Missy Rhysing {E} Tattoo & Artist Feature

by Christina Diaz

Missy Rhysing Shop:
Kaze Gallery & Tattoo
3245 Osage Street
Denver, CO 80211

Born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota, tattooist Missy Rhysing admits that she wasn’t exposed to the arts as a child. During her interview Missy couldn’t recall ever really drawing anything before learning how to tattoo. Tattooing was Missy’s first real exposure to art, “I think that’s why I fell in love with it so deeply.”

Tattooing for over 12 years, Missy describes her work as modern, yet refined with antique and victorian influences. Missy thoroughly enjoys the freedom that tattooing has given her. When she’s not traveling the globe, she can be found gardening, smooching her herd of chihuahuas, volunteering at a local animal shelter, drawing for clients, driving her 13 year old son around, and hanging out with her wonderful husband of 13 years, Aries.

{E}: How did your tattoo career begin?
M.R: I had a full apprenticeship at a shop called Steady Tattoo in Minneapolis, MN in 2001. After a failed attempt at trying to get an apprenticeship in Maui (the man I wanted to learn from told me “I would never teach a woman how to tattoo, there’s something about women – they just don’t make good tattoo artists”), I moved back to my hometown and was offered an apprenticeship. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by old school tattooers who still believed in teaching me how to make needles by hand, machine building basics, and lots and lots of drawing projects.

{E}: How would you describe your art?
M.R: Well, I would say most people call it neo-traditional. I like to call it modern, refined traditional. When it comes to tattooing I am deeply rooted in the old school style. I believe in linework and simple shading, but like to take it to the next level with multiple line weights, small details, new color palettes and fresh subject matter. I regurgitated Sailor Jerry and Dave Gibson flash so much for the first 5 years of my career, and even though I love it, I got bored with straight old school and had to move on.

{E}: What inspires you?
M.R: Women, of all kinds, all over the world. Vintage things – my house is full of old trunks, typewriters, microscopes, locks…lots of antiques. Insects! They are so strange, they have become a welcomed curse in my life. Animals, I am very spiritually connected to animals and their Lakota medicine, especially owls and dogs, and I love doing anything with animals. Old European jewelry and household items is especially of interest to me. I collect all sorts of old ephemera, very old newspapers, photographs, advertisements, anything obscure.

{E}: Favorite artists? How have they influenced your work?
M.R: That is a hard one…Lus Lips is probably my absolute favorite tattooer, he can do no wrong in my book. Founders of modern traditional such as Adam Barton and Seth Ciferri continue to inspire me.  My new co-workers at Kaze, who are all phenomenal, encourage me to push the envelope. My husband, Aries, is a huge influence, we are always bouncing ideas off of each other and keeping each other in line, he has influenced my work for many years. Lately, photographer Francesca Woodman is a huge favorite. I love Edwardian portraiture paintings and all the Victorian master painters too.

{E}: What are some of your favorite art tools and why?
M.R: I use ALOT of red prismacolors to sketch with, I’ve been using those for about 13 years. I have a graveyard of tiny little pencil stubs in my studio. They don’t feel as permanent to me as graphite does, so I can draw on top and layer without fear. I use vellum almost exclusively because I like to use blending sticks to add depth to my sketches and vellum blends easiest for me. When I get a chance to paint which isn’t often enough, I use liquid watercolors, acrylics, gouache, and coffee to paint with.

{E}: Tell me about your first ink experience.
M.R:  My first experience getting tattooed was in my house in Minneapolis. It was at the very end of 1999, I had just delivered my son about a week before and was feeling liberated from no longer being pregnant! I didn’t want to go to the shop my husband was working at so he tattooed me in our apartment- tibetan style clouds on both of my wrists. It was magical! Within a few months I had a chest piece, some leg pieces, and half sleeve beginnings.

Check out more of her work at: missyrhysing.com

Missy Rhysing {E} Tattoo & Artist Feature