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Who is Tai?

Tai Taeoalii

"Deep and darkly whimsical, Tai’s intricately detailed drawings envision an alternate universe in its post-apocalyptic throes. His world is inhabited by a menagerie of black-and-white beasts: warthogs, giraffes, crocodiles, bats, monkeys, mammoths and aliens. Tai’s animalistic art is avant-garde yet accessible and delightfully disturbing. Skulls, guns and gas masks on rabbits reflect the angst-ridden ethos of the modern era. Anarchy looms. Images comment on war, industry and environmental degradation through the peaceful strokes of an artist." - Fort Worth Magazine

Artist Statement

I'm an American/Samoan artist creating works with inspiration fueled by music and the nostalgic memories of my turbulent teenage years. I’ve utilized decades of self-taught techniques, cultivated from urban doctrines, in an effort to create art that evokes an honest & hopefully profound emotional experience. My creative process spawns from an organic and authentic subconscious journey and my creations manifest more by virtue of my own self-evaluation and less of propagating my ideology.


In the early 80’s, growing up bi-racial in a predominantly white suburb of Salt Lake City, Utah, Tai was primed to self-identify as an outcast. Tormented with cultural identity angst at such a young age, he was fortunate to discover that the arts were a perfect way to express his frustrations. Through his artistic explorations he realized his auto-didactic ability, which evolved into experimentation with nearly every type of art-form, including graffiti and tattoo work, but no medium has captured and retained his affections as strongly as drawing with a ballpoint pen, so that has been his central focus for most of his artistic career.

His persistent drive to provide thought-provoking content has helped to develop a dedicated following of over half-a-million members on Facebook and Instagram and played a critical role in his international success, helping to sell thousands of his original artworks worldwide. For over a decade he has toured the globe with his wife and two children, demonstrating the versatility of ballpoint pen through the trafficking of his artwork at galleries, museums and art fairs. 

At the hands of the Covid-19 pandemic, Tai's travel and show schedule was completely wiped out. He utilized the time off to finish a nearly 7-year total rehab project, turning an 1851 pre-civil war home into his own studio/gallery in America’s hometown of Hannibal, Missouri. He included an apartment above the gallery as a rentable Air BNB space for his collectors visiting from out of town. With pandemic shutdowns, physical galleries that carry Tai's work across the world, were forced to close, prompting him to develop new hustles, including remote drawing classes for his audience (#DrinkAndDrawWithTai) and he has also recently launched a podcast/YouTube web series called #DOD45 (Drawing Over Discussions) where he interviews special guests for 45 minutes while drawing a picture for them. Past guests have included Sage Francis, Ceschi, Mr. Dibbs & Slug of Atmosphere.

Frequently Asked Questions

A: My inspiration derives from music and the nostalgic memories of my turbulent teenage years. I’ve experimented with all kinds of art-forms including painting, tattoo, graffiti, music and film, but none of them have captured and retained my affections as strongly as the standard ballpoint pen has for over 30 years. Really, my style was cultivated from a mix of urban doctrines and an appetite for authenticity and abnormality.

A: Influence of my actual work ethic came from my father, but artistically Salvador Dali always inspired me. His work was my earliest influence. Even as a young kid I remember being stoked to see an artist consistently creating “outside of the box” art. As I got older my inspiration came more from people and their qualities as a person rather than their abilities as an artist. I’ve always appreciated people who are willing to explore, regardless of the outcome.

A: When I'm drawing, I prefer listening to instrumental-based bands, preferably something that has a cello. I've really been listening to a lot of Southern Gothic while I'm working, but I always have Silver Mt. Zion, Godpeed! You Black Emperor, Jack White, Hail Mary Mallon, and Bon Iver in my 'Drawing' playlist.

A: I enjoy creating album covers on occasion. I don't have a set price, but I'm fair. I usually charge a price for the design, and then a separate price for exclusive rights to the design. Most bands opt for just the design and that is usually sufficient. On a couple of occasions, after the band gained traction and became more popular and were making more money, they came back and bought the exclusive rights, which I'm okay with doing as well. If you're definitely interested in an album cover design, forward me some music and your album title. Most importantly, I've got to be inspired by the music in some way....after hearing the music, we can go from there.

