Thinkspace Projects is pleased to present Sean Banister as part of our new group exhibition, “Intersections”. The exhibition is a solo show for each artist in their own right, and continues to build on their momentum into 2022. Each artist’s work is unified by storytelling, displaying an array of memories and experiences within the walls of the gallery.
Sean Banister uses this show as an expansion and continuation of his work in 2020, delving into the identity of humans as storytellers and collectors. Having developed a strong interest in how the items we interact with and collect help us to craft our own self-narratives, Banister explores how this affects image and individuality, from the way one sees themself personally to the way they exist and are viewed in the world. While each of his pieces for “Intersections” is unique, together they all act as facets of the same experience of living in our current time.
In our interview with Sean Banister, he shares why he loves Pinterest, how he is spending more time on his art, and the mural that brought him back to painting.
Can you share with us a little bit about your upbringing and where you are currently creating?
I was born, raised, and currently living and working in Riverside, CA. As the oldest of 3 boys (I’m 8 and 9 years older than my brothers), we spent a lot of our time making up games in the backyard, playing in the pool, or exploring new video games and board games together. Building things out of random materials in the backyard, mostly from cardboard, and modding our nerf guns to try to get them to shoot faster were all major parts of how we spent our time growing up. Even if I wasn’t making art by myself, creating things was a part of our family culture. I love to travel and experience new places, but I always love coming back to SoCal and feel a very deep attachment to it as a place and a culture.
What was the inspiration behind this latest body of work? What themes have you been exploring in your work?
The latest body of work is my effort to continue and expand on the ideas that I started in 2020. Humans are storytellers. We are also collectors, and I’ve always had an interest in how the items we interact with and collect help us to craft our own self-narratives about who we are personally and how we exist in the world.
Could you share what your day-to-day looks like when working in your studio?
I’ve been a full-time high school teacher since 2004, so my typical day in the studio occurs after I get off work and have had a chance to reset my brain. I really enjoy the act of painting, but before I jump into it I like to take a 30-min power nap, or if the weather is nice I’ll go for a quick walk. Once I get the gear-switch handled, then I click into a playlist and get to work. Somewhere in the evening, I’ll take a quick dinner break, maybe about 30-40 min, then back to work until somewhere between 8-10 pm. It’s easy to slip through an evening while painting, and I could go later but would definitely pay for it through the next day of work. Weekends get turned into studio work time too, but that’s a bit more loose depending on what’s going on. Some days will be a few hours and others will be a longer workday than I can fit in Monday-Friday.
What’s in your “artistic toolbox”? Are you particular about brands that you use?
As far a brands go, I’m a fan of Trekell brushes and almost exclusively use them for my work. For paints, I use Nova Color as I like the flow, but am feeling a need to branch out in the near future for more color options. I paint on cradled wood panels that I make myself, especially since companies’ supply chain have recently stopped working. Aside from those essentials, I use frog-tape masking tape from the hardware store, which gets me the nice crisp edges when I need them, a squirter bottle to wet my working surface to help achieve a variety of effects, and some house paint brushes for larger blending effects. Also, a blow-dryer is a big part of my work flow as it sets my paint and gets me to be able to work on adding the next layer.
How do you like to unwind outside of the studio?
I like my garage hobbies (my garage is like a woodshed/maker space), various kinds of physical activity, watching movies/ binging shows, spending time with loved ones, spending an evening at the local pinball arcade, playing music, etc. Unwinding is a weird idea though, as sometimes I feel like work helps me unwind; like it’s de-stressful to get at it, whether it’s at school or at the easel. My experience is probably different than other artists as I’m not full-time in the studio, so for me it feels like a balancing act. Sometimes my stress comes from the studio and other times it’s a stress-relief to be working in there.
Do you have a process for sourcing and/or keeping track of your inspiration?
While I have only really been creating work in earnest for a bit over 2 years, and my process is still really new, I do try to be intentional about how I collect input that my subconscious can then sort out before I compose a piece. I keep a sketchbook where I work out compositions, but I find that my freest work happens on scraps that I don’t really care about. I think when it’s a scrap, I don’t care if it’s trash and I don’t let my self-judgment hold me back as much. When I get a good scratch-paper thumbnail that I like I snap a pic to keep on my phone. I like mining ideas through random collections I keep on Pinterest as well, which I like because their program can take me down some pretty interesting visual rabbit-holes and lead me to a place I might not have thought up otherwise.
What was on your playlist while creating this new body of work?
