Early on in his career, Aries Rhysing heard many times that his style of art wouldn't transfer well into tattoos. But Rhysing persisted, and he has now mastered creating tattoos that incorporate the hypnotizing art of sacred geometry. Originally from Minneapolis and more recently living in New Mexico, Rhysing has been in Colorado for almost two years. He currently works at Sol Tribe, and is starting a project to donate the proceeds of his art to local charities. Westword caught up with Rhysing, who talked about geometrical art, his family of artists and his new project.
Westword: How did you end up in Denver?
Aries Rhysing: I moved here most recently from New Mexico. I lived in Taos. I moved here so my sons could get into the better school systems, and that has been really successful. One of them auditioned and got accepted at Denver School of the Arts, so that validates the whole move. It's a huge accomplishment, so we're really proud of him. And we happen to love Denver, too. I've been coming here to work for Alicia and Kevin, who own the shop, for about five years as a guest artist. So I went full-time.
How long have you been in the tattoo industry?
How did you get started?
It's kind of a long story. I tried my hand at tattooing a couple times before I really took it seriously. In my younger years, I guess, I just didn't have the discipline mixed with the opportunities and the other things necessary to really grab hold of this, because it is kind of a multifaceted career. You're an artist, you design tattoos, you do tattoos, and I also build machines. So I wasn't ready for all that when I first started. When my younger son was on the way, I was managing a juice bar, making smoothies and carrot juice and wheatgrass shots for joggers in the community I lived in. I was waking up at 4 a.m. and working until sometimes midnight, when the store would close. My salary was okay, but I wasn't feeling very artistically fulfilled, and I knew that if I didn't have a job and a career path that really showed that I love my life, I would be a bitter dad and I would probably be overworked and stressed, and that wasn't the lesson I wanted to teach my sons. I want to teach them to do what you love, and pursue it as a career if you can. That's why I pursued it this last time around. So I taught myself, at that point.
What do you think sets tattooing apart from other types of art?
First and foremost, the relationship that we have to have with our clients. I mean, our clients are what we work on, on their terms as well as ours, versus a visual artist who works in paint, or a filmmaker or even a musician: They make their music on their own and then share it with people, so to speak. We have to share our art with people as we're working on them, so I think that really sets it apart, beyond anything else. I also think it has expanded my horizons as an artist quite a bit, because I don't get to do just want I want to do. I'm always being pushed in one direction or another for the client, which I love because I have the styles I work in and then I manifest those styles through the ideas of the people I work with. So it's really enriching.
What are those styles that you work in?
I love doing anything that has to do with geometric aspects, sacred geometry, mandalas. Anything inspired from the traditional forms of tribal art that have repetition and geometry in them, I love. I love neo-Japanese. But ultimately, anything somebody comes to me with that they're passionate about, especially if it's something to do with their spiritual beliefs or something they've been able to survive on their life's path, I love to take those ideas and make them into artwork for the person. If tattooing can be transformative, that's what I'm all about.
Continue reading for the rest of the Q&A with Rhysing.
How did you become interested in sacred geometry and that type of art?
You know, the first artwork that I ever did when I started drawing was very geometric, extremely symmetrical, and it was maddening, actually, to do my artwork because it had to be so precise. But it's just the art that comes through me. What I learned later on, in studying sacred geometry and some of the various forms of art that I pursue now, is that people are drawn toward mandalas and geometric forms because it calms their spirit. It kind of forces them to focus on something that is so symmetrical that it slows the brain down and it becomes a form of active meditation. I was told early on that my art would never be appropriate for tattooing, that it's too precise, it's too symmetrical, too geometric. At the time that I started tattooing, I certainly didn't have the ability to do it. But now I'd say, within the last five years or so, I've really mastered taking what I do naturally with geometry and making it into tattoos. I love it.
Do you encounter a lot of clients who like the aesthetic aspect of it but don't really know what it means?
Absolutely. Some people are just really drawn to it and they don't know why. Other people have different kind of esoteric ideas about what certain forms of sacred geometry mean to them. I do a lot of research for my clients and give them an additional level of understanding if they want it, and sometimes even if they don't I'll tell them "Wow, it's really beautiful that you're drawn to the flower of life, but did you have any idea that this is what it actually represents?"
You and your wife, Missy Rhysing, are both tattoo artists. Do you ever encounter any friendly competition from being in the same profession?
You know, not at all. We actually support each other in the different styles that we do, and there's no bleed-over. It's not like we're ever fighting for the next geometric sleeve, or I'm never fighting to do the next traditional woman's head tattoo. If you've seen what she does, it's very distinguished, it's very true to what she loves in tattooing, and the same is true for me. We spend an awful lot of time drawing together and making art together for tattoos. The dining-room table is the epicenter in our house, where we all sit around together. My sons make music, Missy does her art for tattoos and I do my art, and it's like we're driven by each other rather than competing.
So your kids are also interested in art?
Absolutely. I have two sons. My older son is a master percussionist; he can play anything on a drum set, any beat, any style. And what's amazing about his talent is that he can also beatbox a completely different beat while playing a beat on the drums. It's almost insane, in a beautiful way. My younger son is learning how to write music for all different instruments through his computer, and he's taking after my older son and learning how to beatbox, too. Apparently percussion runs in the family.
Is there anything else you want to talk about?
I am currently embarking on a journey to take some of my endeavors with the visual art I do -- silk screening, painting and tattooing -- and donate the proceeds to various nonprofits in the Denver area. I'm starting kind of an umbrella with three different nonprofits right now -- one for people who suffer from addiction, one for at-risk youth and one for animals. And for the time being, it's just the silk screens I make; the profits are going toward that. But I'm starting a project right now, and I've got kind of a call out to tattoo artists who want to donate one tattoo a month, and the proceeds will be divided equally among those three charities in Denver. And my hope is that I can get up to five to ten artists a month to hop on board with this by next year, and really kind of do away with the idea that tattoo artists are egomaniacal and are out just to support their own endeavors. We do really well; tattooing is really good to us, and I feel like we have a lot of room to share. So I'm really trying to promote that aspect of the art world -- giving back to the community that we are so blessed by.
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