The summer before she started high school, Natasha Banks was perusing the paintings at The Finds, a now defunct store formerly in downtown Huntsville, when the painter-in-residence Terry Gill exclaimed, “You’re an artist!” This surprising revelation, at such a young age, prompted Banks to study art in high school. Gill later supplied brushes and watercolours that she uses still to this day. Throughout her early development, the guidance of local painters and craft persons influenced the techniques she adapted and gave her the confidence to pursue a life in art.
Her paintings, on display in the online gallery at muskokaunlimited.com, are bold, vibrant and emotionally striking. Her use of colour and her choice of imagery are startling and distinctive. While her body of work is only beginning to accumulate, her current paintings warrant appreciation and serious examination.
Her work captures something internal and unexpected. Using canvas and colour to spark her imagination, Banks allows the painting to evolve—emerge, as it were, as if through its own self-determination. She lets the mood and image come alive in her love of the work and her love for painting.
Banks divides her creative efforts between painting and drawing. Her line drawings, as she calls them, focus mainly on animal subjects. She takes quiet joy in these small portraits that she has developed into a postcard series.
Typically her drawings are playful, colourful attempts to display intimate characteristics of her subject matter. Banks uses these small drawings to acquaint and inform her audience about the life of the animals, insects and birds she portrays. Any proceeds derived from this series, which is available only through her Instagram account is donated to Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, a cause she is devotedly passionate about. Banks’s Instagram account is not only a medium for her creativity, but also includes interesting descriptive insights into the nature and habitat of the creatures she draws.
Above: Natasha Banks’s postcard series features a variety of animals with proceeds supporting the Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary (photos courtesy of Natasha Banks)
Banks has been moved by recent lobster fishery disputes concerning the Sipekne’katik First Nation, a Mi’kmaq band in Nova Scotia, which she believes have not been accurately reported on or resolved fairly. She has introduced her ‘lobster’ drawing as a means to draw attention to and promote a more balanced discussion on the issues as they pertain to both indigenous and non-indigenous people. Her advocacy in this matter underscores Bank’s creative impulses. She feels that her art, and perhaps all art, can assist, educate, and elucidate.
Like all creative persons, Banks has many interests including music and song writing. Her music interests have been generally quiet these days but she has an abiding passion for the ukulele and playing sad songs, apparently of which there is a vast repertoire for such a small instrument. She describes herself as an “all-or-nothing personality”, and because of that, there are often periods where her efforts are focused on other activities and not at all on her art. At this point she does not feel art would be a career that she might undertake for a living. The mental focus and emotional toll of her painting prohibit, in her opinion, the option of working full-time at it. Her life is full with her family and work at The Mill on Main in Huntsville. She most recently purchased her first house in which she has a dedicated studio and she finds that to be a joyful oasis to concentrate on her work.
The paintings that Banks has put on view and sale point to a promise of something quite extraordinary as she matures and delves more deeply into her process and approach to the art form. She doesn’t actually plan her paintings, which seems atypical for most painters, relying heavily on her imagination and subconscious. This spontaneity allows her to discover the form and subject matter within the colours and textures that her initial back wash implies—similar to the way a sculpture might view a block of stone or wood from which the focal point of the piece emerges. This freedom to experiment and innovate creates a kind of emotional shorthand through which the painting speaks. It is too early in her work to see where this might lead but the paintings on display evoke immediate response.
The thriving artistic community in Huntsville, in all its forms, nurtures and cherishes such a wide variety of creative endeavours. Banks’s contribution adds brightness and depth that in time will only become increasingly more impressive.
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