Artist of the Month: Richard Hawk

Inspiration for this Painting:
My inspiration for Swimmer, Hamptons (above; oil, 36×36) g was the same as in all my paintings, which is a human yearning for something higher, better, something beyond the physical plane of existence. We all want that, and we respond to it when we see it in art.

Difficulties painting Swimmer, Hamptons:
I had never done a variation on a theme quite like this before and wasn’t sure what to expect. I was quite nervous about it. So I attacked it and painted most of it almost nonstop over a period of three days. When I saw the life in the subject’s face emerge, I knew it was going to be OK. I suppose my favorite part is the mouth. It’s true that the eyes are the windows to the soul, but the mouth is connected directly to the heart and is very sensual.

Art Interpretation:
People are forever asking me to explain the paintings and to tell them what they mean. I’m very gentle in my responses, of course, but it’s quite impossible—the whole point of art is interpretation and personal perspective. I always try to turn it around and ask the person what she or he sees, and the answers I get are absolutely amazing.

People tell me things they see in the paintings that go far beyond anything I could have told them. Their interpretations are just as true or truer than anything I could have told them. In this sense every piece of art is a collaboration with the beholder. I love this idea. It keeps me painting.

His Painting Process:
I like to pose models in the studio and take lots of digital reference photos. I then design the painting using usually several different photos of the model. I love to draw a lot, too. Drawing from life is like a muscle for artists and it should be flexed often.

I try to think very graphically and simply in the conception of a painting because for me the amount of complexity and variation that asserts itself during the painting process is extreme. I try to start out very simple and then let things happen. The subjects of my paintings come alive and are stronger than I am, honestly! The best paintings go where they want to go, not because I’m controlling them.

In terms of paint handling, I usually do the skin areas very thinly, as oil washes, which comes from my roots as a watercolor painter. In other passages of the painting, I like to use a lot of paint in an impasto style—laying on or troweling on lots of paint. The contrast between the thinly painted and thickly painted areas is very exciting, I think. I like the feel of oil paint. Painting is very tactile, and you have to enjoy the feel of the materials you’re using.

I like to work with a somewhat limited palette for the figurative work. It doesn’t take much of a range of colors to create a pleasing painting. I can be very happy with alizarin crimson, sap green, Naples yellow and white. You can create an enormous range of effects with those colors. The limitation can actually lend strength, I think. I often add a few brighter color notes.

Time Spent Painting:
The amount of time that a painting takes varies a lot. Sometimes a painting “falls off the brush” and is done in no time. Others take longer. This painting wasn’t typical, in that it’s a repainting of a subject that I’d done previously, recreated at the request of a collector.The original work was at a show in New York, and a couple came and looked at it a few times over a period of hours.

By the time they came back to say they had decided they wanted the painting, it had just sold to someone else! They were a little upset. After we all got over the disappointment, we decided I should paint a similar painting just for them. I suggested to them that I follow the general theme of the original that had been sold but let this new painting become a unique work. They loved that idea.

Current Project:
Right now I’m working on a series of large figurative pieces that include multiple figures and animals and have a sense of the wide world. We are truly a global village now and seem to be connected more to each other than ever before, which I think is a good thing. I’m thinking of that and working with that.

Richard Hawk has artwork in Trios Gallery, Solana Beach, California, and Coffee Gallery, Spring Lake, Michigan. To see more of his art, go to

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