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.
One of Steve Hanks last shows was with the Brennen Gallery in 2014