Tim Okamura

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Tim Okamura (born 1968 in Edmonton, Alberta) is a contemporary Canadian painter known for his depiction of African-American and minority subjects in urban settings, and his combination of graffiti and realism. His work has been featured in several major motion pictures and in London's National Portrait Gallery. He was also one of several artists to be shortlisted in 2006 for a proposed portrait of Queen Elizabeth of England.


Okamura earned a B.F.A. with Distinction at the Alberta College of Art and Design in Calgary, Alberta, Canada before moving to New York City to attend the School of Visual Arts. At ACAD he was a stand out, described by former class mates as one of the most talented alumni to ever graduate from the Alberta College of art and Design. After graduating with an M.F.A. in Illustration as Visual Journalism in 1993, Okamura moved to Brooklyn, New York, where he still resides.

Okamura has had several solo exhibitions in New York and Canada, and has had his work chosen for inclusion in several prominent group exhibitions, including After Matisse/Picasso at the Museum of Modern Art-affiliated P.S.1 in Queens, New York, as well as being selected five times to appear in the BP Portrait Awards Exhibition at London’s National Portrait Gallery.'

Okamura - a recipient of the 2004 Fellowship in Painting from the New York Foundation for the Arts – has also had his paintings featured in several films including Pieces of April (InDiGent), School of Rock (Paramount), Jersey Girl (Miramax), and most prominently in Prime (Universal), a romantic comedy about a young New York painter starring Uma Thurman and Meryl Streep. Okamura’s work is also notable in Ethan Hawke’s The Hottest State.

Tim Okamura’s art is on display in the permanent collections at the Toronto Congress Center, The Hotel Arts in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and Standard Chartered Bank in London, England; and in the private collections of Uma Thurman, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson (The Roots), director Ben Younger, and actors Bryan Greenberg, Vanessa Marcil, Annabella Sciorra and Ethan Hawke.


Urban life and hip-hop has influenced not only Okamura’s subject matter in his paintings, but some of its musical concepts –sampling, combining new beats and classic grooves- also affected his approach to image-making: sampling excerpts from art history and world mythology, blending classical techniques of oil painting with the spontaneity of spray painted graffiti, combining the academic “realism” of his portrait and figure painting with modern graphics and contemporary urban environments. “I continue to be inspired simultaneously by the disparate visual language of Rembrandt’s dark portraits, the intense contemplation of Antonio Lopez Garcia, and “wild-style” graffiti writers". "...a painter who does portraits with tumultuous graffiti backgrounds....a hip-hop painter". Nicholls,Liz (October 29, 2005), "Tim Okamura, Artist to the Stars", The Edmonton Journal(Edmonton,AB), Culture, E1

Important Exhibitions[edit]


  • 2014: Her Story, Douglas Udell Gallery, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  • 2014: Survey 2009 - 2014, National Arts Club, New York, NY
  • 2013: This Story Has Not Yet Been Told, The Robert and Sallie Brown Gallery and Museum, The Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, NC
  • 2012: Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Douglas Udell GAllery, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
  • 2011: Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Lyons Wier Gallery, New York, NY
  • 2011: VOLTA NY, Lyons Wier Gallery, New York, NY
  • 2009: Brooklyn Walls: hopechangedreams, Douglas Udell Gallery, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
  • 2008: Women in White / Bushwick Walls, Douglas Udell Gallery, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
  • 2006: Urban Portraits + Brooklyn Mythology, Axis Art, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  • 2005: Urban Portraits + Brooklyn Mythology, Delgado-Tomei Gallery, Brooklyn, NY. First exhibition of "King", a large-scale portrait of Martin Luther King
  • 2003: New Urban Portraits + Bricks, Locks, & Obstacles, Kanvas Gallery, NY, NY

Two Person[edit]

  • 2014: Recent Work, with Jerome Lagarrique, White Room, Liquid Art System, Capri, Italy
  • 2009: Love, Strength, & Soul, with TheKidBelo, Show & Tell Gallery, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • 2007: Brooklyn Mythology: The First Nations Cycle (with Thekidbelo), Axis Art, Calgary, Alberta, Canada


