FROM black and white city walls, a Thomasian can turn grays into vibrant colors.

After graduating with a degree in Advertising from the College of Fine Arts and Design in 2012, Ana Korina “Kookoo” Ramos immediately found her heart drawn to plastering portions of Metro Manila with murals, which she considers as a calling beckoned upon her.

She has done live art for Globe Telecom at the Bonifacio Global City, The Sweet Spot Pasig, and for Jack TV’s Kimbra Concert last 2014. She also painted commissioned graffiti murals in Tuscany McKinley Hill, Lift Hard Philippines, Melody Restaurant, and SM Fairview, as well as personal paintings in Ortigas and Quezon City.

One of her most recent street art was a collaborative painting with other street artist to revitalize the Ayala underpass in Makati.

Her paintings, which mostly depict women, are drawn out of pure imagination, putting emphasis on their facial expressions, hair, and postures that vary from realistic colorful portraits to black and white paintings.

Kookoo was the first female artist to be recognized by Filipino Street Art Project as the

“Artist of the Week” and has also been featured as one of the seven major players in the street art scene by in Art Radar Journal, an online and independent news website that writes about contemporary art across Asia.

She joined female street artists from Southeast Asian nations in painting several streets in Singapore-such as the Scape, a popular area for graffiti art, the Youth Park, even the façade of the famous Waterfront Theatre, as part of the Revel Daughters Convention in 2014.

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“It was my first time to travel to another country and I was proud that I experienced it because of art. We talked about our culture and I got to know the different art scenes of the other countries,” she said.

Hustle and grind

Ramos likened the physicality of street art to exercising for five or six hours a day, citing a story where she had to work for 12 straight hours to finish her piece in a football field. All the athletes have gone home, but she was left with her paints and brushes.

“I asked myself why I kept tiring myself; why I was doing art. The answer was that because I loved it. I can’t imagine myself not doing art,” she said.

It was in 2009 when Ramos started painting the streets after accepting an invitation from her blockmates to visit a spot in Cainta, followed by successive painting sessions in España.

“I would walk the whole stretch of España, from P. Noval to Rotonda, canvassing for walls to paint. One day I found four walls and I invested the following months on them, working on them during long breaks,” she said.

Even Joli’s, the go-to place for CFAD and Architecture students when in need of materials for plate, is not a stranger to Ramos’ spray paint. Her art on their shutter gate is visible until today.

Freelance, free plans

Her exposure to the street art scene for a few years have taught her that art is never redundant—that painters will always find new ways to surprise their audience and fellow artists.

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“You’ll see that each artist has their own principle, style, and approach. Each has their own thrill, own convenience. Others have their own advocacy, while some, including myself, are still finding their purpose,” she said.

Last year, Ramos was torn between staying inside her office as an employee of an advertising agency and going out to paint the streets as a freelance artist. Lack of motivation and self-fulfillment of being free to create her own visions pushed her to choose the latter.

“It was when I stopped working for an agency that I knew that art was my calling. I couldn’t bear to give it a mistress. There was a fulfilment whenever I worked outside. I thought of my own concepts and created art using my hands,” she said.

Risking everything for her “calling” is rewarding than ever, Ramos said. And it pays off. She now works as a freelance artist, having commissioned projects for different corporations and individuals

“First of all, you’ll achieve self-fulfillment that you actually made something; that you created and finished what was inside your head. Second, you’ll see the joy you bring to your audience—the feeling that you gave something positive to other people,” she said.

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