It’s 2017 and I decided to do INKtober.  Well, as the month started, I started at a very eager pace.  The prompt list from Jake Parker’s website was a good list that I had decided to theme out.  My purpose was to keep it within the fantasy/sci-fi/adventure movies and TV shows that everyone was familiar with.  The movie series I had picked to sketch from were from Harry Potter, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings/Hobbit and Game of Thrones series.  I matched characters or scenes with the definition of the word either as a true representation of the meaning or an underlying meaning of the word.

Week one went very well but slow.  It was actually pretty easy to sit down and sketch and ink out one drawing the first couple days.  I planned to not go over 2 hours per sketch and inking.  This went well for the first five days.

BB-8 for the “SWIFTest” little astro mech in the galaxy.
Anakin “DIVIDED” between his light and dark sides.
Draught of Living Death as the perfect “POISON“.
The Grindylow that lives “UNDERWATER“.
Frodo and Sam’s “LONG” road to Modor.
Longclaw, the “SWORD” of Jon Snow.
SHY” Ginny Weasley glancing from behind Molly’s sweater

On the sixth day I hit a bit of a bump in the road. When “SWORD” as the sixth word came up, my first thought was “Longclaw” from Game of Thrones.  Pretty easy, you might think, but as you can see in the photo, I used up almost all of my micron on the cross-hatching.  So, this one sketch, keep me going for about two evenings.  I did catch up two days later by finishing week one’s words and starting on week 2.

This is when my world turned upside down.  Between artwork and regular work, I was propelled into a whirlwind of evenings not being able to sketch a full 2 hours.  Some of my sketching and inking was fast or mediocre from what I can really do and it shows.  I started to fall behind on daily sketching as well.  I did tell myself to just keep going and if I was behind, I was behind as long as I got through as many words as I could.

The second weeks of words were actually done over the rest of the month.

“One-quarter potion” growled the “CROOKED” Unkar Plutt.
The “SCREECH” from the beloved Hedwig.
Hagrid merrily dancing with the “GIGANTIC” Madame Maxine.
RUN” Gendry, run.
Lord Commander Snow “SHATTERED” one of the ice kings.
Smaug’s lair is “TEEMING” with gold.
Princess Leia, “FIERCE” — enough said!

I must confess, that I do like a good challenge but I have to make sure that I have the time to complete the challenge.  I was only able to finish 10 words within the month of October but I started words 11 and 12 and plan to continue to draw out the rest of the words until Fan-Art February starts.  I may just continue from the themes that I am using now and you can follow my progress on Instagram at @banasiakart.  😛

Next up cougar portrait in pastel:  A how-to explanation of how I created a cougar portrait in pastel.  Stay tuned.

The daily grind gives artistic inspiration

After the Field Museum Women in Science and Art blog post, many of you wanted to find out more about what is new about my job at the museum.   As most of you have read in one of my past posts (Yes, I do have a job to pay the bills…) a couple years ago, I talked about what my job at the museum entails as a Research Assistant and the opportunities I get offered to do what I love, illustrating.  Now, as the Mammals Collections Assistant and Preparator, I am doing much more than what I use to do within the Mammals Collection.

Bobcat skull that has been prepped and ready for cataloging (or sketching, hmm?).

How much “art” is in my daily routine?  I do not get to create illustrations or photograph specimens as much as in the past but I take what I do at work daily and incorporate what I learn on the job into my artwork. I take advantage of the many specimens at my finger tips to study and learn how their forms and textures can influence and INSPIRE how an art piece will turn out.  This makes it easier to visualize what I will see on paper when illustrating  the mounts in the exhibit halls.  It’s the LOVE and ENJOYMENT of what I do and where I work that INSPIRES and fulfills “MY CREATIVE PASSION” in the studio. Even if that means sacrificing my time before work, at lunch or on a weekend to come into the my office or lab to illustrate a specimen or a mount in the exhibit halls.

