Even before he founded the Hell City Tattoo Festival six years ago, Durb Morrison left an indelible mark on Columbus tattooing.

Even before he founded the Hell City Tattoo Festival six years ago, Durb Morrison left an indelible mark on Columbus tattooing.

But back in the late '80s, when he started scratching his first tats as a teen in Newark, it seemed far-fetched that Morrison would become a figurehead for the local tattoo community and beyond.

"I didn't have the money to buy all the professional equipment and have the extravagant setup, so I had the homemade machine. I started tattooing friends with those machines," Morrison said. "I caught on to the artistic aspect of it quick. The mechanics of it is what I really had to indulge in and learn."

Upon finishing high school in 1991, he quickly graduated from inking up friends with homemade equipment to apprenticing under Tim Miller in Columbus.

"He pretty much threw me right into the cage," Morrison said.

He spent time plying his trade in California and Mississippi but returned here in 1994 and founded Stained Skin Studios. Stained Skin became an instant favorite; it was so successful that in 1999 Morrison started a second shop, Second Skin, in Newark.

All the while, he was becoming a staple at tattoo festivals and conventions around the country. With a wealth of positive and negative experiences in his back pocket, he started Hell City in 2003 with the intention of throwing a festival geared toward artists' needs while eliminating the poor organization and lack of focus that plague some events.

"Being a tattoo artist gives me the insight to what we actually need as an artist, what we want to see at these conventions," he explained. "It's proven to be a winning combination."

Since Hell City has become one of the nation's top tattoo events, Morrison moved on from Stained Skin and Second Skin to focus on the fest as well as his personal artwork. He now tattoos privately and at conventions nationwide.