Art, Ink and Education

There’s a lot more to Shelby Turner than just teaching art.

He realized he should start when he was in middle school.

“I used to ride the bus with high schoolers,” he said. They took notice of me drawing all the time. “One particular day a girl asked me to draw her tattoos.”

Getting involved with tattooing lead him into art. When he was in tenth grade one of his pieces went to print at a national art society. His first completed art piece was a painting that he did when he was a senior in highschool called Radio City. 

After High school school Turners tattoo impromptu tattoo company took off. By 2008 Turner was not only designing his own tattoos that illustrated personal narrative and life stories, but he was also creating tattoos for others.

“When I was 18 it was just about tattooing anybody that would let you tattoo them really,” he said. “I did so many $20 tattoos and cheap tattoos because in my mind that was me paying my dues that was me being able to learn the craft.” 

 In college, his watercolor painting of a lion went all the way to Georgia to be entered into a national HBCU gallery show.

“I knew that I had a passion for art, ” he said. “But in terms of learning, knowing that I could draw, it came after time. I knew that my art looked different than some of my other friends. It definitely got to the point where I was in college I felt like I was good.”  

He enjoyed his own work, but found his true calling when he started to help others. 

“My proudest work isn’t even my work at all I was working before I became a teacher as an art therapist in a vocational center working with adults with mental health and disabilities. Working with them we were able to do a gallery show and their work that I had taught them actually made $1,400 on their first opening night and so that was probably my proudest. Watching a product of me go do great things themselves.” 

 Turner first started working at Riverside in 2018. Before moving to Durham he taught one year as a middle school teacher in Harnett County at Harnett Central

“My favorite thing [about Riverside] is most of the kids are made up of a different diversity from so many different backgrounds that culturally I get used to experiencing different people and their culture,” he said. “A lot of people end up feeling like extended family and that’s really nice to have.” 

Although he would love to provide more opportunities for kids outside of school when the school week ends. “If we could still have something then maybe we wouldn’t hear about some of our students with the issues that they have out in the community.” 

When he isn’t working as a teacher or tattoo artist, Turner enjoys photography, sculpting, digital work, image manipulation, client branding, and playing the guitar. 

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