Filled with bright colors, messy handwriting, misspelled words and explicit—often aggressive—corny quotes, CB Hoyo’s art plays to the constant grasp for nostalgia that is especially common today. Hoyo’s work looks as if it were created by a violent toddler with an unnatural sense of reality, which is exactly why millenials and Gen Z love him. He speaks the fears and thoughts most people have and expresses them in messy inhibition, making him one of the most popular artists on Instagram.
Born in Havana, Cuba, and raised in Europe, Hoyo’s lwork represents the diversity of the cultures he has experienced while demanding the viewer to see the world for what it is. By featuring a variety of opposing bright colors while attacking the toxicity of an ever self obsessed society, Hoyo shows his Cuban roots while exposing the corruption in the West. Even if you don’t know Hoyo by name, chances are that you’ve seen his work reposted in your Insta feed—his most recent work to blow up was a broken mirror with the quote “not meant for fucking selfies” on the glass.
In another recent post, Hoyo included the caption “Sometime before the end of this year I’ll tattoo nonstop.” Yet, Hoyo has been pretty elusive when it comes to anything more than simply saying, “I’m learning to tattoo.” Was Hoyo doing this to become a tattoo artist, or as a way to master a new type of canvas? What is happening in Milan? And where did this tattooing path come from? Questions were had, and they needed answers.
“I had always made art as a hobby, never took it seriously enough, it was my way of blowing off steam,” Hoyo says. “It wasn’t until 2017 that I decided to become a full time artist. At that time I was in a shitty moment in my life and the only thing that was making me happy was art. In March of 2017 I quit my job… some months before that I had created an Instagram account to share my art with the world, thanks to it I was able to create an audience for my art.”
Hoyo was always an artist though, and spent most of his childhood in Cuba drawing with crayons at his grandmother’s house. A year or so ago, while Hoyo was in the practice of making fake versions of famous art, he visited his grandmother in Cuba who decided to show him his childhood art. According to Hoyo, that was all it took—once he saw his childhood art he knew what he was supposed to create. So, he began mimicking the work he did at the ripe old age of five—messy handwriting, bright colors and creating to please himself.
Despite devoting himself to his art for only three years, Hoyo was looking for a new medium to work in. “It's something I would have never thought I would have done in my life, but here I am learning to tattoo,” Hoyo explains. “The first person I ever tattooed was the tattoo artist I go to in Barcelona, Ivan Casabo. The first time I went to get a tattoo with him, right after he finished tattooing me, he told me it was my turn to give him a tattoo.
“I had never tattooed before in my life and I had no idea of how to do it, so after a five minute super basic tattoo bootcamp, I was ready to give him a tattoo,” Hoyo continues. “I tattooed him a quote that said: ‘Artists are not people,’ but it ended up saying ‘artist are not people.’ The day after giving him the tattoo I realized what I had done, he had actually noticed it on the sketch I made before I had even given him the tattoo. Then on the latest tattoo I got with him (January 2020), I finally fixed the tattoo and added the ‘s’ the tattoo was missing.”
Hoyo gets around five DMs a day asking if he tattoos or if he is okay with people getting his art as tattoos, which is another reason he has decided to embark on this new mission of learning to ink. He’s been watching people get tattoos of his work for over a year now, and eventually began wondering why he wasn’t the one applying the art himself. So, now the artist is getting his sanitization permit and having those around him teach him how to give a proper tattoo.
“After I get this permit, in collaboration with my Milan art gallery PlanX, I’ll organize an event in which I’ll tattoo for free during 24 hours,” Hoyo hints. “At the moment I’m not allowed to tell you more details, all I can tell you is that it'll be something fun.”
Don’t expect Hoyo to get a job at a street shop, doing tattoos of flash off of the walls. He plans to exclusively tattoo his own work. “I’m not a fan of people telling me what I have to do or taking their suggestions,” Hoyo says.“I make art to express myself. Therefore, with my tattoos I plan on doing the same as if I was working on a canvas or a piece of paper and not take any suggestions from anyone. Now the only difference is I’ll be also working on skin.”
Transferring from one medium to the next, Hoyo is making the transition from crayons to tattoo machine. His journey into tattooing isn’t for money or to even collaborate on art, but to purely express his art in a new way. It’s exciting to see what tattoos will be turned out in Milan by CB Hoyo this year and beyond.