"Art is music. Nobody tells you what you like, you just know? Right? It's kind of like love, you know? Roy Tabora is sitting there, on the sofa in an air-conditioned corner of a Lahaina gallery, talking, complete with hand gestures and his big smile. He is an engaging conversationalist. "Art is not one of those things that you can compartmentalize, you just don't approach it in a practical way. Unless you are pressed for why, then you try to explain it but to yourself, you don't. You just try and enjoy the moment, right?"
Roy Tabora is a third generation artist but says that the way he paints now is quite different from the way he was guided. His grandfather and uncles had the talent, the ability and a desire strong enough to do what they had to do to survive. His family became artists out of necessity. There was no definitive structure as to how or why they became artists, they were just trying to survive.
Rythmic Dance by Roy Tabora
Kralik- The more I learn the clearer is my understanding that representational painting was surviving in little pockets all over the place. It did not just come down from Gerome or the Italians or the Russian School or whatever. Somebody went to Rome and said wow and bought some paint and went back home and started doing it.
Tabora- I bet you that is more true than people give it credit for. The instinct to carry on, whether you got a family to feed or whatever, if you have that internal drive you will find a way. My family did billboards, painted them by hand, not just pasting up some posters, no no no, they did large scale, measured it out and did it by hand. They had this ability and it needed to be done, you know, baby needs new shoes, come on, lets do it! Plus you want to do well because you want another job like that so you put your best effort in there. It is all in the mix.
Tabora- That early connection with the artists in my family was sort of short lived because my immediate family moved to Guam. I started when I was 6, which is an age where you are not really going to develop any sort of skill but, the fire was lit and I was very inspired and I was able to identify with being an artist without really knowing what that is. It was just someone who draws and paints. I had no experience of the artists life, of how it really is. I was a child. I wasn't in the business or any of that, I was just in it to explore whatever curiosity I had. I was doing everything. My family was more traditional back in the Philippines but Guam is a US territory so suddenly my mind was opened up to all sorts of things. I was curious and I always ended up being the artist of the class and that just threw more gasoline on the fire! I was picking up techniques and living on a tropical island, the scenery was a curious thing so it perpetuated itself. Then, when it was time to go to college I came through Hawaii in 1975. I came back in 77 and have been living here ever since. I just felt that this was the place I had to be, it just felt right. It felt home,
I didn't do any research or have a plan other than I just knew that there was nothing I would rather do and it was as simple as that.
Tabora- A lot of people tell me that they or their kid is leaning toward art. There is a practical approach to art and then there is the other. I talk about this in my new book, I want to make sure that they know it is very hard. It is difficult and therein lies the importance of being passionate about it because I believe that is your fuel. You are going to run into so many dead ends, in all different varieties whether it is trying to improve upon your skill or opportunities that you want to have available to you or people that you meet who do not always have your best interest in mind, all of those things.
I never had a plan B. All the eggs in one basket! It is a JUMP! It is a commitment.
Kralik- Did you ever wrestle with what style to go with?
Tabora- Yes. That is part of the checklist. If you are going to be an artist you have to address the style and I got caught up in all of that but somewhere, and I don't know when that happened. I abandoned that mindset. When you look at what is trending, and you look at it like that, from a business standpoint, but being honest, I know that I did not want to work that way so eventually I just listened to my natural inclination. I was following my wiring.
I committed to my wiring instead of working outside of myself. I just liked the realistic look. I started out with that and then got to be more expressive with emotions and fudged the realism a little in order to accomplish the goal of making someone REALLY feel this. I saturate the colors, pump it up a little bit, more drama in the composition, but there is still all the references of those who have gone before. So, I abandoned that thought of establishing a style. You have to be excited about what you are doing. If you are not, if you are not sold. If you are following another matrix to get that, it is not natural. If it is outside yourself the chances that you will abandon the project is really great.
Tabora- As much as we cannot deny the business aspect of what we are doing now, we can think back to the time when there wasn't any money in it. We still did it and finally the money caught up. That is one of the things that grandpa taught us, and I didn't understand it until later, "Don't chase the money. Let the money chase you. "
Tabora- Painting from the heart is most important. It is scary but that is part of what adds to it. Love is it's own thing, it survives. Things out there, trends can morph you and I certainly sampled a few of them in the 70's but I kept coming back to love, good old fashioned love, right? No matter what everybody else was doing. If you are a trendy artist you better have the next thing lined up because the clock is ticking on this work. Classics are classics for a reason. They transcend time. That is something everybody can relate to. You do not have to rely on the marketing guy's take on it for you to appreciate it. You can see it for yourself. There is something in it that you are going to gravitate to if you are a human being. Without any preparation from anybody, you can appreciate this. The marketing guy can sway the population away from that for a little while but you cannot deny your wiring. That is what people need to come back to.
Diamond Head Gallery, Lahaina, Hawaii
Tabora's facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TaboraArtGallery