Graffiti and Tiki, what a combination! Bobby Doran’s art, Graffitiki, combines elements of tiki with graffiti and a little bit of nostalgia thrown in for good measure. What makes Bobby’s art so special is that it pulls from the past, yet is still firmly planted in the present day. I could totally see Graffitiki painted on the sides of buildings just like Banksy work, but it’s tiki! Here is Bobby Doran’s story …
What’s the tiki scene like where you live?
Bobby- I grew up in Studio City, California, but live in Simi Valley now, which doesn’t have anything Tiki to offer, but I’m still within easy driving distance of Ventiki, Tonga Hut, Kahuna Tiki, TikiNo, Lono Hollywood, Damon’s, Tiki Ti and Pacific Seas. I’m also not too far from San Diego or Palm Springs, so the tiki bar options are plentiful if I’m willing to drive at least 30 minutes. I guess that’s a good reason to build my own home Tiki bar, that way I won’t have to drive anywhere and I can just escape in my own back yard.
What brought you into the ‘Tiki lifestyle’ and how long has it been part of your life?
Bobby- I’ve only allowed myself to fully embrace the Tiki lifestyle recently, but it’s been in my blood forever. I’m sure the high quality of the newer mugs had something to do with my renewed interest. Tikis have been popping up here and there in my artwork for my entire life. Our parents apparently threw a few luau themed parties in the early sixties.
There were always Japanese floats, fishing nets, shells, tiki torches and lava rocks by our pool. One of my siblings has a picture of Poncie Ponce, from the television show Hawaiian Eye, playing a ukulele during one of the luaus.
We also had a 3/4 scale western town that my father built in another area of the back yard. Not tiki, but it speaks to the creative atmosphere I grew up in. My earliest memory of my mother decorating my bedroom was a jungle theme. It included a tiki, jungle animal wallpaper, tree stump, and a complete (real) zebra skin on the wall. When I was a teen I remember throwing a luau in my backyard and my mother, who worked at Warner Bros, had the prop department deliver a bunch of tikis to the house. A few of them were well over 6 feet tall. The greens department also gave her a bunch of banana leaves for the food tables. I can faintly remember going to a few classic beachcomber like places when I was really little. I’m not sure which ones they were though. I’m basically an old soul and will always love anything nostalgic.
How would you describe your artwork?
Bobby- My “Graffitiki” artwork is a mash up of urban, graffiti style artwork and tiki. I’ve referred to it as Urban Primitive a few times. Mixed media mostly, with a lot of use of spray-paint. I absolutely love all of the popular tiki artists and deliberately wanted to do something completely different. Sort of a “tiki adjacent” approach. I’ve also carved a few wooden tikis, oars, clubs and masks. Plus, I’ve started making tiki mugs. Sculpting, molding, casting and glazing. I’m still just learning, but man it’s a lot of work and I am so very impressed by all those mug makers. Of course, Graffitiki is just one of my art styles and I never know what I will play with next.
Can you give a little history of how you became an artist?
Bobby– I remember getting some praise from my second-grade teacher after I completed a drawing of some flowers, Mrs. Porter was her name, and that set me on a lifelong path of creating. When I was little I wanted to be an architect when I grew up, then I wanted to design album covers, then I wanted to be a fashion photographer, and then something else, and then something else … and then I got old and realized that I’ve played with almost every form of art over the years. Everything from painting and sculpting to fashion design, landscape and graphic design, to photography, script writing, product design and game design. My current day job mostly involves designing, fabricating, sculpting and painting models and props, along with an amazingly talented team, for the television and motion picture industry.
Who or what would be some of your influences?
Bobby- My art influences are so numerous. I guess that’s another reason I’ve never been too consistent with my art style. Going way back I remember being inspired by Mucha, Da Vinci, and Maxfield Parrish. Then came the album cover years and art by Moebius, Kelley and Mouse, Boris Vallejo, Frank Frazetta, Roger Dean. Next up was probably Patrick Nagel, Eyvind Earle and Antonio. The more recent art influences, and most related to Graffitiki, are the street artists like Herakut and yes, even Banksy. As you can see, I’m all over the place! I can find something to influence me in any piece of artwork. Of course, those are just the art influences. If we are talking about cultural influences, I guess I would need to include old Hollywood, the Rat Pack, Jimmy Stewart, The Marx Brothers, Elvis, Saturday Morning cartoons, cowboy movies, rock and roll and … this list could get way too long! Like I said before, I love nostalgia. I’ve also always felt a close connection to John Wayne, Probably because my Mother and Father met on the set of the film Rio Bravo and John Wayne convinced them to go out for Bullshots. My middle name is Wayne in his honor.
What is your favorite Tiki drink? Why?
Bobby- Mai Tai is definitely my go to. I can get a good feel for the Tiki Bar and the Bartender through their Mai Tai. Next on the list might be the Painkiller or maybe a Zombie. It really depends on the mood, the bar, the time of night and even the mug I’m using. I really like all of the popular tiki drinks. I also love creating my own craft cocktails at home, where I can go a bit crazy and make a few mistakes.
What is your favorite Tiki bar?
Bobby- I love the dust and depth of a bar like Tiki Ti and the darkness and warmth of a bar like Tonga Hut (North Hollywood), but I really love what they’ve done at Clifton’s Pacific Seas. The decor is my favorite aspect of a Tiki bar and theirs is top notch. I also love me some Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar. Not only am I a huge Disney fan, but I love a good story, and Trader Sam’s certainly tells a story.
What does the future hold for you?
Bobby- I’m currently building my home “Tiki Lair” in our backyard, called “The Ruins of Rowado”. Actually, the entire name is “Pretty Monkey Bar in Shanghai Charlotte’s and Lola’s Lanai at the Ruins of Rowado.” We had to come up with a name that included all of the immediate family members. There will be a free standing 200 square foot adventure bar with lots of Tiki elements like a flying A entrance, but it will also have one side that looks like something out of New Orleans. The bar will open up to a large lanai with ruins surrounding it, The remains of a sugar mill tower, a large grotto with secret tunnels, a couple of waterfalls and a large koi pond. Plus, we will have all sorts of lighting and sound effects inside and all around the complex. There will be a lot of secrets to discover.
The first mugs I created are the Ruins of Rowado mugs and I’m currently casting the Lola’s Lanai mugs. Next up will be the Pretty Monkey bar mug and then Shanghai Charlotte’s. Eventually four different Mai Tai glass designs will also be introduced. Visitors will have a lot of opportunities to go home with some sort of treasure
Anything else you would like to add?
Bobby- I have lots of creative ideas for the future of Tiki. New products, images and styles that some might think are crazy, but I think will enhance more than detract. You need to keep a weather eye open cause you never know what’s over the horizon.
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