I’ve been in the new position for more than two years now. I moved from doing primarily research based tasks for the Collections Manager to doing more collections prep and maintenance of the mammals collection.  That entails skinning, stuffing, cleaning the bones, cataloguing, numbering and installing specimens within the collection.  There is still some time to take photos of specimens and illustrate for my colleagues but now I am training my volunteers to help me with many of the regular tasks that I use to do as well as train them to use the camera systems and finally, illustrate specimens (YEAH!)

The lab, where all the magic, I mean science happens. This is where the mammal specimens are processed before being installed into the main collection.

What is the difference in what I am doing now verses two years ago? Well, for one, any mammal specimen that needs to be cleaned has to go through my lab first.  I also take care of the mammals beetle colony (Mary Hennen takes care of the Birds beetle colonies).  I inherited thousand of little babies who depend on me (but mostly Mary) for food… and a home.  Check out the beetles Facebook page, Bird’s Bug Room here.  Most people think this is a disgusting part of the job but my time in the beetle room is nice, peaceful, and most importantly, quiet.

Cleaning the torso and femurs of a rodent. This rodent was born with a femur deformity. You can see that the left femur is slightly shorter and extremely wider then the right femur.

My volunteer staff has grown from five to ten volunteers/interns.  I guess mammals has become a popular place over the past two years.  I depend on them everyday to help with cleaning bones after the beetles have finished, skinning specimens and stuffing the viable skins for research, as well as, helping with database entry, scanning, numbering bones and photography work from researchers.

After all this you would think I would need lots of sleep but no, I still give myself time during the week to work on my artwork and sketching.  I am non-stop, the energizer bunny, the flash, a sugared up toddler. I have so much energy I need to release it so I work in the studio (as well as working out a lot).  I consider myself one of the lucky ones in the scientific/natural illustration world to be employed as the collections assistant and preparator.  I still get to use my artistic talent in some form everyday, in either skinning, numbering, Photoshop work, or photographing or illustrating specimens.  Thanks for visiting.  😋

The numbering and boxing area in the lab.

Crocidura monax specimen under a camera lucida microscope with the illustration on the right.

Crocidura monax specimen under a camera lucida microscope with the illustration on the right.

Rhinolophus illustration on a light table. Stipling on vellum from a graphite drawing.

Rhinolophus sp. illustration on a light table. Stippling on vellum from a graphite drawing.

Next INKtober….enough said:  The attempt to do a sketch a day for INKtober and my “failings” at it, LOL!.  Stay tuned.

Who, who….. the snowy owl that’s who!

It’s been awhile since I posted so here is a little something about the latest piece I have recently finished.

Just a little background about why some things take me longer to finish than others.

When I am busy at my regular job and also in life, I tend to start new drawings, illustrations, paintings, or other fine art pieces and then decide to slowly walk away and let the idea of leaving them fester inside me until I give myself a non-committal deadline, if that is what you can call it.  I also have a problem with staying on task, which is me self-diagnosing myself with ADHD and using it as an excuse.  I jump from one started project to the next and back to another and the cycle goes on and on and on, until I start to pull my slowly whitening hair out.  You get the picture.  Sooner or later, everything does get done……eventually.

So this brings me to explain the “Who” in my blog title this month.  I started an illustration of the snowy owl mount in the bird exhibit hall at the Field Museum about a year ago.  I drew the outline one Saturday and then put it back in my portfolio and decided to draw something else.

Outline of the Snowy owl illustration.

Well, last September I decided to start adding color.  Every Saturday that I met with my one art group called Artist at the field, I worked on this owl.  I decided that I wanted to use colored pencils.  They are one of those media that I am so comfortable with that I can basically use them in my sleep, plus the fact I have not created anything in colored pencil in a long time, I mean a very long time.  Since the snowy owl doesn’t have too much coloration I opted to use my Derwent drawing pencils.  There are AWESOME!  24 colors in the range and they are dull and muted colors perfect for the owl.  I LOVE THEM!  They are wonderful because they erase with ease just like a graphite pencil.  I figured, why not, so slowly I added color.

Color on the face.

Color on the face.

The face was first.  A little white here, a little brown there, a little blue here.  The muted colors actually worked well on the dark colored paper I picked. I added color as highlights, I added other colors as shadows, but the best part was using the pencils to create the pattern on the wings and back.

