So Summer, let’s start out at the beginning. What made you choose Abyss and why am I the best boss ever?
I was originally drawn to the Abyss because of all the different forms of art that took place within the shop. It was more than your typical tattoo shop. Everyone was constantly painting or working on some sort of project, which was very appealing to me, never wanted to focus on just one medium! If it comes down to who eats more beef jerky, then yes, Dan, you are the best boss ever.
Was art always your thing?
Yes, for as long as I can remember I loved to paint, draw, and build things. I’m always working on something.
It seems like your main focus right now is traditional. At least as far as tattooing is considered. What was the reasoning for that?
Right now, traditional is what I’m having the most fun working on. I love working on projects outside of my wheelhouse, but I think I’m most drawn to traditional work because of its simplicity and the history that goes along with it. To me, that’s a whole other aspect of tattooing that is easily looked over.
Does this have to do with the styles that most resonate with you? I notice you listen to a lot of older sort of punk/indie rock.
For sure, I definitely think traditional tattooing can be compared to punk rock in lots of ways, especially some of the earlier bands who would use only two or three chords throughout one song. The basis of the American traditional style is almost as rudimentary. Line work, shading, and color. It’s simple, yet it takes tons of practice and repetition to perfect each of those techniques
Who do you look up to and what do you reference regarding traditional art?
Bert Krak is definitely a huge influence of mine. To me, his work has the right amount of originality while still paying homage to tattooers before. My favorite references come from books, I try to read and study designs as much as I can.
When you tattoo, do you prefer large pieces, small pieces, color, or multiple sessions, what do you gravitate towards?
I love working on larger scale pieces, but as long as it’s significant enough to hold up over time I enjoy smaller pieces too. I also love free handing designs to fit an odd or small-shaped spot. They both have their perks. Ideally, I like to tattoo as long as possible, especially if it’s a piece I’m super excited about. I find it hard to put down my machine and call it a day. Whether a piece is done throughout multiple sessions or just one, I like to see how it heals up. It never hurts to put an extra hour or so into a piece.
You use coils I believe exclusively right now. Do you prefer them, or were you looking to eventually try out some rotary machine?
Yeah, I use coils for just about everything. I have a rotary that I’ll use along with coils for realism pieces when they come my way, but I love being able to use my hands and build machines that I can use every day. I feel it’s just another way to perfect my craft and truly know what I’m using and what it is.
I know it’s currently popular with a lot of traditional artists to craft more obscure designs. Like strange mixes of animals and humans, or distorted creatures. What is your line of thinking?
I’m all for fun and weird designs! It’s definitely cool veering away from pieces that have been done thousands of times before and getting creative with what you can come up with.
A lot of the old-school tattoo ideas have principal tenants. That every piece must have a solid black outline, incorporate a certain percentage of black, must flow with the body, and face outwards, and only hands or necks are tattooed on people of a certain age, career stability, and quantity of previous tattoos. Do you hold any of those views?
Tattooers nowadays are experimenting with all different methods and styles of tattooing, which I think is awesome, but I also believe there are certain qualities that make a tattoo a good tattoo. I find placement to have just as big of an impact on a tattoo piece as anything and it’s oddly enough one of my favorite aspects of tattooing. I think a tattoo should flow perfectly with the body and look like it was meant to be there. As far as putting a heavy black outline around everything, I don’t think that’s always necessary. Contrast is key.
Good to hear, People were stuck on that 23 years ago when I started. At the beginning of your apprenticeship, you drew all the time. Do you think tattooing has largely overtaken that avenue of expression?
I’m happy to say that I still draw and paint constantly. Every chance I get, I’m working on something. I try to paint in-between appointments and when I get home I usually paint until I crash.
Do you have any big projects you are working on now?
I’m working on a super fun back piece right now, along with a few sleeves. I’m very excited to put those out there. I also have an art show coming up this Spring, which will showcase some of my work outside of tattooing.
Give a shout-out to the venue that will host the art show.
It’ll be held at Royal Native out on Long Island in April!
Ok, nice. Does it have a name or definite date yet?
The show is called “Skin” and it’ll be Saturday, April 22nd.
Transitioning back to tattooing, are there any pieces you want to bring to fruition, or any upcoming projects you are excited about?
I’d really love to work on more back pieces. I’m also starting a big King Kong piece in a few weeks which I’m super excited about.
Thanks for doing this interview Summer. Is there anything else you want to mention or give a shout-out to?
Thank you! I’m grateful for everyone who’s helped me so far and passed down their knowledge. I’m incredibly lucky to be surrounded by such great people and artists every day!
Give me any links to your work or social media.
Instagram and tiktok: Summer Ejnes
Dan Henk has been working in and as a part of the tattoo community for 20 years. He writes novels, illustrates magazines and books, and owns The Abyss Fine Art & Tattoo Gallery in Long Beach, NY, and competes in Muay Thai and Brazilian Jujitsu. Check out all his adventures on danhenk.com!