  • 2014: For the Time Being, Koki Arts, Tokyo, Japan
  • 2014: Fixation, Zhou B Art Center, Chicago, IL
  • 2014: MIA in MIA, Lyons Wier Gallery, New York, NY
  • 2014: Resurgence: Works from the Collection, Yeelen Gallery, Miami, FL
  • 2013: Round Zero, The Art Director's Club, New York, NY
  • 2013: Body Politic, The National Arts Club, New York, NY
  • 2013: From Motion to Stillness, Zhou B Art Center, Chicago, IL
  • 2012: Scope Miami 2012, Evan Lurie Gallery, Miami, FL
  • 2012: Toronto International Art Fair, Lyons Wier Gallery, Toronto, CA
  • 2012: The Box That Rocks, Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts, Brooklyn, NY
  • 2011: Pulse International Art Fair, Lyons Wier Gallery, Miami, FL
  • 2011: BP Portrait Awards Exhibition, National Portrait Gallery, London, UK
  • 2011: Here and Now, Lyons Wier Gallery, New York, NY
  • 2010: Pulse International Art Fair, Lyons Wier Gallery, Gallery, Miami, FL
  • 2010: BP Portrait Awards Exhibition, National Portrait Gallery, London, UK
  • 2010: The Gentrification of Brooklyn: The Pink Elephant Speaks, The Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts, Brooklyn, NY
  • 2009: BP Portrait Awards Exhibition, National Portrait Gallery, London, UK
  • 2008: BP Portrait Awards Exhibition, National Portrait Gallery, London, UK
  • 2007: Toronto International Art Fair, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • 2007: Fall Preview, Douglass Udell Gallery, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
  • 2007: Spring Show, Douglass Udell Gallery, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
  • 2006: BP Portrait Awards Exhibition, National Portrait Gallery, London, UK
  • 2005: BP Portrait Awards Exhibition, Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland
  • 2005: BP Portrait Awards Exhibition, National Portrait Gallery, London, UK
  • 2004: BP Portrait Awards Exhibition, National Portrait Gallery, London, UK
  • 2004: BP Portrait Awards Exhibition, Aberdeen Art Gallery, Aberdeen, Scotland
  • 2004: Commissioned/Non Commissioned, Chung-Cheng Gallery, St. John’s University, Queens, New York
  • 2004: BP Portrait Awards Exhibition, National Portrait Gallery, London, UK
  • 2003: After Matisse/Picasso, P.S.1/MoMA, Queens, NY




Folgar, Abel. “Tim Okamura’s Show ‘Love, Strength, & Soul’ is an Ode to African American Women.” 2 Dec. 2014. Société Perrier 14 Jan. 2015. <.http://www.societeperrier.com/us/miami/tim-okamuras-show-love-strength-soul-is-an-ode-to-african-american-women/>.

Schuller, Rae. “Tim Okamura.” Sept. 2014. Marker Magazine 14 Jan. 2015. <http://markermagazine.com/tim-okamura/>.

“Ribbon Rouge Together with: Tim Okamura!” 15 Nov. 2014. Ribbon Rouge 14 Jan. 2015. <https://web.archive.org/web/20150128164611/http://ribbonrouge.com/ribbon-rouge-together-tim-okamura/>.

“Tim Okamura Takes on Miami.” 1 Dec. 2014. Houston Museum of African American Culture 14 Jan. 2015. <https://web.archive.org/web/20150128114012/http://hmaacvoices.org/2014/12/01/tim-okamura-takes-on-miami/>.

Sibeudu, Chidinma. “Connected: Tim Okamura.” 25 June 2014. Vortex 247 12 Jan. 2015. <http://www.vortex247.com/lifestyle/art/connected-tim-okamura/>.

Hays, Jeanine. “Tim Okamura’s Soulful City Girls.” 4 Aug. 2014. Aphro Chic 12 Jan. 2015. <http://aphrochic.com/2014/08/04/tim-okamuras-soulful-city-girls/>.

Candy, Eye. “Tim Okamura-The Hair Renaissance.” 23 Jan. 2014. Afropunk 12 Jan. 2015. <https://web.archive.org/web/20150128114947/http://www.afropunk.com/profiles/blogs/tim-okamura-the-hair-renaissance-1>.

Caro. “Strength and Soul in New Works by Tim Okamura.” 7 Oct. 2014. Hi Fructose 12 Jan. 2015. <http://hifructose.com/2014/10/07/strength-and-soul-in-new-works-by-tim-okamura/>.

