Posted by: Kathy Temean | November 23, 2019

Illustrator Saturday – Timothy Banks

I work with great clients like TOWN magazine, Paste, Nike, Egmont, Faber & Faber, and Nickelodeon – and my work is proudly represented by Shannon Associates, NYC.

I’ve been recognized by Society of Illustrators Los Angeles, Spectrum 21, 3×3 Magazine, Creative Quarterly, PLAY! Illustration and Showcase 100 to name a few. Plus! I’ve illustrated dozens of children’s books, like the Wizard of Oz story for younger readers, A Valentine For Frankenstein for Lerner, and most recently NIAN, THE CHINESE NEW YEAR DRAGON for Sleeping Bear Press.

You can find me and my studio in Charleston, SC, USA. Locally, I’ve created the poster for the Piccolo Spoleto Festival here in Charleston, one of the largest, comprehensive arts festivals in the US. And in 2017, I illustrated and designed the poster for YALLFest, the world’s largest Young Adult literary festival. Last, but not least, I created the official poster for the Charleston Farmers Market last year.

When I’m not creating something, you can find me and my beautiful wife, also an amazing artist, three wonderful daughters, and one crazy pug, playing in our backyard, and watching alligators swim by our house.


Below is a look at a few thumbnails I created for “Nian”. Honestly, these are the most challenging part of the process for me. The ones I have here are very close to the final images in the book. Not much has changed.

This was my initial concept for “Nian’s” cover image. I wanted to create something where we see the immense size of Nian contrasted with Mei’s size and determination. I passed this along to the publisher, who loved the concept.

the refinement to final sketch

Final version of the image.

Here’s another pic from the book’s interior where Mei is visited by the Magical Warrior again. This was a challenging piece, and I wanted to create a scene where that felt a little more unexpected. Also, since it was a dream sequence there was more room to play with the size and scope of the characters. So I created a pic where we see this larger than life Warrior character’s head next to Mei sleeping in her bed. For drama and emphasis, these are the only two elements included in the pic.

I discovered you when Sleeping Bear Press sent me a copy of NIAN, THE CHINESE NEW YEAR DRAGON; your newest book. It is a beautiful. I immediately visited your website and Wow! I was impressed, thus the reason for all these questions.

I featured this book this week on Writing and Illustrating. Here is the link. Click and leave a comment for a chance to win a copy.

How long did it take you to create the illustrations this book?

Thank you, Kathy! I enjoyed illustrating this book so much, and it’s great to hear the images are resonating. I think from start to finish, the art took about 6 months to complete.

How long have you been illustrating?

I started illustrating professionally when I was a freshman in college in 1997, so about 22 years.

What and when was the first painting or illustration that you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

Starting as a freshman, I worked as a staff illustrator at my university’s publishing house. So, my first payment was in the form of a weekly paycheck.

Did you study art in college? If so, where did you go and what did you study?

Yes, I have a BA in Painting from Bob Jones University. Also, I have an MFA in Illustration from Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD).

I see that you wife is an artist, too. Did you meet because of art – go to school together – run into each other at an exhibition, etc.?

We met as graduate students in the Illustration program at SCAD.

How long have you lived in Charleston?

Just over ten years.

Do you feel that the city has influenced your illustrations?

I do. It’s a beautiful town and there are some gorgeous views throughout the city and the region. I’ve found a rhythm in my work here which is totally because of Charleston. I’ve also created quite a bit of work for different events and publications around town, and it’s been natural to incorporate the city’s landmarks into my images.

Do you think exhibiting your illustrations helped your career?

I think so. It’s always good to see your art in a collection or shown in a gallery. And it’s a good way to market your work too.

I didn’t know that Savannah College of Art and Design’s had a campus in Hong Kong. How did you get your artwork in their Permanent Collection?

I was honored to have the college request paintings from a children’s book I illustrated, The Top Secret Files of Mother Goose. The paintings were initially exhibited in one of SCAD Atlanta’s gallery spaces, but were then moved to their collection in Hong Kong. My goal is to make it there and see them in person again.

