Interview with San Francisco Aerosol Artist, Chor Boogie

22 Jul, 2012

To view more of CHOR BOOGIE’S work visit his website at:

Visit the Chor Boogie Photo Gallery!!!

Read Dig In Magazine’s Follow-up Interview with
Chor Boogie in Mix It Up Magazine!

Chor Boogie at his "Boogie Birds" show at Air Castle Gallery

Chor Boogie is an aerosol artist based in San Francisco, California. His art has taken him around the globe to Mexico, Brazil, Australia and even as far as China for the Olympic Games. I met up with him at the Air Castle Gallery for the “Boogie Birds” show on January 29, 2010, a gallery event showcasing his artwork. Then, caught up with him at his home in San Francisco to find out more about his artwork, his philosophy of color therapy and his adventures with spray paint.

Dig In Magazine: What motivates you to create art and what makes you tick as an artist?

Chor Boogie: I think everything around me does, pretty much. And yeah, it’s just the stuff that I believe in [that] helps me tick as an artist and helps me create as an artist. What that is, is the aesthetics of color therapy. And people…people, in general, music. They’re all good influences and motivators. Inspirational motivation. Parts of my career…yeah, and artistic paths that I take.

DIM: So, last night I went to your “Boogie Birds” show at Air Castle Gallery and I saw some video footage regarding your art series of the Boogie Bird and I was wondering if you could tell me what inspired you to paint the Boogie Bird and what that’s all about. It’s a cute little bird.

CB: Yeah, I was just talking about that earlier. It’s the simple side of what I do. It’s the beauty of simplicity. Because a lot of my work is balanced yet complex at the same time. And it just shows a different aesthetic of what I do…a different beauty of what I do. So, there’s many objectives…there’s many ways I can go about describing where the Boogie Bird came from. One of them was this Alcatraz show that I did or that I was invited to years ago. I guess there was an endangered bird living on the island and that was one of the themes. So they gave us a bunch of themes and that was the theme that I picked. I decided to create this bird. And he started out as this goofy looking little thing and evolved into much more of a mature, fine art style that he is now. And since it started off big it ended up on a 2 inch by 2 inch canvas, which was another test to me on my skill level, because I was actually testing myself to see how small I can paint, you know?

"Boogie Birds" show

DIM: You’re used to really large-scale type things, right?

CB: I’m used to really large-scale murals and canvases. And then this really even brings the scale even lower. That’s without any additives, no preservatives. This is without using any cheat tools or anything. Just straight me, canvas and the can. That’s it! And so, you know, I can say that the Boogie Bird is a test, because it also tests the whole ego, pride thing about the whole size does matter thing and in actuality it doesn’t matter. I can paint large-scale down to 2 inch by 2 inch and maybe even smaller than that. So, um, that’s that! And to balance that off, when I was a young kid I remember my grandmother…she had these little, small 2 inch by 2 inch magnets on her refrigerator door and I used to stare at them when I was a little kid. And I think they were painted by either Degas or it was Diego Rivera. One of the two. It was so long ago…I don’t even know. I was four or five or something like that. And they were simple, they were cute and they were nice. And so, almost 25 years later I decided to come up with the Boogie Bird and that popped in my head too as well…the simple relation with that style and everything. So, even thought it’s my original style with the Boogie Bird, they still have a simple relation with that feeling that I had 25 years ago.

DIM: Oh, I see. Very cool! So, that has to do with the smaller scale?

CB: Yes, with the smaller scale and the way those magnets looked at that time to me.

DIM: And so you’re expressing that feeling…

CB: Yes, so I’m expressing that feeling from 25 years ago, you know, [from] when I was a little kid. And so when I actually look at these little Boogie Bird canvases, it does bring that feeling back. It does.

DIM: It’s a good feeling.

CB: It’s a beautiful feeling.

Part of a Tryptych: Young Queens

DIM: So, what are the themes or subject matter of most of your paintings?

CB: Themes or subject matter…I don’t really run with themes. I do have references, subject matter sometimes. Either I’ll use a photographic image that I’ve taken or It’s something that really strikes me. It has to have some type of appeal…an emotional feeling, an appeal say like from a magazine as a reference, you know. And just like these queens, these queens that I’ve painted…they’re young queens. The subject matter is that they’re young queens, but the references that I pulled from were just pictures from a magazine…that had an emotional attach to me. And they attracted me and not a lot of stuff does that, you know, in order for me to be like “I’m going to paint that.”

DIM: Right.

CB: And it also builds up the whole learning lesson aspect of everything too, because by doing that with the references it helps me to learn, you know, to paint this style. I’m copying the reference…I’m inspired by the reference and…that’s when the originality kicks in. And I add more to it…

DIM: …More of your own style and imagination.

CB: Yes. Honestly, they don’t look like the reference, they look better than the reference.

DIM: So, do you read a lot of magazines for inspiration?

CB: No.

DIM: Or is it that sometimes something just catches your eye?

CB: Just sometimes something catches my eye, which gives it a little bit more uniqueness, because I’m not out there to just look for a bunch of references to paint.

