Painting murals (and bodies) with Mastro Vincenzo

Posted by Julie Kailus on

Mastro Vincenzo hits some 40 festivals a year as a muralist and body painter. He can rattle them off the back of his hand, especially in the summer season when there’s one almost every weekend: 

Reggae Rise UpWynwood LifeGerminationElementsBonnarooFireflyElectric ForestBig Dub, etc. 

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Vincenzo gets booked to paint interesting murals, many of which he constructs in 3D “exotic builds,” in addition to covering with bright colors and text. Sometimes he’s hired to paint people’s bodies, another rising form of art on the festival circuit. Other times he’s working with a local or national brand to interpret and promote product.

“I’ve become the go-to guy to make combos—cuts, builds and paint,” says Bronx-born Vincenzo, who now spends half the year in Miami and most of the other half road-tripping to festivals in his polarized Discos or Midnites, which he prefers for driving. “I don’t want to pigeon hole myself into doing just one thing.”  

For his mural work, which Vincenzo has been doing professionally since 1992, he puts his architecture degree to use. He’s clearly a visual artist.

“I might be taking wooden pallets and turning them into a couch or using scrap wood to make into a show display,” he says. The artist typically uses a jigsaw to build out a background separate from his letters on plywood, then lights the whole thing up. “I think cutting through my live work was kind of ahead of the curve, and I now I see other people applying that method to their work.” 

He uses LED wires for modern lighting, which he’s finicky about making just right. “It’s all about gapping, using the right colors, having it front lit the right way, with changing colors and off synchronicity,” he says. “I want it to be something people want to interact with.”

Vincenzo has done work for every brand from Ralph Lauren and MAC Cosmetics to Red Bull, Corona and Skullcandy. One day he’s designing a custom canvas bag that customers get with a qualified purchase; another he’s making the backdrop for a street-racing video game or “tagging” packaging.

Vincenzo’s graffiti style has an unapologetically happy sentiment to it. “My style is a direct correlation to my personality,” he says. “My letters look like they’re having fun.”

To achieve his signature look, Vincenzo starts with a very legible type font, then moves letters to the right, like a forward lean, “kind of like they’re running,” he explains.

Letters moved to the left, on the other hand, have a more of a relaxed look. “I stagger the standpoint and add a vertical tilt so it has a happier tone. It’s almost like the Candyland type face—very legible, but skewed, a little more dance-y.”

His characters follow a similar vein: “They’re always goofy. There’s never a serious face. They’re always smiling,” he laughs. 

Body painting is a newer extension of Vincenzo’s creativity, but each job looks a little different. He’s known for layering vibrant colors to create a dimensional look, but each job has its own criteria, he says. “Often it’s just me putting logos on everyone.”   

Vincenzo’s versatility is his calling card. He uses type font, abstract, detailing and dimension to give depth to his work. But it all comes from a love of painting. He started with store storefront roll bars in NYC. Given his current festival circuit, he now gets to apply his art to a much greater diversity of places—and people.

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