We connected with the incredibly talented, Insta-famous independent artist Nuri Durr, to talk about his life, his inspiration and his amazing artwork.
What up ActionHank! Okay, so let me go ahead and ask this question. So, ActionHankBeard. What’s the story on that — and [do] you mind telling folks what your real name is?
What up man. Yeah ActionHankBeard was originally a Twitter handle. Fans of Dexter’s Lab will immediately catch the reference. My full name is Nuri Durr.
So Hank Nuri, where are you from bro? Where do your talents have you right now?
Originally from Chicago. My family and I moved to Atlanta when I was about four so this is where I was raised. Currently I’m a senior at Georgia State University (Art major). Previously worked as a caricature artist. Now I juggle two jobs and do commissions in my free time.
There’s one piece you did in particular that really caught my eye of the budding vocal artist Jhene Aiko. That piece to me is incredible. How long have you been you been using your talents creatively like that?
I’ve been drawing since I was about four. Like most kids I exclusively drew cartoons. I got into portrait art in high school because I wanted to further develop my skill. I would try to make my portraits as lifelike as possible. For a long time I did mostly that until about 2011 when I grew tired of it. My first love was always illustration and animation and so that’s what I switched my focus back to. These days I really only do traditional portrait art if it’s commission related. Anything else is stylized caricature drawings, which is what the Jhene Aiko drawing was meant to be.
I can most definitely see the realism in the caricature work you do — but it’s a clean balance though, in my opinion.
I see lately that your creative medium of choice is colored pencil and marker. Can you elaborate a little bit on your process? Your style seems to be something you’ve been perfecting for a while.
I’ve worked with colored pencil, acrylic paint etc but my preferred medium is marker. I primarily switch between Prisma marker and Copic marker, but it really doesn’t matter the type. All that matters is that i’m able to throw down colors quickly. I’ve been using markers since 2011. For me the process involves layering colors. One of top of the other. I may add details with color erase pencils or gel pens. It helps to have a good understanding of color theory and knowing how the ink interacts with different types of paper.
Your style of work suggests you do animation / storyboard art — either one accurate?
Actually I do neither. I’m interested in storyboarding and illustration. It’s what I wanted to go to school for, but art schools are so expensive. I figure i’ll try to forge my own way. I draw as much as I can when I’m not busy with school or work. Most of the time I draw at those places too.
Do you do a lot of commissions for folks?
I do when I have the time.
What was your favorite commission to do?
I’ve done so many I can’t say that I have a favorite one, but I do have a favorite type. I generally only accept portrait or fanart commissions. Any commission that let’s me draw the things that interest me is one that I can enjoy.
I saw the piece you’d done for your girlfriend on your Instagram — would you say that she’s your biggest supporter?
Yes, absolutely. She’s always encouraging to push my skills further. I know I can be pretty self involved with my art and for some people that’s hard for them to deal with but it’s something she understands about me and I love her for that.
Who is your biggest inspiration and why? You have any other intrinsic or internal motivators you’d like to share?
There’s no one thing or person that inspires me. I’m inspired by just about everything. Childhood, music, nature, comics video games etc. Things that I frequently draw. In terms of artists, there’s so many that I could go on forever, but some of the most consistent ones I follow and look up to are Jeffrey Cruz, Mahmud Asrar, Andrew Mar, Chase Conley, Matteo Scalera, Ron Ackins, Gyimah Garbia etc. etc.
Everyone I talk to lately says that finding a niche within your skillset is the best way to break into the next level of success as an artist? Would you agree?
I agree, but I think that’s only part of it. There’s no shortage of skilled artists out there so it’s important that you have something that sets you apart from others. But at the same time you need others to help you reach the next level in your own development. I don’t have a competitive attitude about art. I’d prefer to surround myself with other skilled artists to soak up anything I can. There’s so much I don’t know. I grew up without any formal training. Everything I knew up until college was things I figured out on my own. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing, (that’s how most people start) it just means the time it takes for me to teach myself something probably could’ve been learned in half the time if I had someone more experienced guiding me. Today with the internet it’s easy to reach out to other artists. You can go on YouTube and watch hundreds of drawing videos. So people don’t just spontaneously stumble onto niche. It takes years of hard work, confidence and patience and it happens for people at their own rate of growth.
Are you a sports guy? If so what’s your favorite sport / team?
Actually not a sports fan, but being from Chicago and growing up in the 90s I’d have to rock with the 95 Bulls.
What’s your favorite hobby / pastime besides creating?
I’m a gamer. Well not as heavy as I used to because you just don’t have the time once you become a young adult. I also like to cook.
If you weren’t an artist what would you see yourself doing?
Most likely game development.
Any other things you’d like to add before we close, bro?
I’d just like to say thanks for taking the time to check out my art. I appreciate all the love. And thanks for having me.
What are some of your other projects you’re working on, Nuri? Any endeavors you’d like to plug?
If you’re in the Atlanta area I’m currently working on pieces for an upcoming art show. I’ll give a specific date and time as I get closer to completing the pieces. Follow me on Instagram.
Want a little more of everything cool?
Get the weekly digest when you sign up for our "Everything cool" mailing list.