This Honolulu Artist Makes Super Realistic Oil Paintings of People and Still Life

See Snowden Hodges paintings and find out what’s behind them at KCC, now through April 15.
Snowden Hodges exhibit at Kapiolani Community College.
Photos: Courtesy of Snowden Hodges 

Don’t text Honolulu-based artist Snowden Hodges; he prefers a flip phone and doesn’t answer that much, either. When he has free time, he spends it in the garden or fixing up his house, which started out as your standard-issue suburban patch overlooking Honolulu but which, over the last three decades, Hodges has gardened and built into a place that looks and feels like it’s been carved out from a particularly atmospheric Tuscan villa and air-dropped onto Wilhelmina Rise. “I feel like I could probably learn to text, says Hodges, “but then that’s time I would have to give up from doing something else.” 


For the past four decades, that something else has mostly been teaching, or painting with oils, an exacting medium that has an incomparable depth of color and lasts forever but operates on a timeframe that is scarcely comprehensible to most people under 35. How long are we talking? In Hodges living room hangs a painting that was made just before the first Millennial was born. He wants to change the varnish on it, but the restorer told him it wouldn’t be ready for another 30 years: “He said the paint really isn’t quite hard enough yet.”


In an age where 15 minutes of fame seems like a lot, Hodges thinks in generations. His exacting techniques hark back to the Old Masters, who made their own paint and built their works to last for centuries. You know the slow food movement, which returns to traditional culinary ingredients and techniques to counteract the dulling effects of too many fast food McRibs? Call Hodges’ approach slow art.


Snowden Hodges exhibit paintings.


His current show, Politically In/Correct, is running at Kapi‘olani Community College’s Koa Gallery through April 15. Subjectwise, the show is a departure from the exquisite still lives and classical human figures he’s known for; the new works are larger and more conceptually arresting. The nudes, all ages and both genders, are still there—they’re just on Waikīkī Beach now, having fun, which makes for a whole other painting. (“One of my pet peeves is people who impose their values on other people,” says Hodges.)


True to his educational career, it’s also a teaching show, one that tells the story of how Hodges makes his work through film, sketch and final product. He wants to show the hidden side of a painting’s process: “It’s not just ‘being artistic.’ You’re building something, and you want it to last.”


Weekdays, 10 a.m.–4 p.m., Saturdays, 9 a.m.–3 p.m., Politically In/Correct, Koa Gallery at Kapi‘olani Community College, 4303 Diamond Head Road, 734-9374,