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It takes a journey—an ongoing game of trial and error—for an artist to find their unique style. Evan Summers’ eight-year journey led him to graphic microrealism. We caught up with Summers to discover how he learned how to tattoo, his favorite subjects to tattoo and much more.

When did you decide to become a tattoo artist and how did you learn? About eight years ago, I was studying and had a friend who was getting his sleeve done. He saw me drawing a little bit and asked me to draw some designs for him. After a while he told me I had to buy the equipment and start tattooing. I thought, “Why not?” After I passed my exams at university, I bought a tattoo machine and started tattooing my friends, myself and all the people who didn’t want to pay. At first, I was trying to find information online, as I didn’t have any fellow artists who could tell me what to do. One mistake after another, I learned what I did wrong and what the consequences were.

When you first started tattooing, what styles were you drawn to and what led you to your current style? Back then, I started with the old-school style [American Traditional], as it seemed to be easier than neo-traditional or realism. I wasn’t drawing very well so I decided to stick with the style that has easier designs. Later on, I found out I really liked black-and-grey and the graphic style with thick lines and dots. I was trying to improve my drawing skills as you can’t make a great tattoo with a poor sketch. After a year or so I discovered the 3RL style brought to the world by Dmitry Troshin, which is realism made with dots using a 3RL needle—the second thinnest needle in tattooing. It is very similar to academic pencil drawings, and after a few years of working in this style, I realized I was really fond of tiny details. Sometimes 3RL had quite a big grain. So I began adding single needles and soft magnums into my work and my style smoothly evolved into microrealism. Later, my customers wanted me to add some simple geometry into my designs and I felt that this was a good way to connect all the tiny pieces together to have a full sleeve or other large project.

How would you describe your tattoo style? I would say it’s “graphic microrealism.” You’ve got small and medium-sized objects connected with a lot of geometry and other supporting elements. The best thing about it is it doesn’t change your image much and it’s very easy to combine it with different clothes. Another advantage would be the opportunity to express the highlights of your life and still have everything connected and evolved into each other.

What are some of your favorite things to tattoo and why? I really love doing keys. Why keys? A key is a very universal symbol. You use it to open the door. Which door? Any! And here’s a metaphor—a door is everything you seek for, any problem you try to solve, any goal you’re willing to achieve. And for all that, you only need a key—it’s the solution to any issue.

Where do you find inspiration for your designs? My best inspiration comes when I’m all by myself and nobody disturbs me. Different thoughts start coming to my mind—all those things I’ve never had time to think about.

What’s the key to executing small details? I would say patience and a lot of experience in smaller works. When you get started with the microrealistic style, your eyes will start seeing more and more tiny details. Over time, you’ll learn how to express those details on skin and how to make them heal nicely. But this may also depend on your personality and temperament. I’m more phlegmatic, so I can sit tight for seven to eight hours on a small piece with no problems. Some artists may find this too slow and they might want to do bigger pieces.