Growing up in Syracuse, Charles Hinman attended art classes at the Syracuse Museum of Fine Arts. Later he spent a year as a professional baseball player on the farm team for the Milwaukee Braves while working on his degree at Syracuse University (B.F.A. 1955). After graduation, Hinman moved to New York, studying with Morris Kantor at the Art Students League, where he met fellow students James Rosenquist and Lee Bontecou. In 1956 he was drafted into the army and served for two years as a social worker in a military prison in California.
After his stint in the service, Hinman returned to New York, where he shared a loft with Rosenquist for a time on Coenties Slip. He taught mechanical drawing at Staten Island Academy (1960-1962) and woodworking shop at the Woodmere Academy, Long Island (1962-1964). He moved to a studio on 95th Street in 1961, and two years later began to explore the possibilities of the shaped canvas, bringing to his art the drafting techniques and carpentry skills he had been teaching. His shaped canvases debuted in the Seven New Artists exhibition at the Sidney Janis Gallery in 1964. That same year Hinman's first one-man show was held at the Richard Feigen Gallery, New York.
In 1966 Hinman was an artist-in-residence at the Aspen Institute in Colorado. He continued teaching in New York throughout the 1960s and 1970s, at Cornell University (New York City program), Syracuse University, Pratt Institute, the School of Visual Arts, and Cooper Union. Hinman's printmaking activities have included screenprinting, lithography, and embossing. During the 1980s he worked at Bummy Huss Paper in New York, producing cast paper reliefs. More recently, he completed an etching project with Dan Stack at Copperplate Editions in New York.
Important one-man exhibitions of Hinman's work have been held at the Tokyo Gallery, Tokyo (1966), Lincoln Center, New York (1969), Galerie Denise René-Hans Mayer, Krefeld, Germany (1970), Galerie Denise René, Paris (1971), Donald Morris Gallery, Detroit (1979), and the North Carolina State University Visual Arts Center, Raleigh. During the 1980s major commissions included paintings for the Grand Hyatt Hotel, New York (1980), the Southeast Bank, Miami (1983), and the Madison Green Building, New York (1984). In 1980 The Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse organized a major exhibition of Hinman's works, which traveled to the Laguna Gloria Art Museum in Austin and the Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale. (Fine/Corlett 1991, 116)