Timothy Banks has monsters in his head. They come to life in his book, Monsters in Charleston, published in 2017. The creatures visit sites like the Battery and Folly Beach and tour the Holy City. And like his favorite artist, Maurice Sendak, author of the 1963 children’s book Where the Wild Things Are, Banks’s monsters are lovable and endearing giants that one wouldn’t mind having as pets.
Banks, originally from Asheville, North Carolina, professes, “In addition to my parents, TV also raised me. At five-years-old, I began drawing Disney characters from TV cartoons. I didn’t know I could become an artist, but I knew I needed to draw. I drew in school and even in church. I used tithing envelopes to draw something during the service,” he recounts with a laugh. “In the 1980s and ’90s, I watched pop culture on channels like Nickelodeon, and these cartoons seemed to open the door to me as an artist.”
As an undergraduate student at Bob Jones University, Banks was hired as a staff illustrator at the university while pursuing a degree in painting and drawing. He graduated from BJU in 2000 to immediately move on to a graduate program at Savannah College of Art & Design, where he received an MFA in illustration. Banks hit the ground running after graduation with editorial illustration work. In 2009, he settled in Charleston with his wife and family and by 2017 acquired representation with the prestigious Shannon Associates in New York. He now works with clients like Nike, Paste and TOWN magazines, Egmont, Faber & Faber, and Nickelodeon.
Cartoon Network // Along with his varied digital creations for national companies and publications, Banks is the author and illustrator of Monsters in Charleston, a children’s book about the Holy City and its reviled creatures.
As an editorial illustrator, Banks allows the assignment to influence his artistic decisions. He admits that his book illustrations allow him more control over the creative process and these projects are more his personal vision and individual style. He states that “at times I straddle two or three universes artistically, but I’m always pushing myself to try something new.”
At first, his illustrations appear to be laborious hand-drawn efforts, but in actuality, they are laborious efforts of his Photoshop skills. They are digital paintings. He equates “pen in hand to digital painting with a tablet and mouse.” His flair for color and line, coupled with incredibly detailed storytelling in illustration, isn’t easier or less time-consuming with the computer, only more realistic with tight editorial deadlines. The digital images are crisp and great for the four-color printing processes of books, posters, magazines—where his work is seen in the world. Although Banks paints digitally, he claims, “I strive to maintain a resemblance to my hand-drawn illustrations in all my work.” And he does.
There is a timeless quality to Banks’s work. His illustrations create a bridge between past and present. He states, “I don’t try to include a sense of nostalgia in my work, but it makes sense that it’s there—my past influences are certainly there.” Now, at forty years old, Banks is excited about more editorial and book projects and the wealth of thoughts and ideas he brings to his work from his past, including the monsters in his head. He humbly says, “I feel very fortunate as an artist. I love what I do. How many people can say that?”’
For more information on Timothy Banks and his work, visit timothybanks.com.