Russell James tattoo portfolio featured on SullenTV
Russell James Fisk, a well-known tattoo artist killed in a shooting in Kansas City's Northland over the weekend, was the type of person who wanted to make everybody feel special.
His girlfriend, Kasie Phillips, said he would think nothing of leaving a waitress a $100 tip — just to make her day.
"At first glance, you see this big guy with a big beard covered with tattoos," she said. "But the second he would see you making eye contact with him, you would just get greeted with the biggest smile."
On Friday, police found Fisk, who went by the name Russell James professionally, fatally shot inside a sports car that had crashed near Northwest Barry Road and North Marston Avenue.
"The world is going to be a lot less bright without him in it," Phillips said. "He was just the best. I feel so blessed that I get to wake up every day and still see all the art that I have on my body and I get to think of him every day because of that."
On Saturday, Black Card Tattoo Collective, which is days shy of its first anniversary in business, posted a message on its Facebook page saying it will close temporarily while the staff mourned.
"Russell was an incredible man and we were all so proud and happy to call him family," the post said. "His talent will forever be an inspiration in this industry."
"The tattoo world is definitely going to have a huge hole in it without him being a part of it," Phillips said. "I know that they are going to do their best to carry on his legacy and always make sure his name is remembered."
Fisk, originally from Illinois, decided early in life that he wanted a career where he could work the way he wanted, dress how he wanted and be his own boss, Phillips said.
A tattoo artist fit that bill, and after a three-year apprenticeship in Moline, Ill., he found a path to success.
His family supported the decision, Phillips said.
"It's like it's every parents' nightmare to think that your kid is going to be a tattoo artist, but they were just so proud of how much he accomplished."
Fisk moved to the Lake of the Ozarks, where he worked for Bad Donkey Tattoo Co. for about seven years.
While there, he was interviewed by SullenTV for a profile on his work.
"Every piece that I take, you know, I like to just step back and look at it and just feed off the client and figure out if it should be a black and gray piece or a color piece,” he said during a video interview.
“I like to pick people’s brains and come up with ideas that maybe they didn’t even realize that they wanted or they knew,” he said.
While working at Bad Donkey, Fisk met Phillips — but Fisk wasn't ready for a girlfriend.
Only after Phillips, a traveling bartender, moved to Puerto Rico did Fisk call her to say he loved her.
"So I moved back, and it's been perfect ever since," Phillips said. About 1 1/2 years ago, they moved to Kansas City.
"I knew his talent was just blowing up," she said. "He was getting a lot of clientele who were flying in, so he had to be near an airport."
Fisk's admirers included big names such as Kansas City Rapper Tech N9ne, who after learning of Fisk's death posted on Instagram, asking, "Damn Kc why bright spirited Russell have to get killed last night?
"Such a great soul man!" the post continued. "The most talented tattoo artist I've met in Kc! You will be missed Russell J. Fisk!"
One reason why Fisk was so successful, Phillips said, was that he genuinely wanted to know his clients.
"He wanted to know their stories and how his art could make their lives better," she said. "He truly did put a little piece of his heart in every single work he did."
Police are investigating Fisk's death as a homicide and asked anyone with information to call the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-8477.
Detectives are investigating the possibility that the homicide could be related to two other shootings that left two people injured in the Northland the same evening.
About 9 p.m. — an hour after Fisk was found shot — police found another shooting victim near Northeast 111th and North Campbell streets. The victim was taken to a hospital with life-threatening injuries. That location was about 5 miles from where Fisk was found.
A third victim was found minutes later at Northwest 102nd and North Main streets. That victim was a man who had been grazed by gunfire while driving a motorcycle. That location was nearly 2 miles from the previous shooting scene.