DIM: It just comes to you.

CB: Yes, it happens to come to me and I’ll have to elaborate on that and include a theme to it. And involve more of the original aesthetic to it.

DIM: How did you get started as an artist and what is your earliest memory of making art? [Laugh] If you can remember all of that?

CB: I’ve been tellig’ this story to pretty much everybody that asks. Since I was five years old…this is the story that sticks out to me. It was when I was in kindergarten and my teacher, Ms. Henderson, she had one of those big pads of disposable paper and an easel…it was Creative Day or something like that and you had a choice to, you know, either go play with the toys [or do artwork]. Those were the days when they had those big log cabin wooden blocks that you could build up, you know? And a bunch of Tonka truck toys and all that stuff. It was either play with that or play duck-duck-goose or do some artwork. And I didn’t know what that was, so I wanted to do that!

DIM: The artwork.

CB: The artwork. So you put like this garment on or something and I had a little easel and like paint brushes and I started painting on this disposable paper. And then when she came back, she was like “how you doing?” and everything…and I said [to her] “when I grow up, I want to be an artist!”

DIM: Oh, wow. That’s so cool!

CB: And here I am!

DIM: I guess you’ve been painting since you were five basically, huh?

CB: Yeah, so I’ve been throwing out those creative juices since five. I don’t know…maybe before that. From my parent’s perspective, they say before that, because you know, a kid is always drawing with crayons and all that stuff, you know.

DIM: Yeah, that’s true. Did you study art in school?

CB: I did not study art in school. I had like art classes in high school and all this and that.

DIM: So, you just learned it on your own?

CB: Trial and error pretty much. Yeah, learned lessons…taking my own initiative to read masters of modern art. And study up on masters and take it from there.

DIM: So, I’m just curious, why spray paint? Is that your favorite medium?

CB: And I’m goning to say why not? [Laugh]

Part of Tryptych: Young Queens

DIM: [Laugh] Like did you start with spray paint or was it something that you gradually got into later?

CB: I’ve been involved with spray paint since age 13 I’m thinking.

DIM: How did you get into it?

CB: Just like influences and friends and stuff…actually no, no let me take that back. That’s a part of it, but reading the literature on it and walking by these aqua ducks right by a supermarket where I used to live by used to be painted up a lot.

DIM: Like graffiti art?

CB: If that’s what you want to call it. I wouldn’t call it graffiti.

DIM: More like murals?

CB: At that time, that was considered graffiti, but now to me it’s more spray paint art.

DIM: So there’s a difference?

CB: There definitely is a difference.

DIM: Can you explain the difference?

CB: I will. I walked by these aqua ducks and I saw these beautiful letter pieces and stuff. And there was a bunch of colors and all these tags and everything and I was just like “wow,” you know? And from there [I] read some literature about it, seen it in magazines and stuff and it was just more appealing. And took it from there. There was spray paint ever since. But I’ve thrown my goes at other mediums and this is the one that stuck. And then as far as the terminology goes, graffiti is graffiti. It has its worldwide acceptance now, because…

DIM: I guess it still has the negative connotations.

CB: It definitely does. That’s why I don’t follow the term, because of the negative connotations. Because once people tie in what you do with a spray can or anything done with a spray can is definitely tied to graffiti. And I’m changing that perspective, that perception of that, by calling it something totally different. Calling it what it is, spray paint. It comes from a spray can. It’s spray paint art. And color therapy. Having my own philosophy and meaning behind the can and what it can produce and what I can produce. Because you know a lot of people are following the sheep off the cliff when they follow the term graffiti. And they may have their philosophies and beliefs about it, so be it, but I’m not going to. Because in actuality when this medium began, it started on the subway trains and for such an anti-political, anti-government movement or something like that basically the terminology was put there by the government. They’re the ones to name this medium graffiti. Took the word out of a book or from the term being used from Italy all the way down and give it that terminology, graffiti. And gave it that negative connotation. Like “It’s NOT GOOD”. So, from there, you know, that’s what it did and we didn’t have a chance to…I’m talkin’ about the pioneers of this medium, didn’t have a chance to name it anything. It was just already labeled. So, basically, I would call it a label more than just a name. And so why would I want to follow something like that? And there’s people following it just for money. For this and that…nah, I’m not going to do that. I’d rather just start out fresh…start something new.

DIM: That’s good. So, you mentioned that you have your own philosophy behind this medium of spray paint art. Can you briefly describe your philosophy regarding that?

CB: My philosophy behind what I do is basically…I’m running with the term or the philosophy of color therapy when it comes to my work. It’s dealing with all known colors known to man. The colors have healing attributes and effects that believing it or not, subconsciously or consciously, they do have an effect on you whether you like it or not.

DIM: Moods and all that kind a thing.

CB: Everything…our perception. Our perception is the all seeing of colors everyday…if you want to acknowledge it or if you feel the need to acknowledge the colors that you are surrounded by, which we don’t, cuz we’re so used to it on a daily basis. We see it everyday, but if we acknowledge it a little more…have a little bit of acceptance towards it, I believe that the effects of colors definitely take its course. But they do take somewhat of a course whether you like it or not, consciously or subconsciously. So that’s the philosophy of color therapy.