A: I am honored that you consider me for your design, but I gracefully decline every time. Mostly because it doesn't service my style well. My drawing is very organic and self-evaluative. My work gets it's value from my pace & my experiences. Drawing an idea for someone, looses all of that, and unfortunately creating for someone else is not a skill I possess. I really am honored that you'd tattoo yourself with my work and you're more than welcome to get any of my other pieces tattooed. You're also free to forward me your ideas and if I subconsciously start drawing from the ideas at some point, you can use that. Sorry to disappoint.

A: Without art, we'd be a society of primates throwing feces at one another

A: Authentic, passion driven art. Work that makes you feel. I see a lot of that kind of work come from self-taught artists, i.e. street artists.

A: Working with a ballpoint pen is my absolute favorite. I'm really able to dive all the way in mentally, and I really like being able to do that.

A: Probably the most inspirational artist for me was Salvador Dali, but I'm currently really enjoying the artwork ofHerakut.

A: It's the only thing that I do that makes me feel real, rooted & in perfect balance.

A: I don't subscribe to that cliche. When I'm creating I prefer to be alone, but I don't ever feel lonely.

A: I don't care much for the elitists or the pompous attitudes many artists have. Other than that, I'm cool with whatever.

A: Some kind of major museum installation that would contain all of my original pen drawings on giant white walls...I've also wrote a film about my Samoan heritage a few years back, & would love to one day have the time & finances to produce & direct that.

A: I always appreciate when people immediately recognize my Dali influence but I prefer to stand alone.


  • 1st Place Award - 2021 Artigras
  • Best of Show Award - 2019 Uptown Art Fair
  • Award of Distinction - 2019 Lake Wells Festival of the Arts
  • People's Choice Award - 2017 Ft. Worth Main Street Art Festival (TX)
  • Top 10% Award - 2018 Uptown Art Fair (MN)
  • Invitational Award - 2018 Art Fair on the Square (WI)
  • 3rd Place Award - 2017 Schlafly Art Outside (MO)
  • Juror Award - 2017 Utah Art Festival (UT)
  • Juror Award - 2017 Three Rivers Art Festival (PA)
  • Honorary Award - 2017 East Lansing Art Festival (MI)
  • Best in Show - 2016 East Lake View Festival of the Arts (IL)
  • Juror Award - 2017 Ft. Worth Main Street Art Festival (TX)
  • 3rd Place Best in Show - 2016 Festival International (LA)
  • Merit Award - 2016 Kentuck Festival of the Arts (AL)
  • Merit Award - 2016 Winter Park Art Festival (FL)
  • Jury Award - 2015 Red River Revel (LA)
  • Award of Excellence - 2015 Plaza Art Fair (MO)
  • Best of Show - 2015 Brookside Art Annual (MO)
  • Award of Excellence - 2015 FestForAll (LA)
  • Best of Show - 2014 Red River Revel (LA)
  • Award of Distinction - 2014 Covington 3 Rivers Art Festival (LA)
  • Best Display Award - 2014 Covington 3 Rivers Art Festival (LA)
  • 1st Place - 2014 Art Outside (MO)
  • 2nd Place - 2014 Artisphere (SC)
  • 1st Place (mixed-media) - 2014 Wells Street Art Festival (IL)
  • 1st Place (mixed-media) - 2013 Wells Street Art Festival (IL)
  • Invitational Award (mixed-media) - 2013 Art Fair on the Square (WI)
  • 1st Place (mixed-media) - 2010 South Miami Arts Festival (FL)
  • Best of Show - 2010 South Miami Arts Festival (FL)
  • Best of Show - 2011 Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair (MI)
  • 1st Place (drawing) - 2011 Artfest Boca (FL)
  • Award of Merit - 2011 Red River Revel (LA)
  • Best of Show - 2011 Highland Fest (MN)
  • 1st Place (mixed-media) - 2010 Castle Rock Arts Fest (CO)
  • 1st Place (mixed-media) - 2012 South Miami Arts Festival (FL)
  • 1st Place (mixed-media) -2010 Art in the Park (FL)
  • 1st Place (mixed-media) - 2012 Art in the Park (FL)
  • Award of Merit- 2010 Funky Ferndale (MI)
  • Top 10% Award - 2012 Uptown Art Fair (MN)
  • Top 10% Award - 2014 Uptown Art Fair (MN)

