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 banasiakart@yahoo.com.

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.

Cougar portrait in pastel

Cougar, Mountain lion, Puma, Florida Panther….. Whatever you want to call the largest of the small cat species, Puma concolor is one of North America’s most elusive and enchanting felines to roam the wilderness.

This post will focus on the step-by-step process I did while drawing the cougar mount from the Field Museum’s exhibit hall.

Cougar, Puma concolor, mount from the Field Museum.

The cougar portrait started, like all of my other portraits, with a rough sketch.  From there, I refined my sketch by measuring and scaling from the cougar mount and transferring my measurements to my paper. The ground I used for this portrait is a burgundy color from Canson’s Mi Teintes collection.  This is a textured paper with a medium size tooth which perfectly holds the pastel for that textured feeling and finish.  I used my trusty color-erase white pencil as it is one of the essentials I keep close when I work on dark colored ground.

My set-up in the Carnivore room while drawing the cougar portrait.

Drawing felids (cats and cat relatives) are a slight challenge as they have a flat skull compared with other animals.  They also possess a foreshortened and wide muzzle orsnout which is unlike canids (dogs and dog relatives) as the muzzle length and width are a distinguishing factor between some of the species within both groups.

At this time in the process, I am sometimes still deciding what media to use (not surprised).  This time I choose Prismacolor Nu-Pastels and Derwent pastel pencils.  I started with an under-painting of Nu-Pastels as I could get a larger amount of the ground covered in a shorter amount of time.  Once the basic colors for the under-painting were complete, I added the highlights and shadows in places so that I knew where I would be enhancing certain areas when I started the detail work.  As you can see above in the finished under-painting, the cougar has a flat feeling to it as I have not rendered the form much in this photo.  As I started to add the detail (more color layering, hair and texture) the cougar starts to take on a more “real” look or a more modeled look on the paper.

I added dark patches of color to create the base of the skin and fur folds, the dark shadows within the ears, and the shadow that is created under the chin on the neck.  Once that was done I started with more highlights around the cheeks, over the eyes, and on the tips of the ears.  You can see that once the low- and high-lights are done, detail can be added.  And I LOVE DETAIL!

The eyes are the entrance to the soul so this is my favorite feature to draw and paint.  I do have a tendency to add more emotion into the eyes I create then what is presently on a mount or in a photo reference.  The detail is were I get to use pastel pencils and my blade to sharpen the Nu-pastels.  I can get a better point with the pencil or by cutting or chopping away at the pastel sticks or blocks to create a point verses just using the Nu-pastels or my Sennelier soft pastels.

Folds on the skin are the first part of the fur that I started on.  I layered the dark colors with medium tons and then after a quick spray of fixative, I added the light colors and white highlights.  The textured paper takes away a little bit of dimension since you do see a little of the ground color through the layers of color but with each mammal portrait I do, I try to balance the color of the ground with the base colors in the specimens fur color.  With the cougar, you can see the the burgundy color of the paper balances out with the orange and golden yellow colors of the fur.

Once finished, I always sign and fix with spray so that the pastel does not rub off easily.

Cougar, 2016, Pastel on paper, 19″x25″. Copyright Rebe Banasiak, The Brush Hilt, Rebe Banasiak Art.

I will be doing more carnivore portraits in the future so keep your eyes on my blog pages here, Facebook and Instagram to watch the progress unfold.

Next step-by-step, Shrink-e-dink sketch magnets:  How I create shrink-e-dink magnets from my sketches.  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.

Women in Science and Art

Women in Science and Art: Rebecca Banasiak, Mammals Collections Assistant and Preparator

In March, many of my colleagues and I, were asked to answer some questions about what it is like to be either a women in science or a women in art.  I am lucky enough to be one of the few who was highlighted as both a women in science and art.  I highlighted some of my answers below and you can read the full blog post here on the Field Museum’s website.

How did you get to where you are?
I received a BA in chemistry and fine art … from Lewis University in Romeoville, IL, in 1997. ….It wasn’t until I went back to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago …. that I was introduced to the vast collection of material and specimens here. While at SAIC, I started at the Museum as an intern with Bill Stanley, … then in 2005, I became a full-time research assistant. In 2015, the collections assistant, mammals preparator position opened up … and that is how I got to where I am now.

A woman in a laboratory-like space, wearing gloves to handle a fox specimen as children observe

Teaching visitors about mammal preparation at Meet a Scientist in the Science Hub.  Photo copyright the Field Museum of Natural History.

What does your job entail? What’s the day-to-day like?

Part of my day-to-day includes working with the dermestid beetle colony that cleans specimens … I also supervise volunteers and interns. I train them on different tasks like skinning, stuffing skins, and cleaning and numbering bones … how to use the camera equipment and the camera lucida for illustration, and help them get involved with different research projects. One of the projects we’re working on now is photographing the skulls of Grammomys (a group of rodents found in Africa). … Other tasks for similar projects have been to photograph or illustrate a specimen or create maps and graphs that my colleagues or Field Museum researchers may need for publications. … Other projects might include processing specimens that a researcher brings back from an expedition. …..

What has been your favorite part of the job, or a memorable moment?

One of my proudest moments was the day that Bill Stanley came down to my office and was holding the new Fieldiana (a scientific journal published by The Field Museum) that had various articles about the small mammals in the East and West Usambara Mountains in Tanzania. ….

The other moment was when one of my colleagues and a researcher at the Smithsonian, Mike Carleton, asked if I wanted to be an author on a paper about a new species of rodent in the Hylomyscus genus. …..

