RAW ARTIST RICHIE HONG DISCUSSES HIS ART. SEE HIS WORK, AND THE WORK OF OTHER ARTISTS, AT THE NEXT SANTA MONICA RAW SHOWCASE ON THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 4TH! 
When did you first begin making art? 
As a young child, I was a prodigious drawer; simple as that. It's all I did, as a kid, for hours and hours. I didn't care about anything else; just drew and drew. I guess that's where it all stems from. 

From where do you draw inspiration for your work?
From life—waves are in many of my paintings—simply because that is my religion. The ocean is my salvation. Being in the ocean-setting is as close to heaven as I have ever experienced.

Do you engage in, or draw inspiration from, any other forms of art? 
When I paint, music is always playing. As I take drags from a cigarette, it's not uncommon for the lyrics of a song to drip from the ends of my brush onto the canvas. This happens all the time. 

From start to finish, explain your process.
I find that I'm at my best in the late night hours. It starts with putting on the right song for whatever mood I'm in. Then I put some colors on the canvas straight from the tube. Take a knife and spread the paint all over the canvas. That's how I usually start. Maybe I'll tear out some interesting images from a magazine and glue it onto the canvas, or hear a lyric that strikes a chord and write it on the surface. I never know what the finished product will be and I never do a painting in just one day. I gotta sit on it and let it sink into my subconscious, then dive back into it again later. Like any other line of work, it's a labor. Your not gonna be "on" all the time. I get stuck a lot and take a step back for days, weeks, or months, then go back into it with a different perspective. Like with anything in life worth being good at—and it takes a lot of work to be good at something—I'm still learning. 

Are there any particular artists or art movements that influence your work?
Growing up I loved the classic artists like Chagall, Kandinsky, Klee, etc. My favorite artist is Basquiat; I love the punk-rock aspect of his art. I would like to paint in a such a way that a person looking at my stuff will look at my work and say "I can do that" ... and then go off to paint on their own. 

Are there any specific reoccurring themes or subjects that you explore most? 
I usually paint when I'm in a somewhat-heavy state of mind. It might be a bit off-kilter, but these emotions definitely feel like they need to be channeled. The themes might be a little dark and somewhat challenging. But, everyone knows that life is hard, so I put it into my art—whatever that is. 

Any previous exhibitions/collaborations that you are most proud of? 
Well, there was this one time, a few years back, when me and my buddy went to a casino and lost pretty big playing poker. I had this pretty big canvas and we just put all our frustrations and disbelief onto that canvas. It took my style to another level, a style that kind of stuck with me ever since. Losing that night at cards gave me my breakthrough creatively with painting. 

Any current rising stars within the genre that you would recommend we look out for?
Shepard Fairey seems to be the guy right now. Everyone knows of his work. He is on top of it; simple as that.