Ege Onat Gezer makes micro realism—some of tattooing’s most tedious work—look effortless. Hailing from Istanbul, Turkey, Gezer has naturally taken inspiration from all aspects of his rich surroundings. He specializes in awe-inspiring pieces that combine vivid realism, intricate tiles and oriental themes. In our interview with Gezer, the artist opened up about how meaningful tattooing is to him, as well as what inspires his ornate designs.
Can you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about who you are?
My name is Ege Onat Gezer. I was born in Aydin, Turkey in 1995. It is a small town. When I was 14, I moved to Istanbul for high school. I studied architecture in university. Then I started working as a tattoo artist in 2018. It has been five years. My goal is to learn from all over the world.
Do you remember what first sparked your interest in art?
I loved drawing all the time. I don’t even remember when I started, I heard stories about my drawings when I was 3.
How did you develop an interest in tattoos?
I loved art and my surroundings. I grew up with my grandparents and they didn’t want me to draw or paint as a job. I had to study architecture just because it wasn’t fully art in my grandparents’ eyes. After I studied, I started tattooing.
How did you go about becoming a tattoo artist?
After school, I had a really big ego that made me think I would build sculptures like buildings in Turkey, maybe change the world and help people with my designs. But I saw that it is not possible in Turkey. Then, when I first got a tattoo, I fell in love with it. I chose to make people happy individually rather than saving the world, which was a more humble wish for me.
What is the tattoo scene like in Istanbul?
[The tattoo scene is] always changing in the world and Istanbul is following suit. In Turkey, people are more brave about getting tattoos. Three or four years ago, people always wanted smaller tattoos because they weren’t so used to them. I had to change a lot of my designs to accommodate this. But now, things are changing.
Tell us about the journey of finding your tattoo style. What about your style makes you enjoy specializing in it?
When I enter a mosque, I feel mesmerized and sad at the same time. I admire the determination that they have, and the sadness of the patterns. I wanted to remember their names and their feelings. I call them “the Fallen Birds of Anatolia.” I wanted my style to be between modern and oriental like Istanbul. I am trying to see the oriental with a modern eye.
Where does your artistic inspiration come from?
I don’t believe there is one source. Most of what I make comes from what I lived and how I felt. This is my inspiration.
How do you decide what pops of color to use within your otherwise black-and-grey works?
I always like to work on feelings when I create something. To create this connection, I use contrast. I use contrast in motion, in light and also in color. It helps to create this connection and tell them how I feel.
What are some of your favorite designs and motifs to tattoo?
I don’t have any specific designs. But I love birds, they remind me of tiles (pure beauty without emotion).
Have you considered working in other tattoo styles?
I can do every tattoo style very well, but I also don’t believe in this “style” situation. What is my style, for example? It’s realism, surrealism, orientalist—in tattoos, it’s a little cloudy for me. But I only tattoo what I design, I have no chance to do something different. I’d like to change it, though.
What would you say has been one of the most gratifying experiences of your tattoo career so far?
When I got my first client.
Where do you see your art going in the future? Do you work in any mediums other than tattooing?
I do my art as an expression of what I feel. I will keep doing what I am doing while meeting with new artists and learning from them.