Copper in the Arts

February 2018

Figurative Oils Merge with The Intrinsic Beauty of Oxidized Copper

By Nancy Ballou

Richard Hawk’s training ground was in advertising design and illustration where he produced award-winning commercial projects. On a 1999 business trip to China, fascinated by Chinese and Japanese brush painting, he studied their texts and realized Eastern art is quite different from Western art.

“Focus is not on originality or product--it is on process,” he reflects. “If you do the technique and forget yourself, your ego and the end product, then you become good.”

Hawk loves to explore the varying outcomes of working with a patina, and has learned to enjoy this particular artistic process, and the nuances it brings to his work.

“Oil painting on oxidized copper is my own eccentricity,” he says. “The meeting of controlled and uncontrolled result in highly charged statements open to a variety of interpretations.”

Unifying a number of contrasting levels that combine traditional figurative painting with exploratory work on patination of copper, pure copper areas have glowing beauty with textures created through oxidation of the metal.  A variety of acid solutions accelerate oxidation to turn the surface green (verdigris), blue or warm-colored. Varnishes are used as isolation layers. Images are carefully designed beforehand and are created in patination of the metal. Oil paints bring them to life. Sturdy backing preserves and protects the copper sheets. Acids are bought from Sculpt Nouveau in Escondido, California.

Today, Hawk’s art hangs in public and private collections around the world. He recently sold a 48’ x 48’ piece to a neurologist in Chicago for display in his office. Jet Engine Mandala appears in the corporate collection of the General Electric Building in New York City.

His groundbreaking debut came from a 2011 solo exhibit at L Street Fine Art in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter, followed by a 2012 solo show at Point Loma’s Pulse Gallery. Since then he has exhibited at galleries in San Diego, Santa Fe, Jackson Hole and the Hamptons, among others.

Artist Richard Hawk with his work.
Artist Richard Hawk with his work.
Photograph courtesy of Richard Hawk.


Often relying on nature in his work, Hawk originally placed plant materials directly on copper and treated the entire surface with acid solutions. He still buys 4’ x 10’ sheets of copper from Industrial Metals in San Diego when he is commissioned to make the material based art. However, since his designs are increasing in size, he now purchases heavy copper foil 20 feet at a time from his same supplier. Designs utilizing pieces of copper as large as 48’ x 60’ are at various hotels in North Carolina and Austin. Currently, he is working on The Sea, an oil on copper series that shows the different personalities of water.

Another evolution for Hawk is increased marketing directly online. Because Instagram is image oriented, he finds it a fast and effective way to get his work seen. He can post time lapse (compressed) videos to monitor every stage of the creation. He works from his own photographic reference images - holds marathon photo shoots of models, selects the images that inspire him the most. Then he draws directly onto copper and varnishes what he wants to remain copper color. When the varnish dries, a variety of acids and darkening agents are applied to the metal. It sets for a day or two and then sealant varnish is put on to stop the oxidation. Many hours are spent using brushes, palette knives and other tools in the oil painting finish stage.

Hawk instructs classes on art at his home studio. On April 21 and 22, he will be teaching his methods of painting freely and intuitively at San Diego Watercolor Society, Point Loma Gallery. Entitled Be Brave, it will consist of mixing creative methodologies and technical production knowledge.

May 4, 5 and 6, he will present for the first time ever the esoteric knowledge and methods he uses in his copper art works at Oil on Copper: Co-creativity in San Diego.

Ryan Crowley of Crowley Art Investments says, “Hawk has achieved something truly novel and his artwork will stand the test of time as being the first person to develop his technique, style and approach to a blank surface. There are art followers and leaders. Richard Hawk falls unquestionably into the latter.”



Richard Hawk Studio and Copperhand Studio Encinitas, CA, (760) 504-4015

Also in this Issue:


2022   |   2021   |   2020   |   2019   |   2018   |   2017   |   2016   |   2015   |   2014   |   2013   |   2012   |   2011   |   2010   |   2009   |   2008   |   2007

Contact the Editor: