CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL /
ILLUSTRATION: KIP AOKI /
The Taboras pose proudly at Tabora Gallery in Waikiki. Roy, top right, shares his artistic success with, clockwise, daughters Remy, 9, and Raleigh, 5, and wife Christine.
Brush with destiny
An artistic legacy started by relatives continues with Roy Gonzalez Tabora
Roy Gonzalez Tabora had one dream growing up: to become an artist, following in the footsteps of his uncle Rick Gonzalez and grandfather Felix Gonzalez. "Everything I did channeled me in that direction," he said.
» Place: Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach, 2335 Kalakaua Ave.
» When: 7 to 11 p.m. Friday
» Admission: Free
» Call: 922-5400
Although Tabora's father, an architect, questioned his choice of career, one often preceded by the adjective "starving," Tabora knew that art was his destiny. He spent long days with his grandfather and uncle.
"I was fascinated by the way they made things come to life. My Uncle Rick really lit a fire in me," he said. "They were always broke, but that didn't seem to matter. They were fun people to be around. It was wonderful to grow up in that environment."
As his uncle's apprentice, Tabora swept floors, washed paintbrushes and prepped painting materials while learning the tricks of the trade.
Passion was much more important than money to Tabora, but financial security did come. He is now recognized as one of the world's leading seascape artists, with galleries in Haleiwa, the Hilton Hawaiian Village and, now, the Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach, the site of a grand-opening celebration Friday.
"It didn't come easy," Tabora said, "but it was the right road, no matter how bumpy it might have been."
Tabora's grandfather was a realist painter who created portraits and figure paintings.
"He worked at the palace in the Philippines and did a lot of portraits for dignitaries. My uncle did the same thing," Tabora said.
Rick Gonzalez was commissioned by Phyllis Diller to paint a portrait of fellow comedian Bob Hope. Felix Gonzalez painted many portraits of world leaders and icons for Life magazine, including Winston Churchill, former U.S. Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy, and Princess Michiko of Japan.
Both his uncle and grandfather have died, but their artistic legacy survives through the extended Tabora family. Tabora's wife, Christine, helps run his galleries. Tabora's cousins Rino and Rudolf Gonzalez are among the galleries' featured artists.
CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL /
Roy Tabora's mother, Rose, says she admires art but is not interested in creating it. Her father, Felix, painted portraits of world leaders and icons, including John F. and Jacqueline Kennedy.
Christine is following in the footsteps of her mother-in-law -- Tabora's mother, Rose -- who ran galleries in Manila and Guam.
Rose said she admires art but is not interested in the creative process.
"I'm just a good critic. My dad (Felix) was an artist. He would send for me when something was wrong with his painting."
Hawaii's tropical shorelines continue to provide a good source of inspiration for Tabora. He begins with a wash of turpentine and color. Using oils, he underpaints the image before applying five to 10 coats of colors. Each layer builds luminosity, and his highlights and glazes complete the painting.
Tabora says his one mistake was his "tunnel vision" in art classes, as he subconsciously rejected information he believed he would never use.
"I encourage students to take everything and sort it out later. ... Listen and absorb advice."
The beginning of his own career "was not phenomenal," Tabora said. "Passion is the key. ... You need to hang in there and find your way. You are bound to get better if you work on something long enough."
The spikes make the effort worthwhile.
"I went to bed one way and woke up another. All that I learned seemed to have come together. My work wasn't a masterpiece, but it was definitely different -- it was progressing."
Tabora recently turned 50 and admits there is not enough time to learn everything.
"The fun part is discovering something that clears up an image in your head. There are always simpler techniques to learn. It never gets boring."
Tabora's 9-year-old daughter, Remy, also aspires to become an artist.
"My friend and I are planning to travel around the world and set up galleries," she said. "I want to sculpt and be different from my dad. I like making horses out of clay."
Tabora's youngest daughter, Raleigh, now 5, is also turning out to be an the artist. One of her drawings was so well done that her teacher thought she had traced it.
"Both of the girls have won awards for their art," Christine said.
Tabora said he would be happy if his girls chose to be artists, but essentially he wants them "to wake up in the morning and be happy with what is in front of them. We just want them to make some kind of difference."