Natural Intuition For Art And Teaching

A few tools of the trade

A few tools of the trade

Wailua artist Fred Tangalin loves to share his talent and his work, which is currently on view in a solo exhibit at Pu’uwai Hao Kila Gallery

Nature dances in Fred Tangalin’s paintings. His brush strokes have a way of capturing the sound of the wind, the movement of the ocean and the sight of lights flickering across leaves.

“Art is the only thing I’m good at. It’s my gift, my instinct,” he says during an interview at his studio in Wailua. “This is what I was put here to do.”

For Tangalin, art isn’t about fame or fortune.

“It’s not about the money,” he says. “It’s about getting in touch with your spirit.”

Tangalin paints using his intuition.

“I can’t even explain it, I just have to accept it,” he says regarding his innate ability to paint. “Real art has to do with getting in touch with your heart; trusting your intuition.”

Tangalin realized his artistic talent when he was just 5 years old.

“All the other kids were making stick figures and I was drawing geometrical shapes,” he says.

Rather than simply copying a horse, Tangalin would use shapes like rectangles and circles to create the animal.

Academically, however, Tangalin admits he was “no good.”

“I was always looking out the window wondering why I’m here,” he recalls.

His artwork allowed him to gain focus and also attracted the attention of others who constantly praised his work.

“I got a lot of attention whenever I was painting,” he says.

Though he held many different jobs throughout his life, such as tree trimming, Tangalin’s full-time passion was always art. He met his one-and-only teacher and mentor, Leonard Herbert, some 30 years ago.

Fred Tangalin at work in his studio | Coco ZIckos photos

Fred Tangalin at work in his studio | Coco ZIckos photos

“He steered me in the right direction,” notes Tangalin.

When they first met, Tangalin showed Herbert a painting he had completed of a tree, inquiring about whether he had the professional chops. The retired art professor told Tangalin he believed he had the talent, but urged him to be sure he wasn’t doing it just for money.

“He told me that if you really want to strike a chord in people’s hearts when they look at your painting, and you want your paintings to stand the test of time, start working and we’ll talk about it,” says Tangalin.

Not only did Tangalin learn about the importance of structure in paintings – edges, colors and textures – he discovered how to follow his heart.

“If it wasn’t for him, I’d be off on a different track,”

Tangalin says of Herbert.

After his mentor passed away, Tangalin garnered the courage to become the full-time artist he is today.

“I’m a late bloomer – I feel like I’m just starting to bloom,” he says.

Tangalin currently sells his paintings – which reflect many scenes and subjects from Kaua’i, including the plantation lifestyle of his youth – in various galleries across the island, and he also teaches classes at his Eastside workshop.

“My students are my inspiration and they give me courage,” says Tangalin, who with wife Carol has one daughter, Natalia.

Diane Wry has been taking oil painting classes from Tangalin once a week for approximately two years.

“He’s the best teacher ever. He doesn’t hold back, he’s 100 percent,” she says.

When asked what she enjoys most about his classes, Wry says, “You learn about finding yourself and your passion.”

Realizing his own devotion to art and sharing it with others has been one of the most fulfilling aspects of Tangalin’s life.

“It’s the realization of knowing what you’re here for and being the best you can be,” he says. “And the rewards are the frosting on the cake.”

Tangalin currently has a solo exhibit titled “Nostalgia” at Pu’uwai Hao Kila Gallery at 3801 Hanapepe Road. Call Veronica at 652-8886 or email for more information.