Artists: Vincent Castiglia
New York, NY
What year did you start tattooing?
The tail end of 2000.
How did you get into tattooing?
I had a considerable amount of tattoo coverage from Mike Perfetto, and I was already an artist, but I didn’t consider tattooing for a while because it’s such a heavy art form. So unforgiving—artists with any modesty would carefully consider whether or not this was something they could accomplish and commit to. Until about three or four people who didn’t know each other, within the same week, all strongly suggested it—then it hit me that this could very well be the practical outlet for my work. That’s where the obsession began.
Where did you apprentice?
I didn’t have a formal apprenticeship. I cite Mike Perfetto as my informal mentor. I spent a lot of time with Mike, getting tattooed, talking life, art, and tattooing. I asked questions, observed how he worked, and had tremendous admiration for him as a tattooer and a person. That was really it. He’s from the old school—he has probably been tattooing 40 years now, and is still going. If you grew up in Brooklyn during a certain era and were getting tattooed, Mike was doing them.
Do you have any special training?
I put myself through three years of art college before deciding to withdraw and focus all of my energy on my personal art. I can’t say I got much out of the experience besides the discipline that comes with managing a full class schedule. that was probably it.
What conventions have you worked? Have you won any awards? What are some of your best convention memories?
I’ve worked the New York City show at the Roseland Ballroom several years in a row. Also did Northern Ink Exposure in Canada with my friend Tim Reid. But I’m not big into conventions. I’d rather attend them than tattoo there. It’s just such a hectic environment. Thousands of people crammed into one space, music blasting on the PA system while they’re all trying to ask you questions while you’re working. not ideal for me, but everyone’s different.
How do you describe your style?
As a tattooer, I’m a black-and-gray artist. I like doing realistic work. As an artist, I suppose the work would be considered surrealist. It’s figurative and surrealistic.
What inspires you as an artist?
Earlier events and circumstances throughout my life have inspired most of my work. That’s shifted somewhat over the last few years, as I’ve already expressed those things through the work. Now I find inspiration coming from a more here-and-now place, although my visual language is essentially similar.
What sets you apart from other artists?
All styles, mediums, and paths are valid. I’d say the brutal honesty of the work would be what stands out. I’m baring my soul in the work. That can be frightening in certain ways. It makes you vulnerable and exposes things from the inside out. I’m not projecting anything through the work—I’m just searching for answers.
What other mediums do you work in?
Besides on skin and with human blood on paper, pen and ink was an old favorite. Much of my earlier art was pen and ink. that then evolved through the addition of human blood—then the blood just took over.
How have you branched out from tattooing?
It actually happened the other way around—I made art my whole life. tattooing sprung from existing artistic affinities. Tattooing was an extension of my personal art, and similarly, my personal art has been sharpened and enriched by tattooing. They coexist in my life now.
What tattoo artists do you admire most?
That would be a long list. But if I had to choose three, they’d be Anil Gupta, Guy Aitchison, and Mike Perfetto.
What kind of tattoos do you look forward to doing?
I really like the challenge of sleeves, back pieces, et cetera. It’s a big commitment on both ends of the tattoo. When a large project is close to being complete and everything is coming into focus, it’s really just the best feeling.