If Ralph Steadman, Robert Crumb and Jean-Michel Basquiat ever combined their artistic talents, the result may look something like the whimsical, but edgy illustrative art by California artist Rohitash Rao, known as Ro to his friends.
trashART by Rohitash Rao
above: artist Rohitash Rao
Ro is loaded with talent. So much so it was hard to decide what of his I ought to feature on this blog. An art director, film director, animator, illustrator and all around great guy (I speak from personal experience) he has three illustrated children’s books to his credit (The fabulous Herbert’s Wormhole series
Combining multiple aspects of popular culture – such as the consumption of fast-food, excessive waste, movies, books and cartoon imagery along with graphic design and illustration, Rohitash’s work exemplifies the old adage “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Stomped upon paper cups, crushed cigarette packs, soiled fast food containers, flattened spray paint cans and other garbage serve as the canvases for Ro’s illustrated and painted figures, creatures, silhouettes and occasional commentary.
Since I have the pleasure of knowing Ro personally through both our Alma Mater, Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design, and the world of advertising, he graciously offered to answer a few questions about these works for me:
IIHIH: WHEN DID YOU START CREATING THESE?
Ro: Technically I’ve been painting on stuff I find in the streets since I was kid – mainly because they were free canvases. But I started up again about 6 months when I moved to Venice and discovered all this great trash in the alley behind my studio. The first thing I painted on were these abandoned lottery tickets I found by a dumpster. I painted faces of the people that I imagined angrily chucked them on the ground after obviously not winning. I showed the paintings to a few friends and the response was so positive I did more.
Now i collect trash wherever I go. I was recently in Germany and Malta and I grabbed a few things off the streets while I was there. I am also getting commissions, most recently from Brazil. People are starting to mail me trash from all over the world. I’d love to do series about the geography of trash and collaborate with a litter organization or even someone like Surfrider down the road.
IIHIH: WHAT MEDIA DO YOU USE?
Ro: Everything is a mix of gouache, acrylic and spray paint. It’s usually whatever material will work on the different textures. Some fast good cups are plastic coated so water based paints don’t adhere to it. It’s amazing how much I suddenly know what trash is conducive to what paint product!!!
IIHIH: WHAT OTHER ARTISTS INSPIRE YOU?
Ro: I like gritty, surreal stuff. So I guess the main ones would be Basquiat, R. Crumb, David Shrigley and Francis Bacon.
Let’s hope that as long as people continue to make trash, Rohistash Rao continues to turn it into art.
Buy any of the Herbert’s Wormhole Books illustrated by Rohitash Rao here
all images © and courtesy of the artist