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Artist Feature | Bao Ho

Since we saw the battle go down at Secret Walls '15, there is no doubt that Bao Ho (a.k.a Simple Bao) is making waves in the Hong Kong Art scene. From working with big brands to running an exhibit during a pandemic, we take a breather amidst the covid-chaos and talk about creative process, taking inspiration from the simple things and acknowledging that it's ok to not be ok.

I'm a big fan of Bao's work, and this interview has been a long time coming.

Enjoy the read.
- AP

'You cant limit yourself with what other people are doing... Just be happy with whatever it is you’re doing.'

Gahyao Simple Bao Interview | Street Art Mural Hong Kong

Gahyao: Introduce yourself - who is Bao and what do you do?

Bao: Hi guys, I’m Bao. I’m a painter and an artist. It’s funny, until now I’m still a little embarrassed to call myself an artist even though I’ve been doing it for such a long time. I mainly do illustrations and murals, and I’m now trying to dive into doing more sculptures and toys, more 3d stuff.

I’ve made two different toys recently, honestly I’m still trying to figure it all out. 3d modelling is a totally different platform, I’m in a phase where I’d like to try new things.

Gahyao Simple Bao Interview | Street Art Mural Hong Kong
Gahyao Simple Bao Interview | Street Art Mural Hong Kong
G: How did you get started with murals?

B: I’ve been drawing since I was a kid, like since 6 or 7 years old. I started doing murals in 2014. I was travelling around Italy with a writer friend of mine, he really encouraged me to get into murals. I really loved the process of it and have been doing it ever since.

I started out painting in the streets, but not a lot.. It’s tough, because I usually need to find a spot that’s hidden so I can take my time and not rush the work. I like taking my time and not quickly finishing a piece.

Gahyao Simple Bao Interview | Street Art Mural Hong Kong
Gahyao Simple Bao Interview | Street Art Mural Hong Kong
Gahyao Simple Bao Interview | Street Art Mural Hong Kong

G: You recently ran an exhibit at The Stallery, how’d it all go?

B: The exhibit was very relaxed, I wasn’t really expecting a lot of people because of the virus. But it was nice catching up with old friends, some people even bought some art work. I was pretty happy with it.

Gahyao Simple Bao Interview | Street Art Mural Hong Kong
Gahyao Simple Bao Interview | Street Art Mural Hong Kong

G: How has the Virus affected your creative process? Has your day to day routine changed since all this started?

B: My projects haven’t been affected so much with the virus. I’ve been working on a few commercial projects, I just finished a mural for a school. May was super busy, I didn’t have time to work on any personal pieces. I have to admit, I wish I had more time to do my own projects. Most clients let me do my thing, but I want to develop a style outside of the usual cute/poppy stuff that I’m known for. I’d like to explore more of a dark style in my work.

Gahyao Simple Bao Interview | Street Art Mural Hong Kong
Gahyao Simple Bao Interview | Street Art Mural Hong Kong
Gahyao Simple Bao Interview | Street Art Mural Hong Kong

G: From brands like Tumi, Footlocker, Asics and K11 mall - it’s very difficult breaking through to commercial success as an artist - do you remember the turning point to when you started getting bigger collaborations?

B: In 2015, I got to do a Microsoft global campaign called Do Great Things. I was referred by someone from Pow! Wow! Tai Wan. The organizer saw me painting for HKWALLS and thought I was suitable for their theme (although I'm a short person, I'm able to paint on a big wall).

Tumi was amazing too, they didn’t have a theme. They gave me creative freedom to do what I wanted, they didn’t change a single thing. It was refreshing to work with such a professional brand, they were respectful to my approach and they focused a lot on the details of the design and the end product. I would say I choose to work with projects that I align with rather than the name of the brand.

Gahyao Simple Bao Interview | Street Art Mural Hong Kong
Gahyao Simple Bao Interview | Street Art Mural Hong Kong
Gahyao Simple Bao Interview | Street Art Mural Hong Kong

G: I remember the year you won Secret Walls, street art and graffiti was just upcoming on people’s radar - what was it like winning such a big event?

