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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