Kamea Hadar is a prominent local artist best known for his traditional portraiture, moving from the canvas to jaw-dropping murals and installations throughout the globe. We recently caught up with Kamea for a Q & A session where he answered our burning questions about what inspires his art, his favorite places on Oahu and what a day in the life of the artist looks like. Check out our Q & A below!
What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?
I change my son’s diaper and give him his morning bottle. #parentlife! After that its glass of water and make coffee.
What artist/album are you listening to these days
I listen to a LOT of different music. Local/Reggae favorites are The Green, Common Kings and J Boog. Been loving Run the Jewels recently but all-time favorite is Rage Against the Machine.
What’s your story? How did art become part of your life?
All kids start off drawing and coloring, I just never grew out of it. I cant remember a time when I wasn’t involved in creating art. My family saw an interest and talent for it when I was really young so they organized tutors, academies, projects, etc.
You’re the co-director of Pow!Wow! Hawaii. How did the festival come about, and how has it evolved over the last 10 years?
Jasper Wong and I both went to Kalani High School. He did the first POW! WOW! in a small gallery in Hong Kong. It was a small group show that allowed the public to come and watch the artists paint during the week leading up to the opening of the show. The show had two founding principles: collaboration and process. The next year he came to Hawaii and asked if I wanted to help put on a similar show in Hawaii. We organized the gallery show painting oversized canvases. On the last night of the week the artists started to paint on the wall in the parking lot of the gallery so we decided to try to get a few more walls for the following year. That is how POW! WOW! accidentally became a mural festival.
As a father of two young kids, how does family play a role in your work? What do you want to instill in the next generation?
I want to leave this world a more beautiful place than I found it. I am trying to do that by creating communities and industry here in Hawaii and around the world, physically creating art and by raising my kids to have the same mentality. My family and my kids are why I do what I do.
What inspires you?
Outside of my family I would say that a lot of my inspiration comes from my home Hawaii as well as the people in my life (that many times find their way into my paintings).
What would you say to an aspiring artist?
The life of an artist is one of self-employment, self-motivation, and self-discipline. Being a creative does not excuse you from being driven and professional. Nobody will give it to you, you have to go out there and get it.
What does a perfect day look like?
I have many different perfect days. Weekdays are mornings with the kids, getting painting and work done throughout the day, exercise in the early evenings and a little bit of tv to end the evening. Same goes when I'm painting murals but usually at the end of a day like that I don’t have the energy to exercise. For days when I'm not painting its spending time with the kids, wife and/or friends in the ocean surfing, fishing or diving.
What is your favorite failure?
Recently I painted a mural with Jeff Gress on the Atlas Building on King Street. It was a voter registration mural and had the words “Vote! You Run 808”. The mural was non-partisan. Its sparked so much controversy and it was really interesting (and many times funny) the whacky conclusions that different people and groups would draw. Nobody could believe that it was as simple a message as it looked: please Hawaii, go out there and vote! The power is in your hands! In the end I was forced to take the mural down after only 4 days but I was happy that it started a conversation.
Do you have a favorite project or piece you’ve done?
My opinion is constantly changing and evolving so work that is successful never lasts as a favorite for very long. Anytime I see old work I see how I can improve on it and how far Ive come or how Ive changed directions since then. With that being said I do have some works that are special to me less because of the content of the piece and more because of the experience I had while painting them. My painting of my wife’s face next to Mother Waldron Park and UFC gym back in 2013 with my friend Rone was one of the first times I went big and when I had that “Aha!” moment where I realized I could go as big as I wanted. It rained as we finished the piece and a rainbow formed above. Also, my portrait of President Obama was interrupted one day by a call from my wife that my daughter Nova was going to be born. I rushed to the hospital covered in paint and came back a week later to finish the painting.
What’s your “holy grail” wall to paint?
I have a few walls that I have had my eyes on but basically it boils down to walls that are the biggest, have the most eyes on them (maybe next to a freeway for example) and with as little windows and other obstructions as possible.
What are your favorite places on Oahu?
I grew up in Niu Valley so here and the surrounding valleys Aina Haina and Kuliouou, along with Maunalua Bay are my home.
When the world opens back up, where is the first place you want to travel to?
My wife and I love to travel in Europe. I’m sure we will be heading in that direction when things open up.