Thursday, October 1, 2009

October Artist of the Month~ Michele Banks

OK, I'll admit it: I'm not usually drawn to watercolors. Rather, perhaps, it is the typical watercolor subject I am not drawn to. Subtle landscapes and still lives with fruit and flowers.

It is my personal obsession with circles and interlocking rings that makes Michele Banks' work speak to me greatly. Airy bubbles flow over an aurora borealis background. Interconnected circles of bright color and flair pop out. Mirror images of repeating coffee cups march across the canvas, somewhat like a more modern Warhol. The shapes are simple, clean and organic. They sometimes look plainly geometric. Other times, they might vaguely resemble a womb, a dream or a scientific illustration. From the more serious Capitol Building to the whimsical 'smiley faces', you can see her work shifts as the mood hits.

If you take a look at the title of the work, you maybe able to decrypt the inspiration. Or, you may not. For instance, the Bubbles series, from which I have a very small piece, was not taken from the carbonated fizz of soda pop, but rather was "inspired by the bursting of the stock market bubble".

Look at a another piece that is laid out on a grid. In each block, a flash of color interacts with a different hue. In looking at the title, Cell Division, you can now see where Michele gained her inspiration.

This work is colorful, engaging and accessible. From large scale original pieces to smaller paintings, mini collages and notecards, she has a motif and item to fit your wall and wallet.

For more, in her own words:

Michele Banks is a self-taught artist working in watercolor and collage. Her instantly recognizable art, featuring strong colors, geometric shapes and repeated images, can be seen in many festivals and art shows in the DC metro area. This month, Michele will be showing at Art on the Avenue in Alexandria (Oct. 3) and the Bethesda Artist Market (October 10). Her paintings are also currently on display at Children's National Medical Center in DC. You can see more at her website,

Q~ How did you get started?

A~ I actually started doing the collages by decorating the walls of my cubicle at Price Waterhouse with cut-outs. I would just photocopy things that I thought were cool, make a whole bunch, cut them out and pin them to the walls of my cubicle.

Q~ Why do you continue?

A~ I enjoy making art, I keep getting better at it, I keep thinking of new stuff I want to do and people keep buying it.

Q~ What is your greatest success story?

A~ Getting two of my paintings into the Wilson Building Art Collection in DC was a biggie. That’s like DC’s city hall, where the Mayor and the city council have their offices, and the DC Arts Commission installed two of my pieces in the permanent collection.

Q~ What is one of your greatest failures?

A~ I put a lot of time and effort into creating a whole new look for my Artomatic wall in 2009, and I didn’t sell a single piece. That was after selling eight pieces from Artomatic in 2008.

Q~ Where do you get your inspiration?

A~ I love beautiful textiles, so I find that I get inspiration from beautiful scarves and fabrics. But also just all sorts of random things that I see, hear or read about. My bubble series this year was based on all the talk about the various economic bubbles and these huge sums of money just vanishing, which I depicted as zeroes floating away.

A~ I’m also inspired by the paint itself. I love seeing what watercolor will do.

Q~ Why do you make/create what you do?

A~ I use watercolors in virtually all my work because I love the clarity of the color. I’m also pretty decisive and impatient, so watercolor works for me because it’s fast and you’re very limited in your ability to go back and mess with it afterward.

I said before that I love beautiful textiles, and I did try working with fabric for a while, but I discovered that sewing makes my back hurt and makes me very cranky. So I’ll leave that to others, like Jen!

Q~ Where is your favorite place to sell? Or Favorite show?

A~ Adams Morgan Day was the first outdoor show I ever did and it’s always been a great show for me. I love Art on the Avenue, too – it has a great vibe and the neighborhood really comes out and supports the artists. SoWeBo in Baltimore is a crazy show with all these tattooed, dreadlocked people and bizarre bands, so that’s fun for a change from my usual middle-aged Mom lifestyle.

Q~ What is one thing you love about your business?

A~ I get to make all the decisions myself.

Q~ What is one thing you loathe?

A~ Rejection. Rainy festivals. OK, that’s two.

Q~ What is your dream about your art?

A~ About the art itself, I want to just make art that I love and that I’m proud of. On the practical side, I would love to find a dealer or a gallery owner who really gets my work and would help me sell it.

Q~ What is your mission?

A~ I seek the grail.

Q~ Where are you based?

A~ Washington, DC

Q~ Where would you live if you could live anywhere?

A~ I’ve lived a lot of places, and Washington is really my home and my favorite, but I have an abiding fantasy about a little summer house in Norway or Finland where I could go for July and August. I don’t like the 90-degree stuff.

Q~ What would you be doing if not this?

A~ No idea!

Q~ What is your favorite question to ask people?

A~ Do you have any chocolate?

Q~ What is your answer to that question?

A~ Generally yes!

Jen speaking again~ Michele is much too modest about her skills at the sewing machine. She was the creator of The Giant Peep at Artomatic! I didn't know it at the time of this snuggle picture. However, it was a wonderful addition to show and I'm so glad that Michele made it!

For more information, pictures of her latest works and markets, please visit Michele's website at


This weekend!! Two great shows, again! Weather is looking better and better....

What: Art on the Aveune

Where: Mt Vernon Ave, Del Ray, Alexandria, MD

When: Saturday, October 3, 10-6pm


What: Takoma Park Street Festival,

Where: Carroll Ave, Takoma Park, MD

When: Sunday, October 4, 10am -5pm

Website: www.takomafestiva

See you there!~Jen

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