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 Steve Hanks  (1949 - )

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Lived/Active: New Mexico/California      Known for: female figure painting, animal and interiors

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Ad Code: 3
Steve Hanks
from Auction House Records.
Watching Her Back
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Steve Hanks began his art career at the age of sixteen when his parents moved the family from Southern California to Albuquerque, New Mexico.  In California, he had been very active in sports, especially tennis.  But devastated by the move to California, Hanks spent much of a year in his room listening to music and drawing posters for music groups.  His posters of the Beatles, Bob Dylan and the Doors sold around the country.

After high school graduation, Hanks "jumped in the car and went back to California." (Stavig).  He enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in San Francisco, and then studied at the California College of Arts and Crafts where he earned a Bachelor's Degree in Fine Arts.  At CCAC, he took life drawing, and from that time, the focus of his painting was the female figure.

After earning his degree, he returned to Albuquerque, a place he later described as a "land of entrapment" (Stavig) with one of the reasons being that it had galleries willing to promote the work of a young artist.  He said there was no way that he could make a living as a 21-year old in California. 

In New Mexico, Hanks worked as a caretaker of a Campfire Girls camp near Cuba.  This job provided him with $75 a month, a place to live and ten months of free time to do his art.  He stayed true to his original course of figure painting, especially people that he knew, and resisted the landscape and Indian subject painting done by many of his peers. 

In the 1980's, Hanks developed allergies to oil paint.  He turned to watercolors, and though he liked the medium, the market was in a slump, and Hanks needed something new.  He contacted the toy maker Etch-a-Sketch and offered to be the official Etch-a-Sketch artist.  He made a name for himself and was featured in People" magazine and interviewed on the New York television show, "Good Morning America." Although the Etch-a-Sketch business took off when he found a way to freeze the images, Hanks gave up the business.

With a nine-thousand dollar loan from a friend, Hanks toured the country seeking galleries to represent him.  Within two months he repaid the loan and Hanks was able to return to his true love and talent.  His career 'took off' and included printed limited editions of his drawings, and expanded representation at galleries.  He also entered museum competitions and won awards.

However, describing himself as "devastated", he suffered great personal sadness from the divorce from his wife in the 1990s.  His book, Moving On, "is the result of the emotional journey he took after his wife suddenly left him." (Stavig)  He said, however, that somehow during this personal travail, he kept his art career under control, and was able to separate that part of himself psychologically.  One of the lessons he has learned from this period of upheaval is: "When you make the journey the goal, every moment is a treasure." (Stavig)

Steve Hank's paintings of women and children are regarded as unique for his use of direct light, a technique that Hanks uses to express wholesomeness and the light within the subject. He strives to put forth positive images because he feels "Whatever I put out there will come back to me."

Patricia O' Connor, "Catching the Light", Art of the West, May/June 2002, p. 58
Vicki Stavig, "A Lifetime of Emotion", Art of the West, March/April 2008, p 38

Biography from Leslie Levy Fine Art, Inc.:
Steve Hanks is known for paintings that are meticulously drawn with great attention to detail and that reflect a moment in time, often a token of the artist's memory. The goal of the artist to achieve an interconnectedness between these moments and the viewer, allowing the viewer to reflect on his/her own favorite moments.

"Steve Hanks is a man driven by private passions,” writes the author of an introductory biography to "Steve Hanks; Poised Between Heartbeats". "He never painted to sell, but only to survive and follow his star. Each painting is a momentary glimpse through the moving curtain that hides the secrets of his craft. Each painting is a mystery that needs to be sorted out and unraveled."

These words suggest something of the complexity that is Steve Hanks. A product of the turbulent sixties, he artistic vision first took him to hard-edged caricatures, and then moving through the artistic fads of the day, he finally settled on paintings of quiet celebration of the world around him, of what the he has termed "moments of introspective solitude." His intent is to reach out to the viewer and ask, "What are these subjects thinking? What are they feeling.?"

Hanks was born into a military family in San Diego in 1949 and grew up playing tennis and surfing along the beaches of Southern California. On his first grade report card, a teacher attached a prophetic note: "Steve is an artist." As time passed, this prediction would prove more and more accurate.

He has won numerous awards including in 1990, the Arts for the Parks Marine Art Award of Excellence. He has been a winner in the Arts for the Parks top 100 artists from 1989 to 1991. In 1991 the National Watercolor Society awarded him their Society Merit Award. In 1992, the National Academy of Western Art presented him with the Gold Medal in Watercolor.

Hanks' dedication to his art is validated by a lifetime of struggle and hard work to exploring, with a restless mind, new frontiers, always attempting to touch the unknowable with his art.

As Susan Hallsten McGarry, former editor of Southwest Art, writes: "Hanks is, first and foremost, a figure painter, following the line with such masters of the human form as Raphael, Rembrandt, Vermeer and Ingres. Through the effects of light on the figure, Hanks molds visions that convince us of the singular beauty of the human form as a meritorious subject in its own right."

Biography from E. S. Lawrence Gallery Charleston:
Hanks' career in figure drawing began when he first studied the subject at Academy of Fine Arts in San Francisco.  Although his teachers often cited his artistic ability, Hanks' main interests when young were sports and surfing.

Sports began taking a back seat when Hanks' family moved to Albuquerque in 1966.  Away from the lure of the ocean, he focused on his art and decided at 17 to pursue a career in commercial art. However, at the Academy of Fine Arts, he discovered the challenge of drawing people, and determined to develop his skills in that area.  He completed his studies at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland.  Hanks was a student at Berkeley in the explosive sixties, then enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in San Francisco.  He finished his Bachelor's Degree in Fine Arts at the College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, California.

He was deeply affected by the maelstrom of shifting attitudes, as evidenced by his art.  Initially, Hanks' works were pencil drawings and oils. His paintings were impressionistic while his drawings were tight and realistic.  Eventually, an allergic reaction to oils forced him to experiment with watercolors.  Using the techniques learned from both of his other mediums, he found he could create watercolors as "finished" as oils.

Art jurors began recognizing the quality of Hanks' work in 1973.  He won the Arts for the Parks Marine Art Award of Excellence in 1990 and 1994, and has been one of the Arts for the Parks top 100 artists since 1989.  In 1991, Hanks received the National Watercolor Society Merit Award and the National Academy of Western Art awarded him the Gold Medal in 1992.

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