Steve Hanks is a well known watercolor artist whose subject matter frequently focuses on female figures in interiors or landscapes. His subjects’ ages vary, from babies to women, as do their situations; some are nude studies, some evocative of mother and child tenderness, others children at play or women languidly posed on couches or beds.
Sometimes their is an erotic component, at other times, innocence itself seems to be a theme; but Hanks’ work often carries a feeling of high-end illustration, in that there is an emotional context to the work, and with it, an implied story.
Hanks’ masterfully controlled watercolor technique manages to seem almost casual in its deft application of color, subtle textures and clear value staging. He captures the brilliant contrasts of sunlight, rich subtleties of rain and overcast and soft tones of interior light with equal aplomb.
After graduating from the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, Hanks was pursuing realism in pencil drawings and impressionistic painting effects in oil, but an allergy affected his ability to work with oil and he moved to watercolor as his chosen painting medium.
SInce then he has received national recognition and numerous awards for his luminous, detailed and highly accomplished watercolors.
There is a collection of his work, Moving On: The Art of Steve Hanks. You can also find some video interviews with Hanks on YouTube, courtesy of Greenwich Workshop.
There is a good post on All Art News that gives a nice introductory overview of his work. The artwork on his official gallery is sometimes reproduced a bit smaller. I’ve listed some other resources below.
[Note: some of the work on these sites should be considered NSFW.)
8 Replies to “Steve Hanks”
Thanks Charley. I confess to finding it juuuuust a little disturbing to scroll through so many women — most of whom are essentially faceless — portrayed in intimately private moments.
I see Hanks is married with 3 kids. That assuages most of the slightly uneasy feeling I felt. I don’t know, perhaps my radar is a bit out of whack; it’s obviously an homage rather than a litany of sins or skewed obsession. I understand the urge to pursue the line or point of view that he favours and he is obviously chock full of technical skill. But it’s almost, as much, a documentation of the male gaze isn’t it? Still, I’d like to hear from his wife and daughters, just out of interest.
I know what you mean, peacay. I had something of the same reaction, but it’s not infrequent for artists to “find their subject” in something they become fascinated with early on, be it sailing ships, the work of another artist, dragons, spaceships, or attractive members of the opposite sex (or same sex for that matter). I certainly think he rises above the more mundane manifestations of that phenomenon that we see among many beginning or amateur artists.
Of course, if we’re talking deliberate titillation to increase the appeal of the work, we could just step back to the Baroque… (grin).
I had some of the same conflicted reaction & appreciate both the comment and your response. As to the paintings themselves, I marvel that this is all really done with watercolor. The first one, in particular, is stunning. I think I may like it best because it opens out most into the surrounding terrain.
Well there’s always DeKoning and Bacon with all sorts of strange, disturbing subject matter.
I find Steve Hank’s water colors of females extremely lovely with an understated sense of classy, restrained sexuality. I hardly think his work raises to the slightest level of disturbance.
I find it odd that anyone interested enough to look at his paintings is ungrounded in art to the point to see anything unsettling to any appreciative degree.
As to a wife and children being considerations, look to Picasso if you want to pursue the topic of open sexuality with family backstage.
These are REALLY watercolor, correct? Almost unbelievable, especially when I look at the skin of the woman in the bottom image. Truly remarkable control.
I have a feeling that he mixes transparent and opaque watercolor.
See the watercolors of pre-Raphaelite artist Marie Spartali Stillman, and the watercolor portraits of contemporary artist Paul McCormack.
This man is brilliant in all his undertakings. At 72, I am just starting out in the watercolor medium and have searched the net to find the one artist to learn from. Mr Hanks is at the top of the list. When you look at his work it should move you soul. It does mine! Dynamic realism at it’s best. Originality at it’s finest.
Steve, if your listening, Thank you so much.
The fact that Steve Hank creates a reaction from the viewer (good, bad, disturbed, intrigued, etc) is a testament to his artistic skill. These comments go far beyond whether his paint is applied correctly or how he captured the light. He has taken the observer into his painting.. these questions are about the world he is painting not about how he represented it.
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