How did you get to exhibit your work in the UK?

My work was accepted into both the Showcase 100 and Jules Verne Exhibitions. The shows were juried and hosted by Hire An Illustrator (HAI) in the UK.

Did you start doing editorial work for magazine before illustrating books?

No, I’ve worked with magazines off and on, but book illustration has always been my bread and butter. Most of my magazine work has been regional, so I’ve illustrated for several magazines over the years in the Carolinas and Georgia.

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate children’s books?

It was more or less the kismet of actually being offered a children’s book project. I was very young, 19 or 20, and I had never considered picture books as an option for my work. But, when I was asked to work on something, I couldn’t say no. I was fortunate to have art directors and editors who saw the potential in my work.

Was THE CAPTAINS HAT your first published book?

No, actually, No Pets Allowed was my first published book. I picked up the The Captain’s Hat book from the same imprint because of my work on No Pets Allowed.

How did that job come your way?

There was a children’s book imprint attached to the publishing house I worked for as a staff illustrator during college. This particular concept had been passed around for a while because they could not find a style which worked best for the story. They had me create a spec picture, and then from there I was given the manuscript to create the book’s illustrations.

How were you chosen to illustrate the official image for the Festival Napa Valley 2018?

The festival committee saw a cover image I created for a magazine’s annual Arts issue. The image for the cover incorporated some of the same elements which Festival Napa needed for their image, so they contacted me to find out if I would be interested in working with them.

Was MONSTERS IN CHARLESTON your idea to write, illustrate, and publish?

It was, and the concept itself happened organically. It all started with a couple of pics featuring monsters hanging out near Charleston landmarks which I posted on Instagram. Someone wrote and asked what my plans were for the series, and on a whim, I replied I was creating a book. So I basically set a goal for myself, and it was cool putting all of my knowledge of book making together to create something which was my very own.

Do the shops in Charleston sell this book?

They do, particularly in downtown, and the books sell well. They strike a good balance for locals and tourists, and the subject matter is pretty funny. Local shops of note who carry the book are Blue Bicycle Books, Gibbes Museum of Art Gift Store and the Preservation Society of Charleston.

Do you think you were chosen to illustrate A VALENTINE FOR FRANKENSTEIN because the publisher or author saw your Monster book?

Yes, totally. Monsters has opened quite a few doors locally and nationally. My agent has also done a great job getting this book in front of other publishers.

Now that I see THE FRANKSTEIN JOURNALS, perhaps this book influenced the publisher or author to chose you for the illustrations. What do you think?

They all play a part. My style has always been a draw for stories which might have a  “disgusting/ gross” element, and it’s cool to see my portfolio connect in ways I don’t even plan sometimes.

THE BRAVE LITTLE TAILOR: A GRIMM AND GROSS RETELLING looks like a middle grade book. Is this the first MG book like you illustrated?

In recent memory, yes. I’m sure I’ve had other projects over the years, but this series is the biggest in scope, and it gave me more room to create edgier images.

When I looked inside the book on Amazon, it looks like a mix of colored illustrations and Black spots. How did you decide on where to use the B&W illustrations?

That was courtesy of the editor and art director for the series. When I received the specs for the book, they had already decided on what would be color or b/w to help flesh out the story as well as costs for the art.

You have done four GRIMM AND GROSS RETELLINGS. Do you plan to do more?

Not at the moment. Currently, it depends on the publisher and their future plans for the series.

Why is THERE’S A NORSEMAN IN THE CLASSROOM! Only available on Amazon Canada?

I created this book for a little publishing house in Vancouver, and their distribution is limited to that side of the border at the moment. It’s a beautifully printed book, and I’m actually working on the sequel to it right now.

Do you have any desire to write and illustrate more of your own picture books?

Yes, I would love to. I have several sketch/journal books filled with ideas in my studio. It’s really a matter of timing and picking the right story to devote my energy too.

How did you end up being represented by Shannon Associates, NYC? How long have you been with them?

