Multi-media artist Anieszka Banks focuses her practice on the idea of using illustration “to illuminate what is in the dark”.
Interview by Carolyn Enting
Anieszka Banks is one of four talented artists to feature on the cover of Good magazine’s 10th birthday issue.
Growing up between New Zealand and the UK, Anieszka Banks has had a wonderful and varied career that has spanned from working for jewellery brand Zoe & Morgan to volunteering for Greenpeace, Women’s Refuge and Kalmarna Gardens.
She currently teaches art one day a week to a group of students with intellectual disabilities and works on commission and personal projects.
If you had to describe your style of work to a stranger without showing them your work, how would you describe it?
My style is a mixture of lots of different things depending on what I’m up to at that time, you might find some cut paper in there, some layered acrylic paint, a digital collage that I’ve drawn over, or a combination of them all. I would like to think it is fun, warm and approachable but maybe also a little bit mysterious.
What inspires you most in your work?
I once read that the definition of ‘illustration’ was to ‘shed light upon something’. So I think in a nutshell it’s that. I like the idea that you could illustrate something that might carry a message to someone that they didn’t know before, or hadn’t stopped to think about. My biggest inspirations are people and the capacity of the human heart, sustainability and environmental protection, the ocean, sunshine, strange flowers, bright colours and things that make me feel something. Before I went into full time freelance illustration I was lucky enough to work with Zoe from Zoe & Morgan jewellery for years. She was a big sister, a mentor, a boss and a friend and it is from her really that I learnt how to balance work and life – to make sure I was seeking the beauty in everything, working really hard but also making time to laugh and turn everything off. I owe Zoe so much. She’s like a ray of sunshine, a truly inspiring lady.
For Good magazine’s 10th birthday issue you created an illustration to the brief ‘life is good’. Can you explain more about this particular illustration and how that informed this work?
I had a long think about what made life ‘good’ and I felt like there were so many millions of things that make up a good life. I wanted to capture a feeling of being surrounded by life that was alive and growing, unique and wild and this ended up looking like an abundant jungle so I went with that! It was nice to have so much freedom and to be able to let the piece make itself in a way.
When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
When I was about three or four I think. I didn’t know that you could do what I do as a job and when I found out I was like ‘well that’s the dream’. I even drew a picture of myself as an artist.
What was your first memorable artistic memory?
Standing in the back garden in the cottage I grew up in (in the Cotswolds, England) in my undies maybe age 3? Completely covered in paint in front of my little easel and laughing and laughing because I loved the colours so much.
Can you share one of your career highlights to date?
Hmm, to be honest, I think it was when I first started to work teaching art to a group of young people with intellectual disabilities. I was so nervous and within a year of teaching just one day a week I saw such a huge change in these young people, just from the contact we had had together and the little things I had managed to pass onto them. There isn’t really anything more satisfying than sharing what you love and watching other people fall in love with it too.
What types of commissions do you enjoy the most?
This changes from week to week, luckily as that way I am always being kept on my toes with different kinds of work coming through. Some days I enjoy the time it takes to paint an object really accurately, capturing the shape and the light and then other days I enjoy cutting pieces of paper into abstract shapes. But the best kind of commissions are the ones that get me thinking and push me to come up with imaginative solutions.
What is your happy place?
I live out at the beach in Karekare with my partner, so walking along the beach there, being in the ocean. Anything that involves the people I love is usually a place that is happy for me. In a work sense, my happy place is listening to an audiobook with a cup of tea and getting totally lost in what I am painting/drawing /cutting out for hours and hours on end with no distractions.
What medium do you mostly/prefer to work with, and why?
Again this changes from day to day. Sometimes all I want is to paint with my millions of tubes of acrylic and sometimes I want to spend hours leafing through papers to find the exact right shade of colour to cut and collage with.
What do you hope people get from your work?
Lots of things! But I would love it if people felt inspired, it brought them joy, created a deeper understanding or interest in something or propelled them into action of some kind.
To see more of Anieszka’s colourful work visit anieszkabanks.com