  • Original artwork for Sage Francis personal collection.
  • Original Artwork for Ceschi Ramos personal collection.
  • Original artwork for Sean Daley aka “Slug” personal collection.
  • Original artwork for Brad Forste aka “Mr. Dibbs” personal collection. 
  • Original artwork for Jacob Snider aka “Cas-One” personal collection.
  • Original artwork for Illogic's personal collection.
  • Original artwork for Ron Allen's personal collection.
  • Original artwork for Awol One's personal collection.
  • Original artwork for Carlos Condit's personal collection.
  • Original artwork for B. Dolan's personal collection.
  • DET NYE SORT (beer label) - TidensFarver & Brew42 Brewing, Denmark
  • Take the Black (beer label) - Howling Monkey Brewery, Denmark
  • Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee (Muhammad Ali) - private collector
  • Pig’s Eye (album cover artwork) - Blodwar EP
  • Eudaimonia (album cover artwork) - David Hasselhoff on Acid LP
  • Babylonia (album cover artwork) - Sonar Lights LP
  • Artificial Light (album artwork) - We Were Astronauts LP
  • Lights Out (album cover artwork) - Patchz EP
  • History of Pop Culture Mural (Art hub building mural) - Utah Arts Alliance
  • SLC Pepper Mural (mural) - Jann Haworth (original designer of The Beatles Sgt. Pepper album cover)

  • 2019 Solo Exhibition, 'I Am Animal' - SpaceJunk Art Center (Bayonne, FR)
  • 2019 Solo Installation & Exhibition, 'The Oddity Bazaar' - Jackson Junge Gallery (Chicago, IL)
  • 2019 Solo Exhibition, 'I Am Animal' - Moniker International Art Fair (New York City, NY)
  • 2019 Group Exhibition, 'Annual Coaster Show' - Out of Step Gallery (Eugene, OR)
  • 2019 Group Exhibition, 'Surreal Salon 11' (curated by Camille Rose Garcia) - Baton Rouge Gallery (Baton Rouge, LA)
  • 2018 Group Exhibition, 'Wide Open 9' - The Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition (Brooklyn, NY)
  • 2018 Group Exhibition, "Zip, Bang, Pop! Run! It's the Cops!: Contemporary Pop Art and It's Influence on Street Art" - HUE Gallery of Contemporary Arts (Wichita, KS)
  • 2017 Group Exhibition, 'A Modern Bestiary' - Jackson Junge Gallery (Chicago, IL)
  • 2017 Solo Exhibition, 'thINK' - Gallery Undertaci (Aarhus, Denmark)
  • 2017 Group Exhibition, 'Surreal Salon 9' (curated by Greg "Craola" Simkins) - Baton Rouge Gallery (Baton Rouge, LA)
  • 2015 Group Exhibition, 'Holiday Bazaar' - Utah Arts Festival Gallery (Salt Lake City, UT)
  • 2015 Solo Exhibition, 'Agglomeration: Unrest' - Hannibal Arts Council (Hannibal, MO)
  • 2015 Two-Person Exhibition, 'Animal in Man' - Urban Arts Gallery (Salt Lake City, UT)
  • 2015 Group Exhibition, 'Lost Lucid Dreams' - Urban Arts Gallery (Salt Lake City, UT)
  • 2014 Solo Exhibition, 'Unrest' - Jackson-Junge Gallery (Chicago, IL)
  • 2014 Group Exhibition, 'Submerged in Art' - Photo Collective Gallery (Salt Lake City, UT)
  • 2014 Group Exhibition, 'May the 4th Be With You' - Urban Arts Gallery (Salt Lake City, UT)
  • 2014 Group Exhibition, 'Urban Alchemists' - Urban Arts Gallery (Salt Lake City, UT)
  • 2013 Group Exhibition, 'Submerged in Art' - Submerged in Art Gallery (Salt Lake City, UT)
  • 2012 Group Exhibition, 'In City Heat' - Alpine Art Gallery (Salt Lake City, UT)
  • 2012 Group Exhibition, 'Submerged in Art' - Submerged in Art Gallery (Salt Lake City, UT)
  • 2011 Solo Exhibition 'Human Condition' - Brand32 Design gallery (Salt Lake City, UT)
  • 2011 Group Exhibition, 'Submerged in Art' - Submerged in Art Gallery (Salt Lake City, UT)
  • 2010 Group Exhibition, 'A New Perspective' - Submerged in Art Gallery (Salt Lake City, UT)
  • 2009 Solo Exhibition "Urban Arts" - ByKali Gallery (UT)