A woman with dark hair and glasses sketching a cougar in a museum gallery, with a specimen of a large cat in the background


What advice do you have for future women scientists?

I’m not a proponent of STEM, I’m a proponent of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math). … Like the sciences, the arts also do not have enough representation by women. … Art does help with science; they work together. … Science and art work together.

If I had to go back to myself at the age of nine or 10, I would say, “Stick with science, and stick with art, and don’t worry about anyone making fun of you.” When you look at our Museum, we have a lot of female presence. But we need more female leaders in science as a whole. As we educate a new generation, we want to give them confidence. My message to future female scientists and artists is to have faith in yourself; this is really what it is. If you think you can do it, you can do it. If you do something incorrectly, you’re only human, so get back up and do it again. Learn from your mistakes. All it takes is a little education and practice, and you can do it. Take the criticism, learn from it, and keep improving. You will see that it all pays off in the end.

Full text of the original blog post can be found here at Women in Science and Art: Rebecca Banasiak, Mammals Collections Assistant and Preparator, Original published date: Monday, March 27, 2017, by Rebecca Banasiak, Sciences, Animals, Mammals, Collections, Women in Science

Next the daily grind at work:  What do I do at work? Well, you can find out in the next post.  Stay tuned.

Sketchbook Projects, part 1

Sketchbook Project 2016

This is my fourth year participating in the Brooklyn Art Library’s Sketchbook Project. Opportunities in art don’t come very often, but something like this is an opportunity that all artists should take advantage of.

I came across this project by chance while checking out one of the other artist sites I follow on Facebook.  It started out with my first sketchbook titled “A simple place called…” I wasn’t to sure of what I wanted to sketch so I started sketching what I encounter on a daily basis at work (the museum).

The idea for my second book came from my many adventures to the Atlantic coast. See, I’m a beach comber. I like to collect shells so “Wandering shell” was developed from my shell hoarding habit, lol.  I decided to take one shell and have it travel, wander around, throughout the entire sketchbook.

Cover of "Familiar friends" for the Sketchbook Project 2016.

Cover of “Familiar friends” for the Sketchbook Project 2016.

This past year in 2016, was different. I wanted to create my sketchbook around my knowledge of mammals, particularly carnivores.  If you have ever been to the Field Museum, you would have ventured to the back area behind the bird hall and wandered into what is called Carnivore Corner.  This is when “Familiar Friends in our ‘backyard'” was started.

There are so many mounts in the carnivore room, I had to figure out what would be the best representation for the theme I picked. That is when the idea of sketching just North American species came to be.  All I needed to do was see how many NA carnivore mounts we had on display and then choose which ones to focus on.

Wolf, grey fox, raccoon, coati, grizzley, black bear, fisher, cougar, lynx, bobcat, jaguar.

After figuring out what species I was going to sketch, the illustrating began.  First, dogs and their relatives…..canids, procynids, ursids, mustelids…then cats and their relatives….felids.  The wolf and grey fox were no brainers. I added the kit fox to thee list as it shows diversity throughout North America. Then a raccoon and coati for the procynids.  Black and grizzley bears were representing the ursids.

There are many more species but as I only had so many pages to fill for the project I had to narrow my choices to the best representation of carnivores that roam our North American “backyard”.

My 2017 sketchbook is purchased and I have looked at this years themes.  Some time in the future I will post and tell you what 2017’s book is all about.

back-cover

#5dayartchallenge Day 4

I was nominated to do the #5dayartchallenge by one of my besties, Frank. So, for the next five days I will be posting three pieces of art I have done over the past 20 years here, on Instagram and on my Facebook page. Hope you all enjoy the next five days.

#5dayartchallenge Day 4

So, I am on the next five years from 2006-2010.  Let’s see what I can find to show you now.  😉

Tiger

Tiger, 2006, ink on paper.

Pansy III, 2008, Inktense and watercolor on aquaboard.

Pansy III, 2008, Inktense and watercolor on aquaboard.

The Year of the Dragon (Kimodo dragon), 2008, watercolor on paper.

The Year of the Dragon (Kimodo dragon), 2008, watercolor on paper.

 

JUST A REMINDER: All work is copyright to Rebe Banasiak and The Brush Hilt and only a written permission statement by the artist (Rebe Banasiak, that’s me) is acceptable for any and all image use from this website.  Legal action will be taken if use of any images from this website are used without the proper written consent from the artist (yet me again).

#5dayartchallenge Day 3

I was nominated to do the #5dayartchallenge by one of my besties, Frank. So, for the next five days I will be posting three pieces of art I have done over the past 20 years here, on Instagram and on my Facebook page. Hope you all enjoy the next five days.

#5dayartchallenge Day 3

Now, for the time after I got out of school and needing to get my ass in gear.  This next batch is from my first 5 years after graduation from SAIC.  Hope my skills are getting better as time goes on, LOL.

Clouded Leopard, 2002, pastel on paper.

Clouded Leopard, 2002, pastel on paper.

Tiger, 2004, watercolor on paper.

Tiger, 2004, watercolor on paper.

Hyacinth Macaw, 2005, pastel on paper.

Hyacinth Macaw, 2005, pastel on paper.

JUST A REMINDER: All work is copyright to Rebe Banasiak and The Brush Hilt and only a written permission statement by the artist (Rebe Banasiak, that’s me) is acceptable for any and all image use from this website.  Legal action will be taken if use of any images from this website are used without the proper written consent from the artist (yet me again).

“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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.