Ojay Tambio at Hotel Renew

Artist Ojay Tambio has what he describes as “creative attention deficit disorder.” From monochromatic prints to abstract sculptures and realist drawings, Tambio’s works make it hard to pigeon-hole his artistry as one defined style. A secondary art teacher at Kawananakoa Middle School, Tambio will be our next featured artist for our quarterly showing at Hotel Renew. We spoke with Tambio about his work:

Tell us about your progression as an artist?

I guess I started drawing at an early age, maybe when I was about 3 or 4. For some kids, they had toys. My mom just gave my brother and I some pens and pencils to keep ourselves busy. Drawing, more like doodling, became the daily norm in the Tambio household. I think reading and books came in second to pen, paper and pencils. It was definitely way more fun. No rules, no guidelines.

Then in elementary, I got into comic books, so naturally I drew superheroes of all sorts, especially the X-men. When you’re young, popular culture reigns. In middle school, I looked at graffiti and breakdancing, just abstractions of subway art from New York. It wasn’t until college where I found a style and an artist to my liking: Picasso and analytical cubism. At this point, I seriously absorbed everything about art, art history and the different types of media I can create from.

How would you describe the art that you do?

When I look back at some of my drawings, paintings, prints and sculptures, I would say it would be described as monochromatic / polychromatic / realist / abstract / cubist / non-objective / surrealistic. I like dealing with the idea of layers of colors, textures and images superimposed by bold lines that undulate. It’s hard to describe because I hate doing one thing or style. There are times where I love to remind myself that I can create in a realistic manner so I’ll do a portrait of a kid from my class, and on the other spectrum I do something whack and abstract. I suffer from creative attention deficit disorder.

Tell me about what it’s like to be an art teacher in these times when funding is being cut for both arts and education?

I’ve been teaching for 12 years now, amidst pay cuts and strikes, I love what I do. I’ll teach forever. It’s entertaining and humbling at the same time. Just seeing teachers do their thing day in and day out, doing so much for so little is inspiring. Also, seeing the economically and culturally disadvantaged kids succeed academically and socially. A lot of these students are really talented, far better than I was at their age for sure. They work hard and it shows in their artwork. Gives me chicken skin to see raw, natural talent at such a young age.

Three artists that inspire you?

Alex Ross for his photorealistic illustrations that he does for graphic novels; Pablo Picasso for his style, innovation and longevity; and Frank Gehry for his architecture.

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