One of the adjectives that come to mind when looking at OOK KOO’s works is ”playful”. Her paintings of women, both portraits and cartoon pin-ups, bounce with lively colors and are infused with impish character. Even OOK KOO uses the word “playful” often, usually to describe her style. It can also be very much a keyword to her intentions of playing with the usual.
Street Konect: When did you start painting in the streets?
Ook Koo: Around November 2009, as far as I can remember.
SK: Do you remember how your first painting experience went?
KK: I was with my blockmates the first time and we immediately got the “heaven spot”. Pisi and Gramo told me I was lucky to get one my first time but I did not have the clue then what a “heaven spot” was. We were standing on a tin roof and it was so hot. The cans were on the roof and when you held them they were burning hot. But I had fun. I got sunburned during my first painting session.
SK: What was your first motivation?
KK: Nothing really big or deep, in this case. I just really wanted to EXPLORE and have fun—create something that’s literally outside the usual canvasses and inspire other people especially the general public that street art is like a gallery, open for everyone.
SK: Do you think that street art is a freer form of art?
KK: Well, not really. For me, “free” means “anytime” and “anywhere” which is really not, in my case. It’s because every time I paint I have to invest on good spots. It takes me a long time for me to get as much as I need.
SK: Has your motivation changed?
KK: Not really. It still is the same.
SK: What things did you discover while painting in the streets?
KK: Every time I paint, there are always bystanders. You can’t always avoid them. It’s both interesting and amusing to know what they think of what we do. So far, I’ve been hearing good comments and it’s good to know that they’re appreciative. Another thing I discovered is it’s easy to ask permission to use a wall if you just talk and ‘court’ the owner properly.
SK: Are your works mostly legit?
KK: Mostly, yes. Only three have been illegal so far.
SK: Has your subject always been women?
KK: Yes. But I had one piece which featured a grandfather and a boy.
SK: Why women?
KK: I don’t really know why. But ever since I was a kid, I’ve drawn girls. I enjoy illustrating women and I find it exciting whenever I play with my character.
SK: Do you have models?
KK: Whenever I paint, I search for portrait references. Sometimes I use my own photographs or my own face as reference. I just change the features a bit. I play it like that.
SK: Are there images of women or real women who inspire your art?
KK: Yes! Real women inspire my art especially the portraits. Even the cartoon pin-ups are still inspired by real women. It’s just that with those I am more playful in doing the characters--experimenting on their hairs, their clothes and the poses they strike.
SK: Who are your influences?
KK: I like El Mac. His works are superb and very fine. But although I’m impressed with his works I really don’t like looking at other people’s pieces, works or styles. Once you keep checking them out, you will also adapt their styles. What I want most is to develop my own distinct style that’s chill, comfortable and playful. ;)