Setsuo Hamanaka was born in 1956 in Yokohama, Japan. He learned a basic drawing and painting from a sculptor while high school years but never had an academic art education.
His first career was a news photographer of Press Kanagawa, a local newspaper office in Yokohama. He became freelance photojournalist in 1987 and started drawing illustrations for magazines and publishing. In 1988, he reproduced 16 historical busses in realistic illustrations as a commission from City of Yokohama Transportation Bureau, and it was the first major work of his illustrations.
His works in early days of freelance were mainly for automobile magazines and books. But soon he started drawing and painting nature illustrations for other publications and some fishing magazines.
Fishing is partly on business and partly for a lifetime interest. He visited USA, Saipan, Panama, Ecuador, Australia, Singapore, Indonesia, Maldives, Italy, Spain and all over Japan. He writes articles about his fishing trips for magazines and coordinates fishing trips for TV programs.
In 2001, he began working oil paintings of marine wildlife with his accumulated experiences. His main concern is saltwater game fishes and seascapes as an environment of a game fish. He also loves painting mangroves and native woods not only on a seashore, but also on a freshwater waterfront.
November 2004, he was selected as a member of the First Okinotori-shima Island Inspecting Party organized by the Nippon Foundation. Okinotori-shima is in the face of submergence by global warming.
From November 2006 for two months, He stayed in Galapagos Islands, Ecuador as a short term ODA expert sent by Japan International Cooperation Agency and joined the Galapagos Marine Reserve Conservation Project. He worked for reducing illegal fishing and over catch in the local fishery.
He is a member of the Amamo Revival Collaboration in Kanagzawa-Hakkei, Tokyo Bay Area, which is a non-profit organization working for a revival of Amamo (eelgrass) meadows in the Tokyo Bay to regenerate a native environment.