Shrink-e-dinks….nostalgia from the 80’s

This past December I decided to take my work and create pins and earrings.  The question was how to do this.  I found something from my childhood that I always loved to create with, Shrink-e-dinks.  Yes, those plastic sheets you could paint, color or draw on, cut out and then pop in the oven to watch them shrink into a hard plastic.

I remember creating Disney Christmas ornaments from kits that my parents would get for my sister and I.  Those snowy Saturday afternoons where mom and dad needed to keep Karen and I busy….Boy, those were the days.

Well, I found the Shrink-e-dink material and decided, WHY NOT!

First off, I started actually drawing out images and then coloring them in.  This took a long time for each image but once shrunk down they looked really cool.  I used a variety of media including colored pencils, alcohol markers, and inks.

I then did a little more exploring on the art supply websites and found Shrink-e-dink material that you can send through an ink jet printer.  Hallelujah!!!!  This was so much easier. So, I started to look through my sketchbook and computer and found lots of images that I created to print out.  The results were great and the items were and are some of my most popular sellers.

Take a look for yourself here as I have some items still for sale.  Just contact me via messenger in Facebook or you can email at

Next up, a review of the Epcot® International Festival of the Arts:  Disney has art classes and workshops? Who new they were so artist friendly?  Stay tuned.


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.

Ink is for the birds…

Today I am going to focus my post on ink painting, specifically, ink painting with acrylic inks and ink pens.

I have fallen in love with my acrylic inks and ink paint pens. They are amazing and so versatile.  The wolf portrait I have been working on now for over a year (due to lack of some time in the studio) is being painted all in ink.  I started with Derwents inktense pencils as the base coat and then went on to Daler Rowney F&W acrylic inks.  I am also using Molotow and Montana ink markers.  Can I tell you that if you have never used or only used once or twice inks and didn’t like them, you are using the wrong inks. All of these brands (and not to sound like a commercial) work like either watercolors (depends on the amount of water added) or liquid acrylics.  I started using them on watercolor paper but soon found out the using boards is so much better with the inks.  I am going to highlight a step by step from my holiday in Florida for how I use the inks now.

So, first things first, I always draw my picture out.  I chose the majestic crowned crane.

Drawing of the crowned crane with palette, ink and pen set up.

Drawing of the crowned crane with palette, ink and pen set up.

I actually drew this out as a sample for my teen students when I was teaching them how to use inks.  I figured I would finish it at some later date.  I realized that since my holiday was about relaxing and rejuvenating, I would be able to get some sketching and painting in.  The resort I was at had tons of animals and guess what majestic bird.  Yep, that’s right….The crowned Crane!  So I was able to use the bird in the flesh to continue and finish my painting.  Most of the first base coat I did in class for the students.  When I got to the resort, however, I went into full-fledged painter mode.  My studio went from being in my home and the museum to the Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort down at Walt Disney World.  My balcony became my zen zone with all the animals outside my window.  It may have been hot and humid but I stayed outside to finish this little guy using the live bird as my color guide.

My travel studio at my resort on holiday.

My travel studio at my resort on holiday.

Nyala antelope outside my balcony.

Nyala antelope outside my balcony.

View from my balcony.

View from my balcony.

First base coat, done before I got there.  Second base coat, started and done.  Since these are base coats I just watered my brush down and used the ink thin like watercolor.  Next, I started to add less water so that more bold color would start to stand out on the painting.  Shadows, highlights, anywhere I want overlapping color to come through is next.  Usually with watercolor, for shadows I water down slightly but for the inks I went back to watering down like the first base coat.  Inks are very opaque so using this method to add the shadows works perfectly.

Since I was outside painting, it did not take long to wait for the inks to dry.  Surprisingly, inks dry at around the same rate or faster than watercolors.

After all the base coats, shadow and highlight layers, I started adding detail.  Now, the fact that I was painting the colors from the live bird meant that I would have to be patient.  The bird is moving around, at a far distance so I would sometimes have to look through my camera lens to see the detail on the bird.  I started adding little by little strokes from both my brush and directly from the markers.  After overlapping many layers I finally finished.  The result is a colorful portrait of the crowned crane in all its majestic and radiant glory.

Finished painting. Crowned crane, 6x6", inks on aquaboard. Resource from my own photos and from life painting.

Finished painting. Crowned crane, 6×6″, inks on aquaboard. Resource from my own photos and from life painting.

