Tim Okamura

Tim Okamura

Tim Okamura (born in Edmonton, Canada in 1968) 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, Canada before moving to New York city to attend the School of Visual Arts. 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, 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 it’s 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 prtraits 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


*2006: Urban Portraits + Brooklyn Mythology, Axis Art, Calgary, 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

*2007: Brooklyn Mythology: The First Nations Cycle (with Thekidbelo), Axis Art, Calgary, 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


Pfliger, Rebecca. “Tim Okamura: Guru of Graffiti.” The Gauntlet, May 25th, 2006, Entertainment, p.8.

LaFortune, Wes. “Tim Okamura, Urban Portraits and Brooklyn Mythology. May 18 – 28th, 2006.” GalleriesWest Magazine. May 2006. www.gallerieswest.ca/Departments/ExhibitionReviews

Gudowska, Malwina. “Urban Legend.” Ego Magazine, May 2006, pp. 133-141.

Nicholls, Liz. “Tim Okamura, Artist to the Stars.” The Edmonton Journal, October 29th, 2005, Culture, p. E1/front.

Burroughs, Alexandra. “Calgarian Paints Way to Hollywood.” The Calgary Herald, October 28th, 2005, Entertainment, p.C5.

Beeber, Al. “Artist is in His Prime.” The Lethbridge Herald, October 28th, 2005, Entertainment, p.C8.

Tomek, Joelle. “From Broadmoor to Brooklyn: Local Artist’s Work Featured in Prime.” Strathcona County This Week, front page.

Lepage, Mark. “Edmonton’s Big-Screen Artist: Clients Include Eminem, Hollywood Blockbusters.” The Edmonton Journal, March 28th, 2004, Culture, p. B1/front.

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

Andrusky, Joanna. “Park Raised Artist Takes A Bite Off the Big Apple.” Sherwood Park News/This Week, April 17th, 2003, pp. 15-16.

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

LeManne, Michaelle. “September 2002: Raw Talent.” Avenue Magazine, September 2002, p. 21.

Sewell, Brian. “Gallery Pot-shots Leave Blood on the Canvas.” Evening Standard, July 13, 2001, pp. 26-27.

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

__________. “Figurative and Portrait Show.” Greenpoint Gazette, March 24, 1999, p.18.

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

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

External links


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