Park West Gallery remembers Steve Hanks (1949-2015)

 In Art & Gallery News, Artists & Special Collections
Steve Hanks

Steve Hanks

Park West Gallery remembers the life and art of Steve Hanks, who passed away in Albuquerque, New Mexico on April 22 after a battle with cancer.

Hanks, born in 1949 in San Diego, California, was the child of a decorated World War II Navy flyer. He spent his youth playing tennis and surfing in the sunny weather. The Pacific Ocean left a lasting impression that would reappear in his artwork.

At the age of 17 his family was transferred to New Mexico. Upon graduating high school, Hanks attended the Academy of Fine Arts in San Francisco, excelling in commercial art and figure drawing. He transferred to the California College of Arts and Crafts, graduating with a bachelor of fine arts degree, and decided that he would pursue art as a career.

While working as a caretaker at a Campfire Girl’s camp in 1976, he devoted four-and-a-half years to experimenting with various mediums, including oils, watercolor, pencil and acrylics. He experienced an allergic reaction to oils, so he switched to watercolors to echo the intensity and clarity of oil paints.

After marrying his wife, Laura, with whom he had three daughters, Hanks was inspired to convey the complexity of children. His work focused on capturing intimate moments he called “moments of introspective solitude.” Laura and their children were the subjects of some of his works.

Hanks considered his style “emotional realism,” and created works that portrayed the smallest of details, such as the patterns on a skirt to the expressive faces of his subjects, whether they were infants, children or adults. He would also obscure the faces of his subjects, instead allowing their setting and body language to convey emotions.

Each of his paintings contains a mystery, and reveals the emotions and stories of the artist who created them. Backlighting was a signature aspect of his works, as Hanks was fascinated by how it filtered through things and would brighten rooms with color.

Rockin' on the Porch Steve Hanks

“Rockin’ on the Porch”
(2012) by Steve Hanks.

Hanks could master any medium. He created stone lithographs by hand, and was famous for producing fine art with Etch A Sketch toys. At one time, thanks to his creativity, the multi-talented artist was even more recognized than his relative, actor Tom Hanks.

Hanks’ awards include being honored by Art for the Parks since 1989, receiving the National Watercolor Society Merit Award, the National Academy of Western Art Gold Medal, and consistently appearing in U.S. Art Magazine’s top 10 American Artists list.

“I’ve tried to be responsible and put positive images out into the world,” he said. “I hope that my work brings comfort, pleasure and insight into people’s lives.”

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Showing 6 comments
  • Stacey

    Master of watercolor and my favorite artist of all time.He has two daughters and a son by the way….I will cherish the work I hold so dear.Thank you for posting about him, he deserves the attention.

  • Jesse McCarthy

    In 1712, Joseph Addison said this about the human imagination: “for by this faculty a man in a dungeon is capable of entertaining himself with scenes and landscapes more beautiful than any that can be found in the whole compass of nature.” Steve Hanks has demonstrated in his works the profound truth of this.

    What a loss for the world and, on a personal note, for me, as I had been planning (for too long) to reach out to you, just to say thank you. The first painting I ever bought (a poster copy) was one of yours. I think I was 19. You will be sorely missed. 🙁


  • Handynummer Orten

    A softly worn patterned quilt, the play of light on the thin veil of surf on sand, or the delicate expression of a child—-Steve Hanks captures these patterns of life better than anyone. Steve Hanks was born into a military family in San Diego in 1949.

  • John

    Simply my favorite painter in the world. This makes me very sad.

  • lynn epstein

    What a terrible loss. My daughter found Mr. Hank’s art in the 80’s, and I loved his art too. I hope his family is comforted by their memories and by his wonderful art. Thank you for the joy you brought to so many others. Lynn

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