B: Other brands found out about me after winning Secret Walls - it all came together.. I don’t see myself as famous… People know about my work through newspapers, TV, blogs, you know - interviews that I've done. A local girl doing street art really intrigues people.

I try not to play up the fact that I’m a girl doing street art, I’d like to think people hire me because of my work.

Gahyao Simple Bao Interview | Street Art Mural Hong KongGahyao Simple Bao Interview | Street Art Mural Hong Kong
Gahyao Simple Bao Interview | Street Art Mural Hong Kong

G: Walk us through your creative process - from sketch to final output, it’s always interesting to see how different artists do things

B: I think about the theme first, then I start to sketch. Honestly I just follow the flow after that.. I normally start with the face and eyes, there’s more I can do to make them interesting, then I follow through everything after. You can really see the emotions in the face, its very character-centric.

 Gahyao Simple Bao Interview | Street Art Mural Hong Kong
G: What inspires you everyday?

B: My daily life, small things get me going, like my cats fighting! I grew up with Japanese manga animation, sometimes it would depend what I’m watching at the time or something I read that inspires me.

Gahyao Simple Bao Interview | Street Art Mural Hong Kong
Gahyao Simple Bao Interview | Street Art Mural Hong Kong

G: You have such a distinct style of drawing your characters - how do you make sure you stand out from other artists?

B: I don't try too hard to be different, I draw things simple because I want to draw them. I try not to think about what others are doing, there will always be someone drawing something similar. It takes off a lot of pressure when you just think about doing things because you want to…

You cant limit yourself with what other people are doing, to do something completely new is really difficult. I don't want to be upset because someone already took a similar idea. Just be happy with whatever it is you’re doing.. 

Gahyao Simple Bao Interview | Street Art Mural Hong Kong
Gahyao Simple Bao Interview | Street Art Mural Hong Kong

G: Any advise for people who want to pursue a career with the arts?

B: First thing you need to do is to share your work with other people. I have friends who are great writers but they don't put it out there. I was like that too, I had confidence issues. It was easier to put myself in a box.. If you want to pursue a career in the arts, then you have to connect to people. No matter how amazing your work is, if people don’t see it then it wont matter.
 Gahyao Simple Bao Interview | Street Art Mural Hong Kong
Gahyao Simple Bao Interview | Street Art Mural Hong Kong

G: Most memorable project / piece?

B: There’s too much! I like painting murals, especially when I do street art for neighborhoods, it gives me an opportunity to communicate with people from that area.
 Gahyao Simple Bao Interview | Street Art Mural Hong Kong

G: What are your thoughts on the current state of street art in Hong Kong?


B: Hong Kong art scene is definitely in a better place now, the last 3 years people have been noticing and appreciating street art & murals. A lot more companies are now paying for artists to do work for them. It’s a small community, there are a number of illustrators popping up and doing more murals. 

The one thing to keep in mind is that paper and canvas are totally different. With canvas or paper you can get up close and use more details in the drawing, but with murals it’s important to understand the scale of the overall piece- like knowing how big you should make things, how much details to put in -  this only comes with experience.
 Gahyao Simple Bao Interview | Street Art Mural Hong Kong
Gahyao Simple Bao Interview | Street Art Mural Hong Kong

G: What does ga yau mean to you?

B: I guess it's like a mantra, I only say it to myself. It’s something you say to support yourself, to push yourself to do something when you feeling down or feeling unmotivated. To make yourself feel positive.

I was going through waves of depression, and people use to say ‘ga yau, you can get through it’, and I know they meant well, but I felt a lot of pressure hearing it. Anyone that has dealt with depression knows it’s never that easy - it’s not an easy thing to hear, because no matter how hard you try it will always be difficult to pull yourself out of it.

It comes back from time to time, but I feel better than before. I talk to doctors and all that. I know i can fight through it. It’s better to talk it through, even if its painful.

G: Where can people find you?

B: I’m on IG @simplebao and also have a website www.simplebao.com

Gahyao Simple Bao Interview | Street Art Mural Hong Kong
Gahyao Simple Bao Interview | Street Art Mural Hong Kong
 

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