Michele Banks is a self-taught painter from Washington, DC who specializes in the sometimes-maligned medium of watercolor. Although images of sweet landscapes and precious flowers may spring to mind when thinking of watercolors, Michele’s paintings are nothing like that.
She uses pigment, paper, and water to interpret and replicate natural phenomena. Just like the divisions of a cell, how water and paint behaves on paper can sometimes be predicted, but very rarely controlled.
Although Michele has always found science to be mentally and visually fascinating, she is not a scientist herself. Her corporate career was interrupted twelve years ago when her husband’s job moved their family to Bermuda. Michele started making collages and paintings, and sold a few through galleries on the tiny island.
Living in the tropics inspired her first conscious efforts at creating art, but really the urge had just been laying dormant for years. Michele clearly remembers decorating her first post-collegiate cubicle with collages created from comic books and bits of pretty ephemera.
Some of her artwork is still about collage making, but watercolors play an important role in those works as well. When a painting doesn’t work out, Michele tears them up, focusing on the colors and patterns, and reshapes them into a new piece.
Her favorite medium is watercolor because it suits her personality. Its properties require one to work fast, and to commit to brush strokes, while accepting the fact that complete control is simply not an option.
Her medical and biological themed work came about accidentally, while experimenting with various effects of watercolors and combining colors. A customer of hers remarked that one of her paintings looked remarkably like organisms under a microscope, “only friendlier.”
The idea of depicting natural processes and phenomena with watercolor was planted, and Michele ran with it.
Michele’s cell division and heart rhythm series are meant to be artistic interpretations of natural patterns and processes, that are literally at the root of life. Michele does not intend to make her paintings completely scientifically accurate, but she has found most medical professionals see something they recognize in her work.
Michele paints in a variety of sizes and colors. Her paintings are all one-of-a-kind original watercolors, not prints. Her bio-medical watercolors can be found online at her Maker’s Market storefront, and her collage work can be found in her Etsy shop. Michele also displays her work year-round at DC-area art fairs and craft shows.