“Art is a conversation starter,” says Bao Ho, a Hong Kong-based street artist also known as SimpleBao. “It fascinates me that people can find resonance through my street painting, and I love that the idea of street art can spread positive energy and get people interacting.”
Ho, who turns 32 this year, suffered from depression and anxiety a few years ago, which led her to quit her full-time graphic design job and go on a working holiday to Italy, where she embarked on her wall-graffiti journey. “It was painting that taught me how to face my fears and insecurities,” she says. “Before becoming an artist, I was working without the freedom to create what I liked. Travelling opened up my world and inspired me to follow my dreams.”
As she gained fans, brands also started to notice Ho’s work and got in touch for collaborations and commissioned works, including a partnership with Tumi in which she used her travel experiences as inspiration to create a capsule collection that encompasses baggage tags, backpacks and luggage.
“Collaborating with Tumi reminds me of how important travelling has been to my personal journey,” Ho says. “This sparked the idea to create a luggage robot for the Tumi x Bao collection.
“The robot in the spaceship is a little self-reminder to be brave and encourage me to follow my true path. Don’t we all get that excited feeling when we start packing? The tiny creatures and blooming flowers in the illustration represent the butterflies we get when we’re about to embark on a journey.”
Ho’s latest milestone, that of being named one of “100 creative powers” at Adrian Cheng’s K11 Musea project, illustrates her talent and the hard work she’s put in over the last few years.
As for next steps, she says, “I love street art, but I would love to challenge myself, try other mediums such as animation or even sculptures. That would be fun.”
One question Bao is often asked, given that street art is illegal in Hong Kong, is how she finds locations to paint. “People nowadays are more open-minded,” she notes. “Street art didn’t become a trend until 2015, so before that I just painted at abandoned industrial buildings.”
For those who aspire to follow in her footsteps, Ho recommends asking owners for permission before starting a work. But if you don’t and end up getting caught, stay calm and simply walk away. “They don’t always call the cops.”
Outfit: Ho’s own