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Born in Butte, Montana, John Banovich has painted the drama of wildlife since he was ten years old. Lions were the first animals to capture his youthful imagination when he visited an attraction called Lion Country Safari. “Historically, lions have been used to symbolize the human traits that we admire, such as cunning, intelligence, agility and nobility,” he observes. His admiration for the species deepened in the ensuing years, and he went on to study art and zoology at the University of Montana followed by graphic design at the Art Institute of Seattle.

Africa has continued to call to him as has the magic of the lion, drawing him back to that continent many times. “The diversity in Africa is incredible and accessible,” says Banovich. “Everyday, we are surrounded by tires and concrete and carpeting. We are never really in touch with the planet. When you live life like that, so far removed, you lose the senses you were born with; what it is to be a living creature in touch with Planet Earth. Seeing Africa brings you back to the basic design of a human being — spiritually, emotionally — however you describe it, you become more alive.”

Passionate about Africa’s wildlife, Banovich is equally passionate about his work. When he paints, he becomes completely absorbed in his work, losing all sense of time and all association with the commotion of the rest of the world, getting into that perfect rhythm — what he calls “the dance” — that creative uninterrupted flow that artists often get caught up in. When that happens, he says, “You don’t have to look at your palette; you just know where the paint is. It’s like the rhythm of figure skaters or like ballet. It is phenomenal.”

Banovich compares painting to another creative endeavor he would like to explore because of their many similarities — filmmaking. Both set a stage, introduce characters and tell a story. Says Banovich, “A painting tells an emotional story — art begins where photography ends. A film reads as a good observation; it’s another medium used to convey emotion.”

Like an expert film director, Banovich knows exactly what to include and what to eliminate in his paintings. He makes incredible use of space to effectively frame his subjects. Completely familiar with them, he knows their environment and their behavior. He knows when to pull back to create mood and atmosphere and when to zoom in tight to establish presence. With acrylics and oils, John Banovich creates memorable scenes from the dramas that play themselves out daily in the natural world, just as they have for millions of years. Like stills from classic movies, his paintings freeze-frame the action and, like all great works of art, they linger in the imagination.

Banovich was named Southeastern Wildlife Art Exposition’s 1998 Artist of the Year. His work is featured in the book, The Best of Wildlife Painting (North Light Books, 1997).


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January 31, 2015