

Imagine a young man from Abruzzo (Italy) who is fond of colours and creative art and has an instinct for drawing. Imagine him with a great desire to express himself freely and share his art. Here he is. Norberto doesn’t identify himself in a category. Yet, he’s aware that the art of tattooing, graffiti and illustration has always been a part of his life that helped him sharing his story. According to Norberto, art is a powerful tool that holds people together, sharing their inspirations.

Norberto’s interests are many, and this is because there are so many stories and inspirations to tell. Skin remains the most challenging canvas even today. But Norberto doesn’t lose heart.




I’ve always lived in alternative environments to the dominant culture, in squats and neighbourhoods, at punk, hardcore or skinhead concerts. My work is the result of this hotchpotch.

Hi Norberto, how would you describe your art?


We start with the hardest question, don’t we?

I’d like to begin with a thought about words. I find it hard to call my productions “Art”, just as I find it hard to label myself as an “Artist”. I think that today, in the world of social medias and “network democracy”, where everyone can say anything – often without any entitlements – too many people define themselves too easily. Artist, Photographer, Tattooist, Writer, Street artist... I don’t really know which category I belong to. I certainly have my own personal story, that I show through graffiti, illustrations, tattoos... This story is made up of the street, of values, subcultures, countercultures. I’ve always lived in alternative environments to the dominant culture, in squats and neighbourhoods, at punk, hardcore or skinhead concerts. My work is the result of this hotchpotch.




What have you studied?


I started drawing as a child. I first came across spray paint at the age of 14, when I used to sign the walls of our meeting places, from the basketball court to the seafront to the pine forest.

“On the coast”, between Marche and Abruzzo regions, there was a lot going on, and “SONIK” was my brother. Back then, we had to travel miles to buy Montana Spray Cans. There was a good atmosphere in the area, lots of graffiti writers from whom to learn and take inspiration.

In the meantime, I was attending the Art Institute.

Then I moved and attended the faculty of “Product and Communication Design” at Milano Politecnico, but I never graduated.

In Milan, however, I met various antagonist collectives and in 2011 I wrote on my first wall with the VolksWriterz… it seems like yesterday!

Mork, Soviet, End, 2501, Ozmo, Ratzo, Craze ...

In those years I toured Italy with the crew, going insane and making graffiti, in squats and streets, in almost always self-defended and almost never legal situations!

We even went as far as Berlin. They’ve been memorable trips! We still paint together, but I can’t keep up the same commitment as I used to, and I often miss it.


All this because I think that on the one hand there are the “institutional” schools, the dominant culture, the universities. These are important for the training of the individual, who, however, must also learn to have a critical point of view and not just be stuffed with information and “knowledge”.




In 2013, I joined Artkademy. Through Volks I had met IVAN, another very influential person for my “artistic” story in Milan. First, we organised together an exhibition for DAX: it was the 10th anniversary of his murder. Then I moved to the “A MI MANERA” silkscreen printing company. We organised two editions of “SERIGRAFIESTA”, and serigraphy collectives and self-productions came from all over Italy. Thanks to these events I had the chance to meet fantastic people, like Daniel, who’s both a university professor and a true believer in screen printing - as if it were his religion. Now a book is coming out edited by himself: VIP - Various Italian Printmakers.

A few months ago, I had to stop with the serigraphs and I’m working on a project, but I don’t want to reveal anything! Stay tuned!


All this because I think that on the one hand there are the “institutional” schools, the dominant culture, the universities. These are important for the training of the individual, who, however, must also learn to have a critical point of view and not just be stuffed with information and “knowledge”.

On the other hand, there are the daily lessons, the people you meet, the environments and situations that teach you in the field: how to draw a line with spray paint (I remember Miro End fondly, who passed away a few years ago and was a master for me), how to make a block with rollers, how to enter abandoned places and make a home out of them, how to carry out an initiative, a TAZ or an event.




Calligraphy or pictures: what do you feel most comfortable with?


As I was saying, I have always studied letters, from the Art Institute to the Politecnico, to the studies I did on my own at the beginning, imitating the “great” writers of fanzines and magazines, and then developing more and more personal styles. I have only recently approached calligraphy, but it fascinates me a lot. I often accompany images and symbols with words and sentences.

Perhaps this comes from tattooing – mostly traditional western tattooing – which from the marines to the ports of northern Europe has become an established style with its own unique forms.

