Trapped in the Dream of Death: An Interview with Illustrator and Tattoo Artist Revolting Worship

Posted by Stephanie Crumley on

Revolting Worship dark ink art

We were honored to sit down and talk to Columbus, Ohio resident Nate Burns, aka "Revolting Worship" about his artwork, his transition to the tattoo realm, and his success with social media.

So, can you tell us the story behind Revolting Worship? Why did you decide on that handle? How long have you been revolting worship?

Revolting Worship: The pen-name “Revolting Worship” was birthed mostly out of my entrenched metal nerddom; sort of hearkening back to the history of artists/musicians of the genre utilizing pseudonyms to “brand” their creative output. It was a fun exercise that honestly ended up sticking more than I imagined/intended it to. 

Please summarize your illustration style in three to four words. 

RW: Line & texture obsessed canoodling. 

Nate Burns Dark Tattoo Art

You saw pretty prolific growth before Instagram started tangoing with their algorithm. What sorts of actions do you attribute your success?

RW: Lots of time spent drawing to always have something at least halfway worthwhile to show for the efforts. Basically pouring in time to honing my craft was the primary goal (as it always should be as far as I’m concerned) but it just so happened to work in my favor that the old social media algorithms benefited those with speedier working processes i.e. always working means always having something you could show means being pushed into feeds more often. The constant flux in algorithm changes hasn’t affected my working process or the amount of time I’m working, however. 

Did you always want to be an artist? What made you decide that's what you wanted to be?

RW: I’d say in some form or another, yes, I’ve always wanted to make art for a living. Some of my earliest memories were drawing my own bootleg Batman and X-Men comics, haha!

Dark Record cover artwork by Nate Burns Revolting Worship

Okay, so here's one of our topical questions but get into it. Who are your top five greatest influences into your artwork (not that we can't guess some of them - cough DORE cough)?

RW: Haha, well, Dore is in there for sure. Dürer, Harry Clarke, Joseph Clement Coll, and Bernie Wrightston would probably have to round out the rest of that lineup. 

What creators should everyone reading this article follow on social media? 

RW: Ooo hmmm. Some personal faves are Henrik Uldalen, Becky Cloonan, Little Thunder, Allison Sommers, Mike Moses, Brian Ewing, Randy Ortiz, Brandon Holt, Mike Sutfin, James Jean, Eric Fortune, Michelle Konczyk, Allen Williams, Adam Burke, Alessandra Maria, Jeremy Hush, all the artists I have the pleasure to work with in my American Crow family, the list goes on. 

Dark Ink Tattoo

How long have you been illustrating? About three years ago, you began tattooing. Why did you decide to do that? 

RW: I’d say I’ve been illustrating in a professional capacity for about seven years now? Looking back, I’m hesitant to call anything from the first few years very professional but I suppose that’s the ever-present “your own biggest critic is yourself” that a lot of artists have, haha. 

As far as making the leap into tattooing; it happened pretty organically. I had been getting tattooed for years and developed a friendship with the David Boggins, whom had been doing the majority of my tattoos at the time. We had had art nights every once in a while together so he became acquainted with my illustration style, etc. and over the years of getting tattooed and becoming more and more exposed to other artists and the industry in general, I started finding the idea of tattooing more interesting. I ended up asking David if he was interested in taking on an apprentice and it all started from there! 

How has tattooing influenced your illustration work and your illustration work influenced your tattooing? 

RW: They’ve both influenced my drawing style subconsciously. The way I make marks and compose things has definitely changed (for the better, I believe) the more I started approaching a piece from the perspective of tattooing. Now, the only glaring difference between how I handle an illustration vs. a tattoo project is that when it comes to an illustration I can cut loose on a lot more detail, etc. simply due to working on paper and it’s possibilities compared to flesh. 

dark art tattoo work

Has tattooing affected the amount of illustration commissions you take on? If it has, how has it made you selective and what are the projects you take on now as a result? 

RW: It's definitely made me more selective on what illustration projects for the sake of finding the time to work on it.

How has tattooing changed your artwork? Now that you tattoo, do you find yourself exploring different subject matter or imagery than you did when you just illustrated?

RW: I’d say its influenced the sizes I like to work at? I’ve found myself really enjoying working larger and “stretching my creative legs” when I get a chance. 

Dark Ink Artwork by Nate Burns Revolting Worship 

What are some of your favorite illustration projects you've ever done for yourself? For someone else? 

RW: I’m really excited about a personal piece I’m working on currently for the gallery show at the upcoming Midnite Communion in November. I really enjoyed the “Wraiths” series I had a chance to do last year; 13 5”x 7” pieces that gave me a chance to explore creating different environments, etc. 

Favorite project done for someone else? Hmm. If I really had to boil it down; I had a lot of fun with and enjoyed the end results for the album art I had a chance to do for Chrch’s Light Will Consume Us” as well as Northern Widows’ Way of Suffering.

What would be your ideal commission? 

RW: I pretty much love any chance I get to make gross, macabre shit for bands I really enjoy. I know that’s pretty vague but there’s nothing quite as satisfying as making some filthy art for equally filthy music. Filthy being a pretty subjective term here. 

Dark ink artwork tattoo

Okay let's talk about your upcoming travels and artwork. What are some of your upcoming guest spots so people can get some of your tattoos? 

RW: I’ll be visiting Ritual Tattoo Gallery in Denver this June 5-7 and White Willow Tattoo in Pittsburgh on July 29-30, both of which are currently booked up. So that’ll be a lot of fun! As mentioned earlier, I’m currently working on a large (for me) 11”x14” illustration for Midnite Communion in November our in Long Beach, California. Hoping to possibly have another piece ready to go for an unannounced Chicago show in October. 

How can people buy your original artwork or prints?

RW: I will sometimes post original pieces for sale on my social media but, otherwise, interested parties can contact me and inquire as to what I have around. As far as prints go; I normally always have some availed at the shop (American Crow Tattoo) and sometimes will upload a small number of them for sale via online, it’s just a matter of watching my IG for announcements. 

How has digital media affected your artwork and your ability to be a professional artist?

RW: Digital media has definitely made it light years easier to get your work out there and viewed by a wide audience. Having prints and merch made has also never been more seamless. 

dark ink artwork

What are Revolting Worship's top three points of advice to younger, less experienced artists?

RW: If you have time to complain, you have time to draw. You get out what you put in, meaning; you can always be improving on your work. The more time you pour into your craft, the better your skill set will be. 

Finding your style takes time and unfolds naturally as long as you’re putting in the work mentioned in the previous point. Learning what you like about certain types of art, artists, techniques, etc. and why you like what you do will subconsciously guide you. Don’t get too caught up on/stress out about finding your style, it will happen organically. Be more focused on learning. 

There’s a big difference between “taking inspiration from” or “emulating” and completely ripping off another artist. Please don’t do the latter. By all means, learn from the artists you admire but please become familiar with the difference between learning and stealing. 

What do you want people to know about you and/or your artwork? 

RW: I feel beyond fortunate that people give a shit about what I do and allow me to do it for a living. Everything I do is made possible by the supportive people I’ve surrounded myself with and whom continue to be my patrons. All of my work is hand drawn and it warms my heart that the time poured into the traditional methods of making art still have an audience that appreciates it and are more available to see it in an increasingly digital world. 

Make sure to give Revolting Worship a follow on Instagram. Images provided via the artist.

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