Name: Michele Banks
Business: Artologica, watercolors and collages celebrating science
Location: District of Columbia, U.S.
Reason for starting: I started out painting abstract watercolors, just playing with color and shape. Then some scientists who saw them at shows told me that they looked a lot like cells under a microscope. I was intrigued and started looking at images of cells, particularly dividing cells. For an artist, mitosis is an irresistible concept, encompassing so many ideas – change, growth, symmetry – at the very root of what it means to be alive. I began studying and painting biological images, including microbes, viruses, mitochondria and protists, but I always came back to mitosis. In 2012, my painting “Blue Mitosis” was chosen to be on the cover of a major scientific journal (the EMBO Journal), so when I decided to try making scarves based on my paintings, that was the first one I chose. It’s been my bestseller ever since, although I’ve branched out significantly and now have scarves with neurons, blood cells, sunspots, ekg readings, and more. When scientists on twitter tell me they’ve spotted one at a conference, it makes my day!
How do you define success? Primarily by sales, but also by opportunities. Since I’ve started my etsy shop, I’ve been invited to have my paintings on the covers of journals, textbooks and a novel, I’ve spoken at the NAS and shown art at the AAAS and NIH.
Biggest Success: A high point was having one of my paintings on the cover of James Meek’s novel “The Heart Broke In.” It was pretty amazing seeing my work in bookstores, libraries and on Amazon. Being invited to speak on art and climate change at the National Academies of Science was pretty amazing too.
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What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it? Lack of capital and lack of space (I work from home, and I live in one of the most expensive cities in the US) have kept me from undertaking large projects. I’ve essentially addressed it by staying small!
Who is your most important role model? Grandma Moses. She started painting in her 70s and became rich, famous and universally beloved.
Edited by The Story Exchange