Missy Rhysing on her introduction to art, old things and co-owning a business
Missy Rhysing was not exposed to art until she got her first tattoo. She immediately fell in love with the art form, and began working toward becoming an artist; she's now known for her work combining modern and antique imagery in portraits of women. Rhysing is co-owner of Ritual Tattoo & Gallery, which recently opened. Last week we spoke to her husband, Aries Rhysing, who talked about the importance art in their family; this week, Westword caught up with Missy Rhysing, who talked about her introduction to art, the influence of old things in her work and being the co-owner of a shop with Sandi Calistro.
Photos courtesy of Missy Rhysing Missy Rhysing became interested in art after getting her first tattoo.
Westword: Where did you interest in art begin?
Missy Rhysing: With tattooing, really. I was not exposed to art at all until I started getting tattooed. My family is not artistic, I don't have any artists in my family. I started getting tattooed by Aries, my husband, and I kind of just fell in love with it. I think it's a really unique art form.
What about tattooing drew you in?
For me, getting tattooed was really personal. The first few things that I started getting were for my son and for my mother-in-law, and just things that I felt inspired by and that aesthetically I found to be really beautiful. I think it's a magical thing. So I got really sucked into it. I started getting tattooed and within a year I wanted to start trying to tattoo. And I had never really drawn anything before in my life, so it was kind of a failure in the beginning. But I just worked really hard at it and I just felt like the experience of getting to tattoo somebody would be such a magical thing.
Is there a point where you make a conscious decision to get tattooed all over and get immersed in the lifestyle, or does it just kind of happen?
When I started getting tattooed I was 23 and I had just had my son. Then I started looking at tattoo magazines and started seeing all these women with crazy tattoos. I was in San Francisco, maybe six months after my son was born, and I saw this girl in a tattoo shop who was covered chin down in traditional Sailor Jerry tattoos. I had never seen anyone like that before. I come from a very suburban, middle-class family, and that woman completely rocked my world. I was like, "I want to do that. I think I want to get really tattooed." And then I got a bunch of bad tattoos. I got a bunch of tattoos that now I'm in the process of covering and lasering, so I really didn't think a lot about it when I started getting tattooed. I probably should have. I try to educate my clients now to not make the mistakes that I made.
You define your style as modern traditional with antique and Victorian references. How did you develop that style?
I really only started doing that four or five years ago. My teachers, my mentors, were super-traditional. I came from a lineage of tattooers who were really deeply rooted in Sailor Jerry, straight-up traditional style. For the first seven or eight years that I was tattooing, I was doing almost strictly black traditional. Honestly, I got bored with it. I love it, still. A lot of times when I get tattooed, that's the style that I get because I love the bold line work and simple shading, and it looks beautiful forever. But when it comes to tattooing, I got bored with it. I started using multiple line weights, doing different subject matter, using palettes that aren't the typical red, gold and black of traditional, and kind of started tweaking what I was doing a little bit. I had guys around me, like Seth Ciferri and Adam Barton, who were, I think, the modern creators of the new traditional style. Those guys were such huge influences on me. They were hanging around my shop a lot when I was coming up in tattooing, so I started following their lead and doing traditional but adding a little something new, a little twist to it.
In the last few years, working in New Mexico, people really weren't into what I was doing. I don't know if it's because they didn't understand it or because the roots in New Mexico are really more of that Hispanic art style, which I love. But I didn't get a chance to do a lot of it there. I was kind of just working on friends and doing things on people that showed some sort of interest. But when I moved here, the tattoo collectors in this town -- there's so many. They're going around from artist to artist, collecting a unique piece from Sandi [Calistro], getting a Japanese piece from Josh [Ford], or whatever. And here, it just kind of started to blow up for me, and I'm really grateful.
Continue reading for the rest of the Q&A with Missy Rhysing.