With the crafting and arts festival events ramping up for the second half of the summer, many artists are finding themselves rushing to make deigns and products to meet the demand of the ever growing audience, demanding new material every year they go. One of the artists who has done extremely well over the years and made a name for themself within that community has been Robin Banks, an illustrator whose designs you've probably frequently seen on posters, album art, t-shirts, billboards and various other promotional items. Today we chat with Banks about their art style and breaking out as a freelance artists, plus thoughts on the local art scene. (All photos courtesy of Banks.
Gavin: Hey Robin! First thing, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hi! I'm Robin Banks and I'm a 27 year old artist living in Salt Lake City. I like simple pop music and punk. I don't identify as male or female and I very much dislike masculinity. The art I create tends to be simplistic and pretty overtly feminine if not just childish.
Gavin: What first got you interested in art and what were some early influences on you?
My mom, Shari Acevedo, is an artist. So, I grew up around art books and supplies and got to see her create art all the time. The first piece of art I really remember being entranced by was Picasso's Guernica. I was maybe 3 or 4 and I would just stare at it in the Picasso book my mom had. I liked the flatness of it all and I liked how the shapes interacted. I remember trying to draw like him on post-it notes and scrap paper and also trying to draw cartoon characters from all my favorite shows. I spent a lot of time drawing while I was growing up. All my assignments would be turned in, barely done, with drawings all over them. My teachers would say "If you spend even half as much time doing your homework as you do drawing, you might get somewhere in life."
Gavin: How did you develop your cartoon-like style over the years?
I developed mainly by seeking out and copying what I like in art. Screen printing as my main process to get to a finished piece also shaped my style in a big big way.
Gavin: Did you seek out any training to college or were you mainly self-taught?
I don't have any training outside of what I have gotten from my peers. I dropped out of school at the age of 15 and it was the best move I ever made. I couldn't stand being herded through a system that only sees one path as valuable. Learning for the sake of getting a grade seems so asinine to me. As far as drawing, I am completely self-taught. It takes me a lot of time and effort to draw. It's not something that comes natural to me, though it is something I love. So, I spend hours and hours designing something that probably looks pretty easy to make. As far as screen printing though, I owe a lot to Leia Bell for teaching me the ropes. She pushed me to start screen printing and I asked her a million questions in the time I was trying to figure out how to do it at home.
Gavin: What motivated you to do more illustration work rather than other artistic genres?
I've just always been drawn to the illustrative. It's very seldom that I see something hyper complex or realistic that sticks with me in any meaningful way. It just makes sense that I should create what affects me.
Gavin: What really pushed you to pursue a career as a professional artist and doing more freelance work?
I guess just being asked to do commissions by enough people made the idea dawn on me that I could do art for money. I'm still afraid to just do art as my job and nothing else. I hate the idea of having to make art I don't want to make just so I can get a buck to eat. That's not the relationship I want to have with art. I don't want to be a business man.
Gavin: What was it like for you breaking into the local art scene and taking part in exhibitions?
Oh man. That part felt really hard for me. I feel like I did a lot of work for a long time before I got invited to be in art shows locally. That's part of what drove me to just set up my own shows and invite the local artists I look up to. Not until the past year or so did I ever get invited to take part in local art shows.
Gavin: What's the process for you when creating a new piece, from concept to final design?
Usually, I won't have a clear idea of much. If I'm lucky, maybe I'll sketch a character or something I like and I will design around that as the main image. I start in pencil to get my idea mapped out on paper. Then I go over that, using a #2 synthetic brush with Bombay Black ink on 400 series Strathmore bristol board. I erase as much pencil as i can after that, so it's just ink on the paper. From this point, I'll figure out where I want the colors to be and will use a light table or a window to see through my paper and I'll draw those areas on separate pages. I make transparencies of all these images and screen print each layer until it's all pieced together. That was all probably way confusing. I'm sure there's instructional videos on YouTube somewhere that can make the screen printing process clearer.
Gavin: Do you usually change things as you go or do you stick to the original plan from the start?
I like to interact with my drawing as I go. I think this makes a more natural feeling piece, rather than being so set on executing an idea that you battle the page and your tools to try to force something preconceived to come out. The tools i work with are as big of a part of my art as I am.
Gavin: A while ago you mentioned you were doing work for Warner Bros. How did that opportunity come about?
I was very lucky. I had signed up for a sign painting class and someone from Struck Advertising was also attending. Before I got there, he looked through the member roll and didn't know my name, so he Googled me. He liked my work and thought I would be a good fit for the Looney Tunes
project they had. I was more than ecstatic! I eat, sleep and breathe classic cartoons like Looney Tunes
. They definitely let me show my own style in the pieces, which was way cool. I made around 18 designs for their Acme Factory line that will be used on shirts, hats, phone cases and tons of other stuff. I am so stoked to finally see some kid roll by with something I designed on them. That will be the coolest thing ever.
Gavin: You've been active over the years in the craft and art festivals, most recently the Alt Press Fest. What's it like for you interacting with fans and getting your work to the masses?
Getting to see and talk with people who like what I do is the best part of making art. I love it so much. I really want to get a car and just tour the festivals across the country, selling my stuff, some day.
Gavin: What have you been working on lately that you've been really excited about, or are about to showcase?
I've been working on comics with a group of 3 witches called The Wart Sisters. Their names are Jeza, Hagness and Ekki. I really hadn't written at all up until now and I'm really enjoying it. It's just a simple gag comic, much in the same vein as Archie
, Dennis The Menace
or Hot Stuff
. Short stories, bad puns and expressive drawings tied together with maybe an activity page and a fold out poster. This is the kind of trash I love, and I feel like it's something that's hard to find these days. I debuted the first little story at Alt Press Fest this year and I hope to have the first full length done by Craft Lake City.
Gavin: Is there any particular artistic project down the road you would love to work on?
Hand making old school pinball machines with my friend Kayla Porter. Keep an eye out, because when it happens it's gonna be the sickest.
Gavin: What's your take on the Utah art scene and the work coming out of it?
Salt Lake City is the best place in the world. I don't know anywhere else with so much cool shit happening, yet it's all so accessible. If I wanted to, I could call up a friend and learn to oil paint, letterpress print, sign paint, sculpt, do a mural, whatever at the drop of a hat. We are all so talented here, and tightly knit, and see the value in each others' work across different artistic borders. We all talk to and learn from each other and I think that openness is something special I don't see anywhere else.
Gavin: Are there any artists you've been checking out lately that you feel people should know?
Korey Daniel Martin just made his first comic and it is insane. It is so fucking good. It's called Baba
Gavin: What can we expect from you over the rest of the year?
I want to do more comics, I want to do some murals because I hate them so fucking bad and I want to make one I like, I want to make pinball machines, I want to go on tour with Foster Body
again, I want to be a kinder person, I want to create more unusual approaches to design and layout, I want to have conversations that can't help but go all night until the sun comes up, I want all my friends to understand why Christmas is so awesome, I want to make the best curry you have ever had, I want to feel ok being vulnerable with people, I want way sick tats and cute button-ups.
Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?
If you want it, you'll find it. I'm on Instagram
, Big Cartel