Ventral plumage and start of the wings.

Ventral plumage and start of the wings.

Wing and the feather pattern.

Wing and the feather pattern.

The trick is you do not draw out each and every feather. The technique I use is placing color as highlights or shadows where you see it to give the illusion that there are feathers. I also make sure I use pencils that are really sharp.  The tip being sharp is very essential to getting the little feathered texture on the wings and underbelly.

After I had the owl finished, I started on the rodent in the owl’s talons.  The poor little guy never had a chance.  Oh well.  Finishing the rodent was pretty easy, one, it was a small area of the paper, and two, it was nice to actually put strokes of hair on the paper. Once the rodent was finished I started the snow and rock.

Rodent finished and starting the rock.

Rodent finished and starting the rock.

The foreshortening and slant of the rock seemed very odd when I drew it at first.  Once I started to color it in I noticed that I needed to either add more bumps and pot marks or take away where there were too much texture.  All in all, I think I was pretty successful in creating a realistic rock.

Rock and snow.

Rock and snow.

With that last stroke I was able to put down my pencils and breath a sigh of relief.  I had finished one more piece.  I was so excited that when my group colleagues came to get me for lunch they saw me jumping around for joy.  Yay, I got a little excited.  I love that feeling of satisfaction when I finish a piece.  What was also nice was when I placed the finished piece in front of the exhibit mount I was drawing, every person passing by stopped to say how beautiful it was.  And here is the finished Snowy Owl.

Snowy owl, 2014, Dewent colored drawing pencils on Mi-tients paper, 19x25.  Copyright Banasiak Art Gallery and Rebe Banasiak.

Snowy owl, 2014, Dewent colored drawing pencils on Mi-tients paper, 19×25. Copyright Banasiak Art Gallery and Rebe Banasiak.

Snowy owl with mount in exhibit case.

Snowy owl with mount in exhibit case.

Visual Arts Faculty Show, March 5th, 2014

It was a very nice experience to not only contribute to the faculty show, but to also meet some of the instructors I haven’t had the chance to meet this past year.  I have known Madelyn from our times teaching at HCA (Hinsdale Center for the Arts) but never met Ann when she worked there.  And now with working with Kate and Laura, I can finally put faces with the names of all the other talented people I work with.


The evening was wonderful and we had a nice gathering of people who came out to support us.  I was so busy taking photos of the event that I was unaware that I had lots of people looking at my artwork.  I feel much love from the community in the western burbs when I see people enjoying what I make.


We also had a wonderful jazz band who played all night while everyone enjoyed the nice spread of appetizers and desserts my fellows instructors and I brought.


If you are in Illinois, particularly, the Chicagoland area, the show will be up until May 2nd.

Mayslake Visual Arts Faculty Show
March 4 – May 2, 2014
Mayslake Peabody Estate
1717 W. 31st Street, Oak Brook, IL 60523


Mayslake Visual Arts Faculty Show

Lioness I, 2003, Watercolor on paper, 15"x22"

Lioness I, 2003, Watercolor on paper, 15″x22″

Wow! How this year is going by so fast. Tomorrow will be the opening reception to the second art show I will be in for the year. This second show will be held at the Mayslake Peabody Estate in Oak Brook, IL. It also happens to be where I get to teach drawing and painting during the week. I am so lucky and blessed that I found a wonderful place to continue teaching art to my students and giving me the opportunity to show my work to the community.

If you live in the Chicagoland area, please stop by either tomorrow evening or anytime during the duration of the show and you can view in person some of the work that is highlighted in the gallery here on my blog. Information for the show is below.  I hope everyone can find the time to come by and see what the faculty at Mayslake has been up to in our studios.  🙂

Mayslake Visual Arts Faculty Show
March 4 – May 2, 2014

Opening Reception!
Wednesday, March 5, from 6-8 PM
Mayslake Peabody Estate
1717 W. 31st Street, Oak Brook, IL 60523

Featuring the work of:
Rebecca (Rebe) Banasiak
Ann Grill
Laura Lein-Svencner
Kate Pszotka
Madeline Shea