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Art in the Family

Art in the Family
December 2016
Timothy Banks illustrates a whimsical world in children’s books, magazines, apps, and more

You’re a harried parent, and your four-year-old’s bedtime is all that stands between you and an evening glass of wine. That’s the plot of Ashley Smith’s Whine Down, one of the most recent books that Timothy Banks has illustrated—and one to which he can sincerely relate. The father of three daughters under six, Banks is a full-time artist whose fanciful work spans several mediums, from children’s books (he has some 15 titles to his name) to avant-garde magazine covers and animations for app Achoo Gaboo, a fusion of a traditional children’s book with an interactive game component.

Armed with an MFA in illustration from Savannah College of Art & Design, Banks moved to Charleston eight years ago with his wife, Erin, after a short stint in Atlanta. In 2014, his design was chosen for the Piccolo Spoleto Festival poster, and while he’s created work for local publications such as College of Charleston Magazine and Charleston City Paper, his corporate clients, like Nike, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, and Marvel, are often farther flung. We caught up with the artist, whose work—including a forthcoming book, Monsters in Charleston—is available at

Big gig: I once sent Paste Magazine an e-mail with the subject line “Somewhat edgy illustrator.” I didn’t hear back for a year or two, and then randomly in 2012, they e-mailed me on a Saturday and wanted a final drawing by Monday for a Woody Allen retrospective. My design showed him stepping through a movie poster for Manhattan like stage curtains. I’ve now designed and illustrated covers for Paste Monthly since 2015—more than a dozen issues.

Role models: N. C. Wyeth and, of course, Maurice Sendak. He’s popular to mention, but I’ve always looked up to his work and style.

Kid critics: It can be very sobering to have a three or five year old giving you feedback on a picture. Our oldest writes and illustrates her own stories, though all of our daughters love to draw and paint. You can find their artwork all over the house—on paper as well as on walls and tables.

Work-family balance: I work out of a home studio, so I’m here pretty much all the time. Erin gets out a bit more than me—she’s the creative director for the Gibbes Museum. Other than work, our days consist of finding things for the kids to do. We love going to Metto Coffee & Tea and then to Pitt Street Bridge or Waterfront Park. Bedtime can be pretty chaotic, but we always read to our girls right before they go to sleep. Their favorites are Goodnight Moon and anything by Eric Carle.

Art & marriage: Erin’s always had a more angular style, while I had more of a Disney look. From her, I’ve learned to push my characters in different directions, with elongated necks or sharper chins. It makes sense: one of her big influences is Italian painter Modigliani. Erin’s tastes have broadened my horizons and contributed to making my work richer.

What,s next: I’m working on a series of odd-looking character portraits, and I have an idea for a gallery show comprised solely of my own creations. Prints of my work are available on my website, and recently, I’ve been creating screen prints and woodcuts.