An interview with the founder of Boss Hog Tattoo who left his career after nine years in the army to start doing the job he loved most.

Vittorio Mustacchio, Boss Hog Tattoo & Art, Eboli (SA)
Vittorio Mustacchio, Boss Hog Tattoo & Art, Eboli (SA)

Hi Vittorio, let’s talk for a minute about how you got to be here…
To be honest, nothing about it was planned. Like all good things, becoming a tattooist was a circumstance that overturned my life, in a good way, and sucked me into this kind of vortex! (laughs) And trust me, I didn’t do it for the money. At the time, I had a well-paying job that allowed me to live well: I was a soldier (a non-commissioned officer in the army, to be exact) with a love of drawing, painting, sculpture, and all creative media that require a hands on approach.

Vittorio Mustacchio, Boss Hog Tattoo & Art, Eboli (SA)
Vittorio Mustacchio, Boss Hog Tattoo & Art, Eboli (SA)

From what you’ve told me, yours must have been a rather unconventional entry into the world of tattoo. Am I right?
Yeah, you could hardly say it was the classic, traditional way, to put it mildly…(smiles) I started tattooing in the barracks dorms after I got myself a cheap kit just for fun. But I replaced it almost immediately with my first coil machine: a “Sunskin Black Sun” which I still have. My entry was the classic “old school” way. A very sparten path without all the assistance social media gives you these day. But what is that in comparison with actual personal contacts? And anyway, to learn and grow in this field I travelled a lot across Europe, the United States and South America.

Boss Hog Tattoo in Eboli has a mix of styles that ranges from your Black ‘n’ Grey to the New Traditional, Trash Polka and Ornamental your co-workers tattoo in. Are you planning on broadening the range even further or are these four styles going to be your hallmark?
I believe that, just like the expression of every single artist is in continual evolution, the tattoo shop has to reflect these progressive dynamics. That’s why I tend to keep the door open for any artist, but I pay particular attention to the equilibrium and dynamics that develop in my shop. Over time I have seen a number of different people come to Boss Hog Tattoo and some of them embraced our objectives and managed to fit in perfectly while others left after just a few weeks…

Vittorio Mustacchio, Boss Hog Tattoo & Art, Eboli (SA)
Vittorio Mustacchio, Boss Hog Tattoo & Art, Eboli (SA)

Speaking of which, can you tell us how you came to set up your shop in Eboli?
Simple. I woke up one morning and while I was having breakfast I realised it was time to leave it all behind and finally open a place of my own. In ten minutes I had filled in the forms for my resignation and flung nine years of army career out the window. But it’s not like we live forever, is it? (smiles) That afternoon, there I was, already on the motorway, with my car full of luggage, on my way home. I’ll never forget that day: I don’t think I’ve ever had such an intense feeling of freedom! When I got there, I rolled up my sleeves and started to dedicate my energy 100% to Boss Hog Tattoo. And I’m still here today.

Vittorio Mustacchio, Boss Hog Tattoo & Art, Eboli (SA)

Your take on Black ‘n’ Grey often veers off in the direction of Realism: why is that?
To be honest I much prefer Black ‘n’ Grey to “pure” Realism because you are not limited to the precise reproduction of the subject you are working on but can also incorporate other influences – which embrace many aspects of the tattoo and make it something unique, representative with the hallmark of the artist. In the case of Black ‘n’ Grey, for example, I love adding elements of Lettering, following the lines of the body and adorning them with flows: sizing up the compositions and the scale.

Sometimes, depending on the subject, I like to use lighter or darker scales of shading or make lines or outlines stand out a bit more. Also I sometimes play around with some pretty sharp contrasts in order to reproduce darker or more dramatic atmospheres.

Let’s say I like to vary according to the context, the body, and whatever it is I want to express.

What advice would you give to a future client of yours?
Well, when it comes to clients, I prefer to speak with them very clearly and directly. Especially anyone who asks me for Realistic pieces. In the case of commemorative portraits, I carefully examine the parts of the body and make sure that the skin is up to that kind of work. It’s not like we all have light-hued, super-hydrated skin, so sometimes I try to avoid the minute details: I know already that give it a few months and they’ll already be lost and…all they are good for is a cool photo at the end of the session! In other words, I would feel like I was not doing the right thing by the client who is going to wear that piece forever.

Vittorio Mustacchio, Boss Hog Tattoo & Art, Eboli (SA)
Vittorio Mustacchio, Boss Hog Tattoo & Art, Eboli (SA)

What’s it like doing guest spots at Milano City Ink?
At this stage Milan has become my second home: in terms of work and also the close relationships I’ve got with Milano City Ink. At the outset I was really curious because I had only seen it from the outside and I had always heard good things about that place. So to find myself working there was a great professional satisfaction. Every time I go back to Lombardy I really feel at home there, I get to meet lots of artists and share ideas with them. We often even manage to find the time to hang out and have a chat over a beer!

Follow Vittorio on Instagram: @vittorio_mustacchio