The images and words placed close together, always have a precise meaning, and perhaps the phrases reinforce this communicative purpose.

Perhaps, come to think of it, the aim is to communicate. And I communicate what belongs to me.






What inspires you?


Certainly, I’ve always had a thing about the American graffiti masters, but also comics and illustrations. Then tattoos started to appeal to me. I was inspired by who I was close to at the time (like Donna Mayla). Then, I began with the research – and here, too I’d have to make a long list from Bert Grimm, Percy Waters to the more famous Herbert Hoffman and Sailor Jerry. For sure, as imagery, the logos and covers of Punk, Hardcore and Skinhead bands have always been important to me. They’re very similar to traditional tattooing. I’ve also always liked the 50s, pin-ups, Eight Ball, or otherwise rock’n’roll and rockabilly imagery that takes a lot from tattooing – or vice versa.

In 2015, I first went to Central America – to El Salvador – with my partner for an international solidarity project. There it was, my obsession for Virgen de Guadalupe, Santa Muerte, Calavera, but also for Mayan symbolisms. We had as a house guest a Salvadorean artist who makes a lot of reference to ancestral cultures. In Mexico, we met a tattoo artist and spent a lot of time with him – he also uses these figures a lot.

I’ve also got a thing about the Chicano style, both in lettering and images, and “Sign-painting” which is linked to calligraphy, or to letters.



For me, skin’s the most difficult “canvas” to work on. Knowing the tools as well as the various types of skin in the various parts of the body takes a long time.

Let’s consider body, paper, and wall. When you approach these three elements of work, does anything change for you?

I think they’re “just” vehicles. I put it in quotes because it isn’t easy to learn to express yourself with each one. Certainly, we’re used to paper from an early age and it’s more familiar.

Drawing, painting, writing on a wall have their own technique, or rather multiple techniques, which differ according to what you want to obtain, and – referring to Central America – also according to resources. In Central America, the “biancone” was done with lime and vinyl glue. Then, of course, the type of creation also changes. It can be a TAG, BOMBING or TROWUP, quick and sincere, or a more elaborate piece, like lettering or a puppet, something more curated, like what you can do in a Hall of Fame or a Jam or Block Party. Then you can make a piece of art on a wall. That’s where a lot of issues come in between graffiti, urban art, street art, purists and not. I don’t place myself. As I said before, I have my own story and my own coherence. No chatter, I do what I feel.

As for screen printing, it also has many facets and many ways of approaching it. It seems like an exact science when they teach it to you at school, in theory, then by practising it you realise that it’s anything but easy. But experimenting with it can give you a lot of satisfaction.

For me, skin’s the most difficult “canvas” to work on. Knowing the tools as well as the various types of skin in the various parts of the body takes a long time. But I’m – slowly – moving in that direction.





How important is sharing in art?


I think that in art, and in everything I have mentioned so far, sharing is everything.

Sharing is “the school”, the basis for circulating and passing on techniques and knowledge. Whoever is jealous of and is stingy with their knowledge is a person who contributes to the death of their field of action. In the society in which we live, knowledge is sold. People no longer learn by being together, in a crew, in a shared social space. This is often the case at work, too. And then, there are those who think they can learn in two days on a tutorial. Same side of the same coin: the consumption of knowledge.

Competition is, in my opinion, a destructive component. I’ve seen in my short and humble experience that by collaborating, working together with those who know, you learn a lot and grow more. I’ve always held in esteem those who help and teach, compared to those who snub and think they are a cut above the rest.





What does Artkademy mean to you?


Artkademy is a creative workshop. Over the years that I’ve been in the co-working space, many creative realities and personalities have passed by. With many of them I’ve had the pleasure of working, collaborating, or simply spending time together. For example, with Ivan and Ratzo – whom I have already mentioned – Piger, Blob, Erics and Tawa.

I had the pleasure of listening to the music of Prez Esa, up to the latest collaborations with 20100 and obviously with all the regaz who still make up Artkademy.

For almost 8 years now they’ve been a guiding star for me, a resource, a safe place where I know I can find ferment or even just a beer with friends.

We have some projects in progress with Artkademy, so stay tuned!!


Follow Noberto and know about his latest projects here.






Article by

Vivian Di Lorenzo


Image Credits

Noberto