I hope you enjoyed seeing my how I use inks as much as I love painting with them.  See you all really soon!


Throwback Thursday – #1

This is from the year 2000 when I was a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The second stipple I ever did in pen and ink.

Beetle, ink stipple on vellum, 11×17.

Beetle, ink stipple on vellum, 11x17. Copyright Rebe Banasiak, The Brush Hilt and Banasiak Art Gallery.

Beetle, ink stipple on vellum, 11×17. Copyright Rebe Banasiak, The Brush Hilt and Banasiak Art Gallery.

“Yes, I do have another job to pay the bills…”

…is the answer I am constantly telling people when they ask me if I “make lots of money selling my art”.

It has always been a pain in the $%# to describe how many and what types of jobs I have and why I have them.  I actually have two other jobs besides the “full time” job of being an artist.  For this post, however, I will focus on only one of my jobs, the one I spend the most time at outside of my studio.  I’ll tell you more about my other job in a later post.

So, back to the main job.  Well, most people think when they see me on Saturdays in the exhibit halls at the Field Museum or at an opening night event or selling my art in a fine arts fair, that I must get to draw and paint all day and everyday.  Well, hate to tell you all but “I do have another job to pay the bills”.

Drawing a great grey owl portrait in chunky charcoal at The Field Museum.

Drawing a great grey owl portrait in chunky charcoal.

Don’t get me wrong. I would never and do not ever complain about my job because, unlike others, I LOVE and ENJOY what I do and where I work.  I have this job to pay the bills so I can buy more art supplies in order to fulfill “MY CREATIVE PASSION” in the studio.  It amazes me when people tell me to just sell my artwork.  Yeah right. Sorry people, but it is not that easy.  First, you need the audience that likes your work.  Second, and I can’t stress this enough, I will not create something that I do not feel passionate about.  “PHEW”…there, I said it.  I do not think that it is an artists’ “job or responsibility” to create what the masses expect them to do (unless of course it is a contract job).   We artists become artists to express ourselves in what we like to create.

So, back to my main job outside my studio work.  For all those people who ask  “so, what do you do?”.  Well, I usually answer “a research assistant “.  Yeah, I know. Kind of boring, right? WRONG! I usually then get the question of “what kind of research do you do” or “do you get to use your talent as a researcher”. YES! This is the best part of describing what I do at my job to others. For me, this is were the descriptive fun begins.

Most of my day is using my artistic talent. Now, don’t get the wrong idea that this woman gets to draw all day.  Nope, I do not illustrate everyday, but I do get to use my vast knowledge of photography (YEAH!), Photoshop and photo manipulation with many of the images I take myself.  Yes, I do it all at my job (artistic wise).  I photograph specimens, manipulate and prepare those photos, create maps, graphs, and tables for publications and yes, I do illustrate specimens, too.

My Computer and desk where I do all my Photoshop work.  Photo manipulation of a Crocidura skull specimen.

My computer and desk where I do all my Photoshop work. Photo manipulation of a Crocidura skull specimen.

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.

I’m one of the lucky ones in the scientific/natural illustration world to be employed as a research assistant where I work.  I do get to use my artistic talent in some form everyday. Most importantly, as an artist where I work, it is one of the best places to draw and paint because it is a “very artist friendly” environment.  And the best part is, they pay me to use my artistic talent EVERYDAY!  So, yes, it is just “A JOB”, but it is one of the best and most exciting jobs I have ever had were I get to use my artistic talent and knowledge in the creation of images, graphics, and illustrations for publications and websites.  And sometimes, I don’t mind bringing my work home with me.  🙂

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.

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.

Chilly air, warm studio…

The Chicago freezing temperatures have closed where I work for the past two days so I have been in the studio catching up on some painting.

Hope, Mexican grey wolf, ink on clayboard, 18x24"

Hope, Mexican grey wolf, ink on clayboard, 18×24″

I started this painting from a photo of mine of Hope, one of the Mexican grey wolves from Brookfield Zoo.  Wolves have always been some of my favorite animals to draw and paint and now that I have been able to get some wonderful shots of Brookfields pack, I have been creating sketches, illustrations, and paintings this past year.  I am hoping that over the next week I can finish this painting so I can move onto the next piece that has to be finished. Hopefully, my little helper (Stephanie the cat) doesn’t distract me and get in the way.  😉

Stephanie the cat, my little studio helper.

Stephanie the cat, my little studio helper.