Tschida, Anne and Jane Wooldridge. “For Art Aficionados, a New Wynwood Emerges to the North.” 29 Nov. 2014. Miami Herald 12 Jan. 2015. <http://www.miamiherald.com/entertainment/visual-arts/art-basel/article4200990.html>.

“Momento: Tim Okamura Exhibition (w/ a muse).” 24 Feb. 2014. The Sound of Art 12 Jan. 2015. <https://web.archive.org/web/20150128132624/http://soalife.com/momento-tim-okamura-exhibitionw-a-muse/>.

Arroyo, Eddie. “Love, Strength, and Soul/Tim Okamura/Yeelen Gallery” 23 Nov. 2014. Art Is About… [Miami] 12 Jan. 2015. <http://artisabout.com/2014/11/23/love-strength-and-soul-tim-okamura-yeelen-gallery/>.

“Can’t Put Down the Brush: A Profile on Tim Okamura.” 26 Aug. 2014. Addmag 12 Jan. 2015. <https://archive.is/20150127010310/http://www.alwaysdoingdamage.com/color-spasm/lclgk2fbaql29bdc0592w8esjq0rxo>.

Jackson-Brown, Carter. “Love Strength & Soul: Tim Okamura’s Love, Strength & Soul at Yeelen Gallery.” 26 Dec. 2014. Tropicult 12 Jan. 2015. <http://tropicult.com/2014/12/tim-okamuras-love-strength-soul-at-yeelen-gallery/>.

“Art Basel Briefs.” 6 Dec. 2014. Pure Honey 12 Jan. 2015. <http://www.purehoneymagazine.com/art-basel-briefs/>.

“Tim Okamura: His Point of View.” 9 Feb. 2014. Visionary Artistry 14 Jan. 2015. <https://web.archive.org/web/20150128131912/http://visionaryartistrymag.com/2014/02/tim-okamura-his-point-of-view/>.


“Art Star. Tim Okamura.” 29 Oct. 2013. Superselected 14 Jan. 2015. <http://superselected.com/art-star-tim-okamura/>.

“Artist Talk/Depicted/Connected: Paintings by Tim Okamura.” 17 Oct. 2013. Popville [Washington, D.C.] 14 Jan. 2015. <https://web.archive.org/web/20150128113806/http://www.popville.com/event/artists-talk-depictedconnected-paintings-by-tim-okamura/>.

Rae, Haniya. “Heavyweight Paint.” 17 June 2013. Guernica 12 Jan. 2015. <https://www.guernicamag.com/art/heavyweight-paint/>.

“Q&A with Tim Okamura: A Painter with a Purpose.” 29 Aug. 2013. SVA.edu 12 Jan. 2015. <http://blog.sva.edu/2013/08/qa-with-tim-okamura-a-painter-with-a-purpose/>.

Estrada, Sheryl. “Painter Tim Okamura Offers an Urban Narrative in Two Exhibitions.” 10 Sept. 2013. Huffington Post 12 Jan. 2015. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sheryl-estrada/painter-tim-okamura-offer_b_3894320.html>.

“Depicted/Connected: Paintings by Tim Okamura.” 19 Sept. 2013. Art (202) 12 Jan. 2015. <https://web.archive.org/web/20160303224900/http://art202.com/2013/09/19/depictedconnected-paintings-by-tim-okamura/>.

Scott, Adriana. “A Conversation with Tim Okamura.” 10 Apr. 2013. Chaos Magazine 12 Jan. 2015. <https://web.archive.org/web/20150128113019/http://www.chaos-mag.com/a-conversation-with-tim-okamura/>.

Bellamy, Cliff. “Up Close and Life Size.” 14 Sept. 2013. The Herald Sun [Durham, North Carolina] 12 Jan. 2015. <http://www.heraldsun.com/chherald/x913948682/Up-close-and-life-size[permanent dead link]>.

Pendana, Sharon. “Tim Okmura.” 4 Oct. 2013. The Trove 12 Jan. 2015. <https://web.archive.org/web/20131008132533/http://inthetrove.com/bio/tim-okamura/>.

“Artist Spotlight: Tim Okamura.” 2013. 2dots.com 12 Jan. 2015. <https://web.archive.org/web/20150128133336/http://www.2dots.co/2013/06/Tim-Okamura.html>.


