Tattoo artist and muralist makes her mark on Atlanta

Credit: Arthur Rudick

Credit: Arthur Rudick

This story was originally published by ArtsATL.

Tattoo artist and muralist Charity Hamidullah’s work has covered many surfaces: human skin, digital displays, buildings and canvases.

Hamidullah, a native of Rochester, New York, took her first art job at 15 as a tattoo apprentice. She moved to Atlanta five years later to work for City of Ink Tattoos, a shop known for serving people with all skin tones, something uncommon in the industry at the time. By age 25, she owned her own tattoo shop in East Atlanta Village.

In 2020, after earning honors for her tattoo work, she began transitioning to other disciplines, including murals. Hamidullah, who is 33, has been a featured artist for the Ladies of Ink Tour, Forward Warrior and Elevate Atlanta and has created murals for the city of Atlanta, National Domestic Workers Alliance, The Urban Advocate and Target. In 2023, she was accepted into The Creatives Project residency art program.

One of her best-known murals is in Mechanicsville. ArtsATL recently chatted with Hamidullah about that artwork and her path as a multifaceted artist.

Q: “Guns Down” is not a phrase commonly found on murals, but it’s part of your Mechanicsville mural. What message would you like viewers to take away from this work?

A: Let’s be the change we truly wish to see because there’s so much worth living for.

Gun violence is at an all-time high, pressured by systemic poverty and continued displacement of people. I was commissioned by The Urban Advocate to create a mural which honored the people who live in Mechanicsville. I believe strongly that when people can see themselves or someone they know depicted larger than life, it sparks in them a sense of empowerment. We used The Urban Advocate’s campaign slogan, “Guns Down Mechanicsville,” to remind people of the importance of not resorting to gun violence.

This piece was a full-circle moment for me. In my second month in Atlanta, in 2011, I was at my friend’s apartment in Mechanicsville, and my mother called to tell me my brother Aaron had been shot and killed. Fast forward to 2022: I am painting a mural, collaborating with The Urban Advocate to reclaim space against these issues that are still plaguing our neighborhoods.

Credit: Arthur Rudick

Credit: Arthur Rudick

Q: What challenges did you encounter painting your 500-foot-long epic mural at Saltbox on the Upper Westside?

A: My biggest challenge was trying to remain calm. Any project in which we as artists have to perform can be overwhelming. And when using lifts or having assistants, there is no room to make mistakes. I had to be mentally focused. I am so grateful for my team because they helped me turn that challenge into a victory.

Q: Going back to your work as a tattoo artist in Rochester, New York, how did you navigate the white-male-dominated tattoo business as a young Black woman?

I didn’t think much about it at first. Many people classify me as Black without getting to know my story. I am a Black woman, but I am also biracial. My mother is Italian, German and Irish. I was raised by both sides of my family with love, and I did not have a fear of white men instilled in me. The man who first taught me to tattoo was white. I never let being in a dominant white male business determine my success.

Q: What brought you to Atlanta?

A: I didn’t see much rise from tattooing at my friend’s shop, Inkaholicz, in Rochester, even though it was a prominent and well-loved shop. We were young, Black and Latino, paving our way in a city where we weren’t always helped. Though we were making strides, I needed more.

I saw Black men [in Atlanta] owning their styles and applying colors to all skin tones in a style that was unique to tattooing, especially American tattooing. They were pioneers, and I wanted to be a part of that.

Q: What inspired you to start painting murals?

A: I did my first mural in high school. My art teacher Ms. Maggio believed in my craft. I picked it back up when I started working at City of Ink in Atlanta. I was surrounded by the graffiti culture, then many of my fellow tattooers at the time like PaperFrank and Miya began to paint murals. I was inspired and started going to Krog [Street tunnel], throwing up pieces. From there, I started getting commissions.

In 2021, I had to decide whether to continue tattooing or focus on my art career because it was too much weight to do both. I like painting murals because it feels like another level of freedom. Most of the time, I am painting outside and having random conversations with people who pass by, getting in touch with the communities I’m painting for.

Credit: Arthur Rudick

Credit: Arthur Rudick

Q: Tell me more about your art as advocacy.

A: In some pieces I have a mission, for instance with the two-year National Domestic Workers Alliance mural. I was instructed to paint pieces centered around Dorothy Bolden [the Atlanta native who founded the National Domestic Workers Union of America] to bring awareness to the need for better rights for caregivers in America.

My mother, grandmothers and aunts are all domestic workers. Painting these pieces meant a lot to me and was an opportunity to join their fight and support them with art, the way they’ve always supported me and their community with their service.


Arthur Rudick created the Atlanta Street Art Map in 2017 after retiring from a successful career as an engineer with Eastman Kodak and the Coca-Cola Company. His first experience of art was seeing an Alexander Calder mobile as a child in the Pittsburgh airport. Rudick is ArtsATL’s street art expert and a regular contributor.

Credit: ArtsATL

Credit: ArtsATL


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