Steve Hanks, Master of Figurative Watercolors

When I first saw this painting I thought it was a photograph. After I realized it was a painting, I assumed it was done in oils or acrylics. Wrong again: it’s watercolor!

I’m no artist, but I do know watercolor is a difficult medium – especially when it comes to figurative realism. Who is this artist, and how did he/she achieve such incredible mastery in this challenging genre?

Hanks in his Albuquerque studio.

Steve Hanks (1949-2015) was a California native born into a military family in San Diego. His dad was a highly decorated WWII Navy flyer. 

Growing up, Steve was more passionate about sports than art. He particularly enjoyed tennis and surfing along the beaches of Southern California. He would retain a spiritual connection with the ocean for the rest of his life.

Surfing had a strong influence on my paintings . . . The ocean made a strong and lasting impression on me. It was good for the soul to be out in the water—surfing, swimming, or simply getting in touch with its mysterious power.

Early on, Steve’s teachers recognized his artistic ability, but he refused to do the required assignments in his high school art class. To prove he was good, he did a one-man art show and sold his first painting to another art teacher.

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Eva Armisén: The Artist Who Paints Happiness

I was so happy when I chanced upon this adorable painting recently. A dark-haired girl eating alphabet soup!

Yeah, I kinda felt it was me, since she’s wearing a green dress (my favorite color) and has a blissful expression on her face. Those perky letters (don’t you love the ones dancing in her spoon) would be endlessly nourishing (esp. the letters C-A-K-E). 🙂

Spanish artist Eva Armisén.

Internationally renowned Spanish artist Eva Armisén, who lives and works in Barcelona, painted this delectable piece. She describes her art as, “Sincere. Simple. Emotional.”

Her work, with its whimsical, child-like style, is immediately recognizable: charming portraits of families, friends, and pets doing everyday things together. And of course there’s that ubiquitous young female, often with a flower in her hair, carrying beautiful bouquets, walking, resting, having fun. As the artist’s storyteller, she seems quite content to be on her own.

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beloved southern folk artist clementine hunter

Clementine Hunter in the 1960s.

I’ve always been fascinated by what compels creatives to make art, especially those who are self taught and persist despite overwhelming odds.

Take Clementine Hunter (pronounced Clementeen), one of the South’s most celebrated folk artists. Though she never learned to read or write, and didn’t begin painting until her 50s, she managed to produce between 5,000 – 10,000 paintings, all while working as a cook and housekeeper at Melrose Plantation in Louisiana.

She is known for her unique and vibrant ‘visual diary’ of rural plantation life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, an insider’s view of the African American perspective. Not only a pivotal figure in folk art, she’s also remembered as an important social and cultural historian.

Clementine (née Clémence) was born into a French Creole family at Hidden Hill Plantation near Cloutierville in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana, around Christmas 1886. A descendant of slaves, she was the eldest of seven children. 

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possessed by jaye schlesinger’s paintings

Go ahead, take a bite. You know you want to.

As soon as I spotted this sandwich created by Michigan artist Jaye Schlesinger I was a goner.

Those of you who nosh here regularly know I have a penchant for photorealistic paintings. Especially of food. It’s a good calorie-free, guilt-free way to indulge (my eyes are always happy to do the chewing). 🙂

What’s interesting about Jaye’s formal training is that she holds MFA’s in both Painting and Medical Illustration (both from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor). When I read that she worked as a medical illustrator for fifteen years, producing art for textbooks and journal articles, I thought, aha! — that accounts for her precision.

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steele yourself!

Ah, breakfast with Van Gogh. What could be better?

A crunchy bowl of Ben Steele’s Earrios will get you off to a great start. What’s that? You want more? Can’t say I blame you.

Once you’ve seen one Ben Steele painting, you crave another and another . . .

Ben in his studio with some of his product inspirations.

Originally from Washington state, Ben relocated to Utah when he was in his teens. He earned a BFA in painting and drawing from the University of Utah, then moved to Helper, Utah, where he studied under the instruction of David Dorman and Paul Davis at the Helper Art Workshops. He recently converted a vacant bottling and beverage distribution warehouse into an enormous studio that will accommodate large scale work.

Ben’s paintings are a unique mash-up of art history and pop culture, a wide-ranging oeuvre that includes landscape, still life, portraiture, and other things in-between. He calls himself a “pop realist,” an artist with an ever evolving style who’s successfully imbued classic techniques with a contemporary sensibility.

With equal measures of playfulness and nostalgia, Steele taps into America’s collective imagination by incorporating iconic brands such as Crayola, Coca-Cola, and Campbell’s Soup. Referencing the American West, Hollywood legends, and major figures in American history (to include several Presidents), his art resonates across generations with its social, political, and cultural overtones.

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