Missy Rhysing on her introduction to art, old things and co-owning a business

Photos courtesy of Missy Rhysing
Missy Rhysing became interested in art after getting her first tattoo.
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.

See also: Aries Rhysing on geometric art, his family of artists and his new project

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.

Location Info


Ritual Tattoo & Gallery

2033 West 32nd Avenue, Denver, CO

Category: General

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