As a pandemic project, some friends of ours made a great 80s playlist that’s about 45-50 hours long, so it’s great to put that on shuffle and just zone out on the work. It’s a good mix of genres from that era too. I like listening to new alternative music, hip-hop, and dance stuff too, but I don’t have much energy in spending my time curating playlists for those while I’m working, so while every now and then I’ll listen to the playlists Spotify makes for me, I mostly don’t wanna think about what I’m listening to and just zero in on the painting. So for 2020 I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of that 80s playlist from my friends.
Most artists express themselves creatively as a child, but there is a moment when a shift occurs from just being creatively inclined to being more artistically minded – do you know when that moment was for you?
I got labeled as an art kid by my classmates and teachers through elementary so I was thinking about art pretty early as a part of my young identity. Thinking seriously about art the way I do now didn’t happen for me though until like 2018 as I shifted my priorities back to being an artist. I had been doing freelance graphic design for local companies as way to be in art outside of my work as a teacher, but it got to a point where I hated doing that and wanted to just have fun making art for myself again, so I got back into painting after a very enjoyable mural job I did for a local (now my favorite) arcade that helped me realize what I had been missing out on. It was really working on that mural job where I was in this large space, by myself, up on a ladder painting my designs on the walls and listening to music that I was like, “hell yeah, this is it” and so from then on I just try to keep taking steps toward more of that feeling.
Have you ever worked outside creating public murals? If not, would you be interested in pursuing one day?
I have only worked on outdoor murals while helping friends on their projects and volunteering at a few mural festivals here in SoCal. I love being outdoors working on large projects, and the physicality of painting large areas is also a fun aspect. That kind of work is exhausting, but it’s the good type. I definitely want to get into doing my own outdoor murals in the near future.
What words of wisdom would you share with your past self when you were just starting to create art? Is there anything in your artistic journey that you wish you may have done differently?
If we’re talking about my past self from 2018/2019 when I was making a return to art, I would say make more art, but there were a lot of factors at play. I don’t know how healthy it would have been to expect myself to do more than I was at that time given my schedule and learning stage. If we’re talking about a younger me though, like teenage me, I would talk myself into developing a sketchbook discipline asap. Mostly to develop a habit of generating ideas, both good and bad without judgment, but it would also be an added bonus of having 20-30 more years of drawing mileage behind me now for sure. I also would have liked to have had an art school experience, but while I’ll always wonder “what if” because it’s always a tempting game to play, the thing I can do is do my best now so that future-me won’t be looking back wishing I did this or that differently.
What did you find to be the biggest challenge of 2020 for you?
Trying to feel normal in a year where nothing felt normal. As a high school teacher, the whole year was totally lame, but I had to try to make it worthwhile somehow for my students and myself. As an artist, I was trying to continue to discover myself and develop my practice, at the same time as discovering and developing my new and expanding relationship/s within the art world, grasping at any scrap of info I could find on how the various ins and outs of that world work. I get a lot of enjoyment out of exploring and interacting with the world as well but that was a big pandemic no-no. So yeah, just establishing norms in a topsy turvy world was the biggest challenge.
What is your proudest accomplishment of 2021? Life thus far? (can be art-related or not)
For almost my entire teaching career I have both taught in the classroom for my full workday (first 15yrs as an English lit. teacher and the last 3 teaching art) and coached the aquatic teams at my high school after school almost year-round (yes through summers too). This year I knew had to finally make the full split away from coaching after 17 years so I could have room in my life to make art, and that wasn’t easy to do. I’m very proud of what I accomplished in my time coaching at my school, but I am also really proud in making that step for myself to be able to feel the type of fulfillment that I get from painting. It’s really a huge change in my life that I’m still adjusting to, and I’m very excited to have taken that step.
What big projects do you have coming up in 2022 and 2023 that you’d like to share more about?
I still feel very early on in my art journey, so I’ve not been jumping out of my skin to find new commitments to fill up 2022 and 2023 with. While I’m sure to be on the hunt for new projects after this show opens with Thinkspace, the biggest project I have to work on this year is myself, setting goals and enriching my practice as an artist.
Sean Banister Artist Statement for “Intersections”
With this new body of work, Banister continues where he left off in his 2020 Thinkspace Projects show “A Tourist at Home”, showcasing in each painting how the objects we keep in our lives can define how we see ourselves and our place in the world. While each of his pieces for “Intersections” is unique, together they all act as facets of the same experience of living in our current time.