Off Script: CINIK
Documenting the best graffiti handstyles from NYC and around the world
Photos: Ray Mock
CINIK VAC has a healthy level of confidence about his achievements as a graffiti writer, and for good reason. He has styles for all occasions and we challenge anyone to find a CINIK tag that doesn’t look on point, whether it’s sprayed on a wall or written on a sticker. His roots reach deep into New York skateboarding and graffiti culture, from South Brooklyn to Manhattan and all over the city. Style, for him, is not just how you angle your marker, but how you present yourself in every aspect of your life. In recent years, CINIK has also made his mark as a curator of art shows featuring some of the most notorious and talented graffiti writers from New York and around the world.
How did you develop your handstyle and who were some of your influences?
I was probably 13, 13 and a half. Some students, my classmates in the 6th grade, asked me if I did graffiti. I didn’t know nothin’ about graffiti, I didn’t know what they were talking about. When they explained it to me a little bit, I quickly said Yeah, and I made up something right off the bat, MCW. That was the first name that I had.
I grew up in East New York. Then I moved to Sunset Park. That’s where I started my graffiti career. A lot of kids in my school wrote graffiti. A lot of Spanish kids at that time wrote graffiti. I got into it, but my first sport was actually skateboarding. That was my first love, and graffiti was my second.
In Sunset Park, the handstyles were definitely important. They were always important to me, because when I started looking at graffiti on the wall, it was all about the handstyle. Seeing something I could read or seeing something that I could recognize, like a signal, something familiar, a design—that’s pretty much what got me to pay attention to the graffiti game.
The main guy that put me on was CASIO182. He was like an older brother figure to me. Never played me, never made jokes on me. He liked me because my background was Haitian and he was Dominican and there were no Haitian people in my neighborhood at that time. We bonded real quick, but he was a little older than me, so he pretty much took me under the arm. He used to pick me up at school. I was already popular in 6th grade. He was a mentor for sure, and I’m still cool with him now. And he’s still got all his teeth.
After MCW, CINIK was always the name. It stuck on me and I kept it going. Like I said, CASIO co-signed it. He said that’s a very unique name and I kept it. I hung out with CASIO for probably three years before I started going out on my own. Then right before I started going out on my own, that’s when I came up with my own crew, VAC.
It was all about handstyles. FILK from Bay Ridge was a good friend of mine. I had a couple of unique writers always. JOUKS was one of them. I met JOUKS through FILK and we had a similar style. MN had a similar style as mine. Those guys were all down with VAC. We had a similar style type of thing going on, that’s how it all started.
I did a little bit of insides, but that wasn’t really my cup of tea. It was mostly street for me. I came from the CASIO, the ASTRO WWV type of days, when it was actually doing the streets, the bad neighborhoods. That got me more excited, to see them up in a bad neighborhood.
Skateboarding definitely was my first love. I met a lot of unique different characters that you won’t suspect what they did or what kind of art they did or who they were from skateboarding. Skateboarding pretty much turned my life around. I met the lawyers, I met the doctors, I met the artists, everybody was skateboarding at an early age.
Art and skateboarding pretty much go neck and neck in my world. Because of skateboarding, I got to travel to different boroughs, to meet different people. Then it was like, Oh yeah, my friend does graffiti. Alright, cool. Then you know it was a big circle. People like SETUP, CASIO182, SEMZ (RIP), SACE (RIP), POKE (RIP), MQ … the list could go on and on. They’re close friends of mine and they brought something to the game. Now we have friends in CA, in Europe and all over the place, it’s the same type of circle.
How has your handstyle changed over the years?
I try not to go too crazy with it, not to be too out of my character. The handstyle is definitely part of my whole image, part of my whole thing. I do it, it looks kinda plain and simple, but it’s really complex. I practiced a lot. These days, I feel like my handstyle is in the best shape it’s ever been. I feel confident about it every time I take a tag. And especially when I’m with a certain peer of mine, my confidence sky rockets, then I do an even better tag, or better handstyle, it just comes to me. I feel right now my handstyles will always be up to par.
I have the tag handstyle, the throwie handstyle, I have the straight letter handstyle and then a couple different straight letters and throwies. I mainly focus on throwies, straight letters and tags. I think you have to have all those down pat. I’ve got my own type of style. I didn’t copy off anybody. I got inspired by other writers obviously, like VFR, how they carry themselves and stuff like that. But I also came up with my own technique, and I think anybody can see that in my art.
Do you have any favorite markers or other tools?
I try to use everything. Pilots, Unis, Krink markers. I have a different handstyle for each marker that I use. If I use a Krink marker or a Pilot marker, I have a different style for each one. It all depends where you try to place them, whether you try to make it drip, certain curves you gotta do, it goes on and on. I did the meanstreaks, I used to mix a lot of paint markers together. On stickers I think the small Pilots last longer. I’ve always been a sticker fanatic, from back in the days. I use the small tip Pilot, that’s the best. Or a black paint marker, because even though the sticker will fade, the marker won’t.
These days I’m lost with the caps. Back in the days it was the orange tip. Now whatever is fat. I don’t know what’s going on, they’ve got so many different caps now. I like the tallboy silvers, I like white, Montanas, anything that works. It beats Touch N’ Tone cans, that’s what I used in the broke days. It’s still around, one of my friends had it.
What’s the best part about bombing with tags for you?
It’s quick, fast and you get a lot done with just a tag. It all depends—the place that you put it, where you place it at. But I love tagging and bombing, that’s one of my favorites. I’m more of a nighttime bomber, but I do a little bit of daytime if I’m with a girl or something. I get away with that. I do it all. Solo missions show that you are dedicated, that you’re really about that. I don’t try to do more than two people now these days, because you don’t want too much craziness. Make sure you have a lot of white friends around and you’ll be alright.
What does it take to become a good bomber?
Come up with your own style and make sure it’s your own. You can look at other people’s things, but make sure you can definitely come out with your own technique and be your own man, be your own leader, believe in your own thing. When people went to different crews, I stood with my own, all the way through now. I loved graffiti for what it did for myself. It was my rehab, my counselor. I use graffiti for my own self, for me to see it, for me to get away from reality, for me to get away from the crap and to be my own man. And I’m proved right. I’m still here.
Stay strong. VACITY!