DIM: That’s great! I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit about your mural work?

CB: I do murals, frescos. I do murals, not only in San Francisco, but all over the world.

DIM: Oh, really, so you travel?

CB: I travel and do my murals. Not just murals, [but] art shows selling my work.

DIM: Where have you traveled?

CB: To China for the Olympics out there and Australia, Sydney and Melbourne. And a place called Federation Square out there in Melbourne…and where else have I been…I’ve been to Dubai. Painted one of the first murals on a surface out there in Dubai. Brazil…

A Chor Boogie art piece painted in Canada

DIM: Wow, you’ve been everywhere!

CB: It’s not stopping either…Mexico City, Canada…

DIM: And you’re headed out to Los Angeles. You were telling me that you’re painting some murals there. Where was that again?

CB: Downtown LA. It’s comin’ up on February 4th. A place called DTLA Youth Center. I’m gonna be doing a mural on their building, because they’re bringin’ me out there to do that. And then, they’re also setting up along with 33 and a Third, which is a gallery/place that sells spray paint out there…Mid City Arts, actually, and they are setting up something with me painting and doing some live painting at the LA Art Walk, which is a pretty big deal down there too. So that’s gonna be all tied in with that and from there I have somebody making a documentary about me. Her name is Sarah Fisher. She made the movie “Meditate and Destroy,” but she is working on a new documentary about me. And we’re gonna be heading to San Diego, you know that’s where I’m from, and she’s coming down there to get some footage of this LA stuff and get some footage of the lifestyle I had in San Diego up until now.

Downtown Los Angeles Youth and Culture Center Event

DIM: Oh, that sounds awesome.

CB: And interviewing some people and family members and stuff.

DIM: Very exciting! Sounds like you’ve had a lot of cool stuff happen within your career, just wondering if you’ve had any unusual experiences during you artistic career or is it all unusual?

CB: It’s not unusual. It’s all good times. From doing portraits for famous people like Hugh Hefner and Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Jay-Z to getting stabbed.

DIM: You got stabbed?

CB: Yeah, I got stabbed twice.

DIM: Oh, while you were working?

CB: Doing a mural. When I was working on a mural in between 6th and 7th street on Market Street [in San Francisco]…there was an altercation and people trying to steal my tools of communication. And I confronted them and didn’t even know I was stabbed until the end of the whole ordeal due to the adrenaline.

DIM: That’s hard. Well, I’m glad you’re healthy and alive.

CB: [Laugh] Everything is a balance. There has been good stuff that has happened to me. And there has been bad stuff that’s happened to me. So, where can I go wrong? [Laugh]

Poster from Mexico City billboard project

DIM: You’ve mentioned that you’ve painted in so many places around the world, is there any place that you haven’t painted that you want to paint at?

CB: Oh yes! [Laugh] There’s a few of them that I haven’t painted at that I should be painting at this year. First of all, Europe…Italy and Spain. And maybe Germany and basically, Europe. Tokyo, Japan. That’s another place that I’m working on. And South Africa, you know. Russia. Just trying to hit all the highlights. And then from there…after I get all that out of the way, I’ll work to the odd and end places…you know, the exotic, smaller places. I’ll knock the big ones out first and then go to the smaller ones and leave a mark there. And so I would paint Antarctica if I could.

DIM: Awesome. So all of these trips are funded?

CB: Yes, they’re all paid for. You know, investors that bring me out there to do what I do.

DIM: I see. Very cool. I just have one last question and I actually ask this of all artists. What advice can you give to students or young aspiring artists?

CB: I wouldn’t call something so beautiful, something so ugly. You know, calling spray paint art graffiti. I would basically tell them to discover your original self. Follow your original intuition. And then apply it to any surface. And then believe in what you love to do and the rest will come. You know, as long as you believe it…realize that your not starting this off…you didn’t start this talent with making money…you didn’t start this off with fame and fortune, you know. Don’t expect it. No limitations, no expectations. Just believe in what you do and what you love to do and then the fruits will come. Everything shall follow. And if it doesn’t, don’t be discouraged. Because if you set that as your ultimate goal…I want to be this and I want…you gotta realize that, you know, your want should be a need. It should be a need. And your need should be basically the love for your art. And the belief into your art. And like I said, everything else will follow suit.

DIM: That’s good advice. Thanks so much for talkin’ to Dig In Magazine and congratulations on your success! And best of luck with your artwork in the future!

CB: Thank you. Thank you very much!

About the author

Cindy Maram

Cindy Maram is Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Dig In Magazine. She is an accredited film journalist for Sundance Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, Mill Valley Film Festival, San Francisco International Film Festival and CAAMFest, as well as fashion & style blogger for New York Fashion Week and art critic. She is a writer, vlogger, designer, digital, online & social media marketer possessing a B.A from UC Davis and a M.A. in Mass Communications + Popular Culture Studies emphasis in Film/Marketing/Writing from Cal State Fullerton.

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