I came aboard with Shannon in 2017 through the recommendation of my former agent who was retiring from the business at that time.


You have won more Awards than can be listed here. Which one are you most proud of winning?

It’s probably the awards I’ve received for Monsters In Charleston. They’re nice validation for where I can take my projects and style.

Is working with a self-published author to illustrate their book something you still do?

Yes, occasionally. It can be a challenging decision though. I’ve had excellent experiences and honestly as many similarly disappointing experiences too. With that, I’m always open to hearing ideas and being pitched concepts from self-publishers who think I’m right for their story. It’s flattering to be considered, and I take it seriously when someone reaches out.

What do you think is your biggest success?

Meeting and marrying my wife. (Timothy – Great answer!)

Timothy and his wife Erin

The illustration below was for College of Charleston Magazine. The article is focused on a professor’s research trip to Florence to study the Medici family archives. I surrounded the main character in this dream like sequence of all things “Florence”. The Florence Cathedral is in the background. The character also appears to be floating from a clam shell at the bottom left corner, which is a shout out to Botticelli’s Birth of Venus – The Medici family was major patrons of the arts, and especially Botticelli’s work. The archive papers are also flying around the picture.

What is your favorite medium to use?

For traditional media it’s acrylic. And for digital, Photoshop.

Has that changed over time?

Yes, all of my commercial work is created digitally using Photoshop. With that. I love traditional media, and I’ve used different methods over time for my work. My first book was created using watercolor and ink, and then I started using acrylics in 2000. When I moved to Charleston in 2009, I completely transitioned to digital for ease and to help keep up with deadlines.

Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet when illustrating?

Yes and yes. I have a well-worn Wacom Intuos Pro medium tablet.

What materials and/or tools do you use to create your work?

I keep plenty of sketchbooks handy to help with fleshing out early concepts. When I work traditionally, I’ll use illustration board and a variety of acrylic paints and mediums. Currently though, all of my commercial stuff is digital.

Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of projects over the years to keep me busy, and that helps with stretching the boundaries of my artwork. It’s more of a challenge to devote extra time to personal projects, but I like being on this side of that balance.

Do you take pictures or research a project before you start?

Yes, research is a must, and I think it’s a classic part of being an illustrator.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

It definitely has, particularly the social media part of the web. There’s still a lot of worth being in a cultural hub (NYC, LA, etc.) to gain attention, but the web helps establish your portfolio as a destination.

Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

I would love to see my work used in a big budget film or animation. Either as the springboard for the film’s story, or as development art.

What are you working on now?

I just finished a book cover for Holiday House, and I’m currently finishing up a mega text book project for Bob Jones University Press. I have an illustration project with TOWN magazine in process for January. And as I mentioned earlier, I’m also working on the sequel to There’s a Norseman in My Classroom.

Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

I swear by gel (matte or gloss) medium to help build up my acrylics. Strathmore for illustration board. Bienfang tracing paper, and most importantly, black prismacolor for sketching. If you’re in Charleston, Artist & Craftsman is the best place to pick up quality supplies.

Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

Be persistent, and trust in yourself and your work. An art career is filled with highs and lows, but having a love for your work and what you’re pursuing is a great thing to have in your corner.

Thank you Timothy for sharing your talent and expertise with us. Make sure you share you future successes with us.

To see more of Timothy’s work, you can visit him at:




If you have a minute, please leave a comment for Timothy. I am sure he’d love to hear from you and I enjoy reading them, too.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Love this look at all of Timothy’s art and his journey in creating it! Looking forward to reading his books!


  2. Great stuff. The Bird Boy Picture just cracked me up. Wonderful interview. Very informative.


  3. Gorgeous art Tim, a visual treat in all senses! I love your sense of whimsy and your p.o.v. in your characters. Thanks so much for sharing Tim’s art and story Kathy!


  4. I really enjoyed looking at your art with it’s different styles and colors. It was like taking a trip! Thanks for sharing the interview and all the illustration samples. Best wishes!


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