Tim Okamura

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Tim Okamura in his studio Tim in Studio July 15 Begin Transmission websize.jpg
Tim Okamura in his studio

Tim Okamura (born 1968 in Edmonton, Alberta) is a Japanese Canadian artist known for his contemporary realist portraits that combine graffiti and realism. His work has been on the cover of Time Magazine and has been featured in several major motion pictures. Okamura's paintings are featured in major permanent collections around the world such as London's National Portrait Gallery and Washington DC'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 classmates and professors as one of the most gifted alumni ACAD had seen. After graduating from SVA in 1993 with an M.F.A. in Illustration as Visual Journalism, Okamura moved to Brooklyn, New York, where he still resides.

Okamura has had several solo exhibitions in New York and Canada. His work has been shown in several prominent group exhibitions, including After Matisse/Picasso at the MOMA PS.1 in Queens, New York, as well as the BP Portrait Awards Exhibition at London's National Portrait Gallery. Okamura was invited to The White House in 2015 to honor artists whose work addresses issues of social justice, and received a letter of commendation from President Joe Biden. His 2020 portrait of Toni Morrison was chosen for the cover of Time Magazine and his portrait of Dr. Anthony Fauci was acquired by the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. In 2021, the New York Historical Society acquired his 2021 painting Nurse Tracey, which was featured in the exhibition Dreaming Together.

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, Beaverbrook Public Art Gallery, The New York Historical Society, The National Portrait Gallery, The Hotel Arts in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and Standard Chartered Bank in London, England. It is also featured in the private collections of Uma Thurman, Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson (The Roots), Spike Lee, John Mellencamp, Ben Younger, and actors Bryan Greenberg, Vanessa Marcil, Annabella Sciorra and Ethan Hawke.

Rosie No. 1, 2016, oil on canvas, 36 x 48" Rosie No.1 web.jpg
Rosie No. 1, 2016, oil on canvas, 36 x 48"


Tim Okamura investigates identity, the urban environment, metaphor, and cultural iconography through a unique method of painting. Urban life and hip-hop has greatly influenced Okamura's subject matter in his paintings - he often 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 set in contemporary urban environments. The juxtaposition of the rawness and urgency of street art and academic ideals has created a visual language that acknowledges a traditional form of story-telling through portraiture, while infusing the work with resonant contemporary motifs.

Notable exhibitions







"O'Ree to be honored with portrait in New Brunswick hometown Wednesday" 01 January 2023 NHL https://www.nhl.com/news/willie-oree-to-be-honored-with-portrait-in-hometown-of-new-brunswick/c-340023474


"Set Against a Backdrop of World Events, Tim Okamura’s Bold Portraits Emanate Commanding Energy" 07 July 2022 https://www.thisiscolossal.com/2022/07/tim-okamura-portraits/


"Painting Bravery: A portrait artist tries to capture the remarkable spirit of nurses on the front lines of the pandemic" 02 June 2021 The Washington Post https://www.washingtonpost.com/magazine/2021/06/02/painting-nurses-height-pandemic-portrait-artist-learns-what-it-is-depict-bravery/

"Curator Confidential: Explore Our New Acquisition "Nurse Tracey" 17 July 2021. New York Historical Society. https://www.nyhistory.org/programs/curator-confidential-explore-new-acquisition-nurse-tracey


Hamilton, Darrick. Zewde, Naomi. "Truth and Redistribution: How to Fix the Racial Wealth Gap, End Plutocracy, and Build Black Power." 26 Aug. 2020. Yes Magazine 27 Nov. 2020. <https://www.yesmagazine.org/issue/black-lives/2020/08/26/racial-wealth-gap-black-power/>

"5 Stages of COVID-19: Canadian Painter Goes From Pandemic Denial to Appreciating It's Heroes." 8 Sep. 2020. CBC News 27 Nov. 2020. <https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/tim-okamura-covid-19-painter-1.5713535>

Black, Morgan. "Edmonton-raised Artist Tim Okamura Creates Portrait Series Honouring Health-care Workers." 16 Nov. 2020. Global News 27 Nov. 2020. <https://globalnews.ca/news/7465371/tim-okamura-covid-19-healthcare-workers-portrait-series/>

Barnes, Sara. "Dynamic Paintings Fuse Realism with Rawness to Depict Empowering Portraits of Women." 17 Feb 2020. My Modern Met 27 Nov. 2020. <https://mymodernmet.com/tim-okamura-portrait-painting/>

Waithe, Lena. "Toni Morrison- 100 Women of the Year." 5 Mar. 2020. TIME Magazine 27 Nov. 2020. <https://time.com/5793725/toni-morrison-100-women-of-the-year/>

Sparks, Cassidy. "Artwork from Jack Daniel's Art Beats + Lyrics." 19 Jan 2020. Rolling Out 27 Nov. 2020. <https://rollingout.com/2020/01/18/artwork-from-atlantas-jack-daniels-atlanta-art-beats-and-lyrics/>

Barylski, Nicole. "New York Academy of Art's 2020 Hamptons Exhibition to Reflect Upon the Past and Look Towards the Future." 22 Jul. 2020. Hamptons.com 27 Nov 2020. <https://www.hamptons.com/mobile/The-Arts/In-the-Galleries/26735/New-York-Academy-Of-Arts-2020-Hamptons.html#.X8F9fV57nUJ>


Ebert, Grace. "Striking Portraits Featuring Powerful Women of Color Painted by Artist Tim Okamura." 23 Dec 2019. Colossal 27 Nov. 2020 <https://www.thisiscolossal.com/2019/12/tim-okamura-portraits-women/>

Metzger, Andy. "The Art of Family Re-unification." 10 Oct. 2019. CommonWealth Journal 27 Nov. 2020. <https://commonwealthmagazine.org/arts-and-culture/the-art-of-family-reunification/>


Griwkowsky, Fish. "EIFF Opening-night film features ex-Edmonton Painter." 29 Sep. 2016. Edmonton Journal 27 Nov. 2020 <https://edmontonjournal.com/entertainment/eiff-opening-night-film-features-ex-edmonton-painter>


Kiryango, Tracy. "Meet Tim Okamura- An Artist Finding Inspiration in Everyday New Yorkers." 26 Nov 2015. Express Newspapers UK 27 Nov. 2020. <https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/622364/Tim-Okamura-artist-streets-US>


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.today/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. <>.

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/>.




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 Copious 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

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