“Neighborhood Beat: Bushwick: Artist Tim Okamura, Hydroponic Farming at Boswyck Farms, Herbalist Anit Hora, Arepera Guacuco Restaurant.” 18 Oct. 2012. Brooklyn Independent Media. 12 Jan. 2015. <https://web.archive.org/web/20150128114632/http://bricartsmedia.org/events/neighborhood-beat-bushwick-artist-tim-okamura-hydroponic-farming-at-boswyck>.

Kearse, Stephen. “Exclusive Interview X Photos: The Heavyweight Painters talk Hip-Hop, Art and Boxing. Who Said Fine Art Wasn’t Cool?” 4 July 2012. RESPECT 14 Jan. 2015. <http://respect-mag.com/exclusive-interview-x-photos-the-heavyweight-painters-fuse-hip-hop-art-and-boxing-who-said-fine-art-wasnt-cool/>.

“Heavyweight Paint” 25 Oct. 2012. Heavyweight Paint 14 Jan. 2015. <http://heavyweightpaint.com/>.


Stelloh, Tim. “20 Years Later, Artists Apply Healing Touch to Crown Heights.” 26 Aug. 2011. The New York Times Blog. 12 Jan. 2015. <http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/26/20-years-later-artists-apply-healing-touch-to-crown-heights/?_r=0>.

Katz, Matthew. “New Exhibits to Kick of Chelsea Gallery Season.” 31 Aug. 2011. DNAinfo [New York] 12 Jan. 2015. <https://web.archive.org/web/20150128114654/http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20110831/chelsea-hells-kitchen/new-exhibits-kick-off-chelsea-gallery-season-next-week>.

Katz, Matthew. “Chelsea Exhibit to Highlight New York Women.” 30 Aug. 2011. DNAinfo [New York] 12 Jan. 2015. <https://web.archive.org/web/20150128113053/http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20110830/chelsea-hells-kitchen/chelsea-exhibit-highlight-new-york-women>.

Andrieux, Amy. “Tim Okamura: Realisms.” 2011. The Stark Life 12 Jan. 2015. <https://web.archive.org/web/20140416173805/http://www.thestarklife.com/2011/07/11/tim-okamura-realisms/>.

Quann, Cipriana. “Tim Okamura.” 06 Sept. 2011. Urban Bush Babes 12 Jan. 2015. <http://urbanbushbabes.com/tim-okamura/>.

Nabakooza, Kasalina Maliamu. “Interview with Artist Tim Okamura.” 4 Feb. 2011. Kasalina Maliamu Nabakooza. 12 Jan. 2015. <https://web.archive.org/web/20150128114004/https://kasalina.wordpress.com/2011/02/04/interview-with-artist-tim-okamura/>.

“African-American Women Through Eyes of Multiracial Artist.” 12 Sept. 2011. National Public Radio 12 Jan. 2015. <https://www.npr.org/2011/09/12/140401910/african-american-women-through-eyes-of-multiracial-artist>.

“Afro Art: Tim Okamura.” 2011. Rockin’ It Napptural 12 Jan. 2015. <http://www.rockitnapptural.com/2011/09/afro-art-tim-okamura.html>.

Cheney, Alexandra. “An Art Fair’s Singular Vision.” 5 Mar. 2011. Wall Street Journal 12 Jan. 2015. <https://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2011/03/05/an-art-fairs-singular-vision/>.

Wimberly, Dexter. “Tim Okamura.” NY Arts Magazine Spring 2011: 121.


Perkins, Dee. “Tim Okamura.” H.A.S. Magazine Jan. 2010: 32-35.

Lazarowitz, Elizabeth. “Psst! Gentrification! : Artists Dare to Discuss It.” New York Daily News 12 Jan. 2010: 4.

Menendez, Didi. “Tim Okamura.” Poets and Artists May 2010: 98-107.


Johnson, Mia. “Tim Okamura – Brooklyn Walls : hopechangedreams.” Preview Magazine June/July/Aug. 2009: 32.

Mansfield, Susan. “Art review : Treasured Places / BP Portrait Award 2008.” The Scotsman 2 Jan. 2009.


Grant, Andrea. “Interview with Tim Okamura.” 2008 Copius Magazine [New York] 12 Jan. 2015. <http://www.copiousmagazine.com/08_summer/art+photography/tim_okamura.html>.

Bouchard, Gilbert. “Urban Grit Inspires ‘Blue-Collar’ Portrait Artist.” The Edmonton Journal [Alberta] 27 June 2008: F10.

