Leading the charge is Michal Hanzlicek, a former snowboarder turned microrealist tattoo artist. Born into a skateboarding family and surrounded by the inked and adventurous, Hanzlicek’s journey into the world of tattooing was one shaped by diverse influences, from the gleaming stickers of his youth to the strict training of Czech masters. In our latest Artist Feature, we delve into Michal’s world, exploring his evolution as an artist, his unparalleled dedication to the craft, and his vision for the future.

Can you introduce yourself and tell us a little about who you are?

Hi, I’m Michal Hanzlicek, a tattoo artist from Prague, Czech Republic. I was born and raised in a skateboarding family and I later became a semi-pro snowboarder. Sticking stickers on my board as a kid and being around lot of tattooed people definitely influenced my career choice and I am grateful for it. Having this kind of job is perfect for a guy like me, since I love to travel as much as possible, explore different cultures, new food, meet new people. Tattooing is a perfect job for a traveler.

How did you start tattooing? Did you have an apprenticeship? 

My parents ran a retail store and a coffee shop, so I thought I would have taken it over but when I turned 30 I just went all-in with tattooing. I was lucky to start as an apprentice at one of the best Czech tattoo artists who was tough on me and made me do straight lines for days. I took evening drawing classes at the same time, and after a year or so I gained enough confidence to take my first paying customer.

What’s the tattoo scene like in Prague?

The tattoo scene is quite young compared to the Western world because we were occupied by the communists until 1989, cut off from the modern world. We have experienced a big boom in the last 5 years, with a lot of young artists making a name for themselves, traveling and educating themselves. We are the heart of Europe so we are influenced by a lot of styles from both the west and the east and we are not afraid to experiment.

Your tattoos are insanely detailed! You can literally see every fur in your dog portraits, the metal on your gladiator piece looks like it’s shining. What are some of the challenges you face while creating your artwork? Can you walk us through your process?

Detail and simplicity in one is my goal. The biggest challenge for me is to achieve mutual satisfaction, both mine and the client’s. I like to create the design in collaboration with the client right before the tattoo session begins, leaving a bit of spontaneity in the whole process, which I think is inherent to tattooing.

A stranger walks up to you, and asks, “What is your style of artwork?” How would you describe your style? How long did it take you to find this style?

From the beginning I had in my head what style I wanted to achieve, which was Microrealism with my signature touch. There is beauty in the detail. I knew I had to learn the basics first, so I just did lines for the first few years, then added simple shading and worked my way up to realism after about 6 years of more or less everyday tattooing.

How did you come to specialize in black and grey? Have you ever worked in any other styles?

I’ve basically tried everything from neotraditional, watercolor to geometric or blackwork to be able to honestly decide what suits me best. Black and white realism has always been the ultimate meta for me, it’s like trying to achieve perfection using only a regular pencil.

What are some tattoo motifs you’ll never get sick of doing?

I love portraits, whether human or animal, it’s the biggest challenge for me when I tattoo something that the customer knows what it looks like, has a fixed view of it and you don’t have much room to improvise in terms of the subject matter.

What are some tattoo motifs you hope to never do again?

I believe that every motive can be handled in an original and interesting way. But early on in my career I only did the most precise lines possible and there was a time when I was only doing lines around the arm 7  days a week, which I believe I will never incorporate into my designs again. That was enough for me and it was time to move on.

Have you ever considered working in color? Do you see yourself doing so in the future?

It’s hard to say what the future holds, I like to evolve, I don’t set boundaries and nothing is out of the question, but currently I still have a lot to learn and improve in what I’m doing now.

Where do you envision your art going in the future? Do you work in mediums other than tattooing?

For the past few years, thoughts have been flashing through my head that I might want to immortalize my art on something less ephemeral than human skin, which after all has a limited lifespan. What exactly that will be I have no idea yet, but it’s coming.

What do you think you would be doing if you weren’t a tattoo artist?

I am where I am because of not having a plan B, once you start questioning yourself , you achieve anything. Tattooing for me is an art, a fun, a hobby, a job all in one. If I had to go back to my teenage years and choose another path, it would be snowboarding, which I felt as fulfilled at as I did with tattooing.

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