"I took a look at these works, which had been done many years ago, and I thought, those are really nice," he said of the airy abstract images that were reminiscent of kites.
Lichtenstein, a master printer and artist based in Ridgefield, has collaborated with many artists. He and Hinman first started working together in 2011.
As the artist and printer looked a bit more deeply at Hinman's work, a creative concept began to take flight -- their next collaboration would be inspired by these images.
"He never lets any piece go out of the studio without a title," Lichtenstein said of Hinman. "So, he said, `Let's call these kites.' "
After months of work, the project has landed at the Silvermine Arts Center in New Canaan. "Kites," which features multiple silkscreen prints, is the second major collaboration between Hinman, a painter who is considered a pioneer in the art of sculpted, three-dimensional canvases, and Lichtenstein. Their first project, "Gems," came out in 2011. As with that exhibition, the two worked to employ color and subtle hand embossments to ensure that the suite of prints would maintain the dynamism of Hinman's sculpted canvases.
"It certainly was not the norm," Hinman said of his practice of repurposing the traditional canvas into a sculptural form, by stretching the canvas over multiple frames, creating contours and employing color for sculptural effect. "I like to make work that is a new experience for me and for others."
It is a philosophy he has employed since he first made a splash in the early 1960s when he was in his 30s. At 80, he said he continues to look for new ways to create and express himself.
"He happens to be one of the most inventive individuals I know," said Lichtenstein of Hinman.
The duo's collaboration appears to foster respect, breed creativity and spur innovation. Both cite the other's knowledge of color as a crucial connection.
"We love discussing color," said Lichtenstein. "It's fascinating because I love drawing out of an artist colors that they really do love ... I get a lot of enjoyment in the interplay."
Lichtenstein can draw on his own experience as an abstract painter who has attracted critical praise for the way he layers multiple colors.
Lichtenstein grew up near Waterbury, but has spent much of his 35-year artistic career in California. In 1978, he opened a printmaking studio, SOMA Fine Art Press, which became a hub of artistic collaborations. About 12 years ago, he returned east and has since worked out of his home studio in Ridgefield.
When he works with Hinman, whether in Ridgefield or New York City, Lichtenstein said it is a fluid experience, as Hinman is open to new ideas and ways of expressing his art.
"After we've made a few prints ... we'll ask ourselves what if we did this or that," Hinman said. "Much can arise through experiment. Sometimes, we don't know ourselves where we are headed."
A similar quandary awaits visitors to another of the center's galleries, where works from members of the guild are featured in "Where are We (going)?," Silvermine's second summer exhibition. It also will close Sept. 7.
New York City artist Emily Cheng curated the exhibition, using the work of guild members as her starting point. After going over hundreds of images, she settled on Easton artist Susan Sharp's abstract painting "Where are We?" and then got to work finding threads that would tie together multiple artists and media.
"I also was taking into consideration that Charles Hinman would be in the next gallery, so I wanted a show that could be different, but compatible," she said. "I wanted it to feel like a continuation or elaboration of a thought."
Sharp's piece is abstract, constructed with multiple panels. It was spurred by a photograph in a magazine, an interplay of shadows and water, that Sharp turned on its side. Suddenly, she was inspired.
"I began to pour layers of paint," Sharp said, of the process that begins all of her works. As shapes formed and colors intersected, a landscape formed, albeit one without the concrete shapes and point of perspective of a more traditional scene.
"I enjoy this sense of disorientation," Sharp said. "It probes this question of where are we ... and further, where am I and where am I in my life.
"For me, what makes this painting exciting is that you can have different interpretations," she said. "You are not able to nail it down."
The exhibition features photographs, prints and paintings. As for the theme, Cheng said "Where are We (going)?" is less a statement about the content of the work and more about the state of mind brought on by viewing it -- it's about what you might find when you peer around the corner.
"I want people to slow down and not treat art as a drive-by experience," Cheng said. "Everything is an investigation and an experiment."
The galleries at the Silvermine Arts Center, 1037 Silvermine Road, New Canaan, is open noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. For information, call 203-966-9700, ext. 20, or visit www.silvermineart.org.