Gohill, Maya. “Tim Okamura & The Kidbelo.” Mosaic Magazine Winter 2008: 4-5.


Field, Liz. “From New York to Calgary: One Show Brings Two Artists Together.” The Weal 29 Nov. 2007: 1.

Vallantin, Candice. “Classically Urban.” Avenue Magazine [New York] Nov. 2007: 166.


Pfliger, Rebecca. “Tim Okamura: Guru of Graffiti.” The Gauntlet [Alberta] 25 May 2006: 8.

LaFortune, Wes. “TIM OKAMURA, Urban Portraits and Brooklyn Mythology, May 18–28, 2006, Axis Contemporary Art, Calgary.” 30 Apr. 2006 Calgary Galleries West Magazine 12 Jan. 2015. <http://www.gallerieswest.ca/art-reviews/exhibition-reviews/tim-okamura%2C-%22urban-portraits-and-brooklyn-mythology%2C%22-may-18-%E2%80%94-28%2C-2006%2C-axis-contemporary-art%2C-calgary/>.

Gudowska, Malwina. “Urban Legend.” Ego Magazine [Canada] May 2006: 133-141.

Gale, Iain. “You’ve Been Framed.” 8 Jan. 2006 The Scotsman 12 Jan. 2015. <http://www.scotsman.com/news/you-ve-been-framed-1-1407031>.


Nicholls, Liz. “Tim Okamura, Artist to the Stars.” The Edmonton Journal [Alberta] 29 Oct. 2005: E1.

Burroughs, Alexandra. “Calgarian Paints Way to Hollywood.” The Calgary Herald [Alberta] 28 Oct. 2005: C5.

Beeber, Al. “Artist is in His Prime.” The Lethbridge Herald [Alberta] 28 Oct. 2005: C8.


Lepage, Mark. “Edmonton’s Big-Screen Artist: Clients Include Eminem, Hollywood Blockbusters.” The Edmonton Journal [Alberta] 28 Mar. 2004: B1.


Boettcher, Shelley. “Albertan has Become a Painter to the Stars: Tim Okamura’s Art Appears in Several Major Films.” The Calgary Herald [Alberta] 30 Nov. 2003: D4.

Andrusky, Joanna. “Park Raised Artist Takes A Bite Off the Big Apple.” Sherwood Park News [Alberta] 17 Apr. 2003: 15-16.


Kemp, Courtney A. “Would Posing Nude Change Your Body Image?” Marie Claire Oct. 2002: 132-140.

LeManne, Michaelle. “September 2002: Raw Talent.” Avenue Magazine [New York] Sept. 2002: 21.


Sewell, Brian. “Blood is left on the Canvas.” Evening Standard [London] 13 July 2001: 26-27.

Packer, William. “Photo-Realism, Pure and Simple.” London Financial Times 30 June 2001: VI.


“Figurative and Portrait Show.” Greenpoint Gazette [New York] 24 Mar. 1999: 18.

Taube, Rob. “Building A Williamsburg Bridge.” The Brooklyn Skyline 16 Mar. 1999: 1-2.


Fenniak, Maureen. “Art of a Common Birth.” See Magazine 18–24 July 1996: 16.

Film (Artist: Paintings)

Okamura, Tim, artist: painting. Urge. Dir. Aaron Kaufman. Central Park Films, 2015.

Okamura, Tim, artist: painting. The Hottest State. Dir. James DeMonaco. THINKFilm, 2006.

Okamura, Tim, artist: painting. Prime. Dir. Ben Younger. Universal Pictures, 2005.

Okamura, Tim, artist: painting. Jersey Girl. Dir. Kevin Smith. Miramax, 2004.

Okamura, Tim, artist: painting. Just Another Story. Dir. GQ. Showtime Networks, 2003.

Okamura, Tim, artist: painting. School of Rock. Dir. Richard Linklater. Paramount Pictures, 2003.

Okamura, Tim, artist: painting and scenic painting. Pieces of April. Dir. Peter Hedges. United Artists, 2003.

Okamura, Tim, artist: painting. Unfaithful. Dir. Adrian Lyne. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, 2002.

Documentary (Artist: Subject of Documentary)

Okamura, Tim, artist. Heavyweight Paint. Dir. Jeff Martini. 2013. Music Video (Director)

Okamura, Tim, dir. “Won’t Lay Down.” Performed by Wonderkiss. 2014.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]