Can't Put Down the Brush: A Profile on Tim Okamura


Tim Okamura is a Brooklyn based artist, Bushwick to be exact. He’s been into art for most of his life. He started painting when he was about eight years old and really got into art when he was in high school. “In high school, I actually took an art class every morning for two years.”

Tim was born and raised in Canada. Commercial art is what really brought him to the U.S. He knew coming to New York City would be a major step in his career. He spent his senior of college contemplating his next move. Grad school was his entry point, where he was enrolled in School of Visual Arts.

Fast forward to the present, one could say his love for art is pretty steep since he's invested so much time creating different pieces. He says love is a strong word to describe his feelings towards it. “Deep down, there is a love for it. It’s a difficult relationship. I feel a wide range of emotions because there’s a lot of anxiety, frustration and disappoint that comes along with it now.” He describes art as a tough career. If he could go back and pursue this career, he may have chosen otherwise instead. “If only I could go back and warn my young self. It’s an incredible journey but I probably wouldn’t.” Besides the road blocks Tim has come across, it’s safe to say that he’s right where he belongs. His work is captivating. Despite some negativity that may have crossed his path, he continues to feel progression in his work which is important for every artist.

Why haven’t you given up on art?

TO: Besides my complaints, and frustrations that do come up, I have had a great deal of success. Objectively speaking, I am fortunate to be a part of a small percentage of people able to make a living off of making artwork.

What’s your least favorite part of being an artist?

TO: My least favorite is I think the politics of the art world. It seems like the further along you get, the more you run into the social politics, the more you run into the commodification of the arts and there’s a lot of frustration with people that are very very talented at talking about their work but their not necessarily making great work. Their ability to talk about it, defend it, rationalize it gets them very far.

What’s your favorite part of being an artist?

TO: I guess my favorite part is mostly the ability to make my own hours, to decide generally how my days are going to go. Sometimes I’m a slave to deadlines.

You were also included in The Art Album. How does it feel to be a part of something like that?

TO: There were a lot of great artists in there. Obviously the art is selected.. great company... cool the way they wove in various hip-hop artists. That may be one of the first books to come out to establish more of a relationship between art and hip hop and the lyricists. I love that. That’s kind of what my whole inspiration started off being when I started doing portraits back in college. I'm very much inspired by music.

There was always a lot of back and forth for me between music and painting and starting to get into graffiti.  I just really wanted to be part of all the different creative energies. Many years later, to be part of a book like that is a pretty cool experience.

His definition of art?

“My definition of what I think good art is, and there’s a lot of things being made that people are calling art, I get it but for me, good art is something that I’m kind of amazed by.“

The three words he used to describe the art world is negative, cruel and exciting.

1. Negative: it can be very fickle

2. Cruel: you’ll find out the hard way not everybody loves your work the same way that your mother loves your work

3. Exciting: it can be very exciting. There’s no better feeling than when someone’s buying your work. They’re buying a piece of you

 He’s currently getting into directing music videos. He wants to incorporate his paintings and videos together. His dream is that The Fugees will get back together and he will get to direct one of their videos. 

His future with art? He just wants to continue to expand his audience, visit different places around the world. He has an upcoming exhibition in Tokyo. That’s a major milestone for him. He’s never exhibited anything in Asia and he’s half Japanese so he’s pretty excited about his trip.

His advice to aspiring artist: “patience and realizing this is a lifelong journey and not buying into the “you’re an art star by the age of 25.”

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