We all have our own creative outlets. Whether that be through painting, writing or other freeing forms of self-expression, we sometimes surprise ourselves with the emotions that come from seeing the finished product. Ricardo Richey, better known as Apexer, has that conjuring effect on people.

“Go out and explore the world. Experience it with no expectations,” he advises in a voice and outlook that is both captivating and inspiring. Apexer is a street artist from San Francisco who creates colorful, abstract patterns throughout urban cities with the aim to evoke positivity and a sense of connectedness. Often working nine to 10 hours a day creating strikingly distinguished artwork, Apexer leaves it up to viewers to interpret the message.

Apexer, who was a featured artist at the St. ART festival in St. Louis, will be donating a piece of his artwork to the ISPA Foundation Auction at the 2017 ISPA conference & Expo, and will be giving an inspirational speech during Tuesday’s general Session. We asked Apexer why he enjoys his profession and what street art accomplishes in society today, and his answers may surprise you.

PULSE: What first sparked your love of street art?
Apexer: Growing up in San Francisco in the early 80s, society’s differences and separations weren’t comprehensible as a kid. I really started getting into art around third grade. I loved seeing the different colors everywhere around me and wanted to create my own. For me, coloring in my coloring book was no different than seeing scribbles and colors around the city. It actually got me into trouble at home—I would get black ink on the walls.

P: Why is street art so important to the fabric of our cities?
A: You have to go back to the beginning roots of New York and Harlem, where there is a good representation of modern cities. A huge part of San Francisco was abandoned growing up— people without jobs, empty lots with buildings crumbling, and that became part of the youth culture. There are famous photos of kids jumping around on mattresses in a parking lot. That youthful, childhood imagination is where street art came from—it tells a story.

For me, it’s really important to have public art that is diverse and can appeal to sensitivities of a wide group of people. In suburbia of America, homes all look the same. The cars out front are the only forms of color. In cities, you need diversity; you need colors—things that will stimulate the brain and spirit to live healthier.

P: You were born and raised in San Francisco. How does the city inspire your art?
A: I lived on one corner of the city, my grandma lived on the other corner, and my cousins in between. We drove around all the time visiting family, so I was exposed to all the different SF neighborhoods. You have skyscrapers, a lot of greenery with parks, and famous painted ladies in front of Victorian houses. Seeing all of this informed me of what I wanted to do. Because SF has hills and streets and valleys, you never know what’s around the corner. I like to create work that is unexpected so that when you’re riding your bike down an alley and you turn the corner, you see a random, colorful splash on a building.

P: Where did the name APEXER come from?
a: Apex means peak, or highest point. Within the rising street art culture, you can add different endings to your name like “ing” or “er,” and I picked “er.” It was my sophomore year of high school
when I came across the word “apex” in English class. As a young boy trying to find his place and hierarchy, that name was incredibly cool. Fast forward to now, and it represents the exact opposite. If all of us try to do our best, to reach our peak, the most important part is to enjoy the process as you try and find your way.

P: Abstract art can sometimes be hard for people to decipher. What do you hope people gain from your work?
A: Early on, I learned all the traditional practices of art. It felt like I was copying, so I wanted to create something new—something that was pure imagination, aside from the art classics. I pull from that same child in me for inspiration. I want people to remember that child in themselves and that moment of questioning, freedom and curiosity about the world. That’s what I want people to get from my work. If my work can grab the passerby for even a second, I have accomplished what I wanted.

Studying design and architecture, learning the goal-to-ratio of classic structures as the way we view the world blew my mind. I wanted to stand out in competition of billboards and other traditional styles, so color theory became a big part of it. Layering my work all together creates an explosion of positive energy that I’m giving to people. I like it to be colorful and abstract so that it goes against the norm.

P: You tend to use brilliant colors in your artwork. How does color help you get your message, story or purpose across?
A: My work is very layered. If there are 10 layers of my work, only three of them are controlled. It is completely meditative. A lot of vibrant colors grab your attention and then it gives you a moment in your day-to-day life to reflect and breathe. You might like a particular green, pink or blue, and you pick something out that’s uplifting or it changes your mood completely. Having all the colors there is the balancing act—it isn’t pulling you to happiness or anger, it’s allowing you to just be.

P: What would you consider to be the hardest part of your work? How do you overcome these challenges?
A: To stay motivated when I’m not working, and to stay humble when somebody is complimenting me on a new piece. After a piece of my work is finished, I say that it is 18 years old, has matured, and is ready for the world to experience it.

The hardest part has become explaining my viewpoint on ownership of who deserves credit. After my work has been released, I don’t take ownership because it’s for everyone else at that point. People should be giving themselves a compliment for appreciating it.

P: What is the most rewarding part of your work?
A: There are a lot of rewarding things like being able to travel and see different cities, and meeting all kinds of people around the world and hearing their stories. But the most rewarding part is people connecting with it. It’s a sign that I still have my finger on the pulse. Understanding how to navigate the art and communicate that with different cities and different walks of life is amazing. We are all connected and that shows when we relate to the work. Seeing that so many people can relate to it and appreciate it is rewarding.