About Clinton Banbury

Clint continues an artistic career spanning 30 years. In that time he has lost expensive camera equipment when he worked for an unmentionable government department; annoyed Sir Bruce Forsyth at an early photo shoot; been allowed behind the scenes with Asiatic Lion cubs at London Zoo; come face to face with a great white shark; shared a lift with Lord Sugar (though we didn’t know what an elevator pitch was); had a book signing at the National Gallery; built a Zoo entrance; argued copyright issues with Historic Royal Palaces; done Pop Maths with Johnny Ball; been involved with the early formation of the Wildlife Information Network; exhibited in an exhibition at the Royal College of Art; run drawing workshops at Hampton Court Palace; Enjoyed a pint with Peter Cook; sketched wild elephants in Zambia; received a cheque from David Beckham; and raised nearly £7000 for the cancer charity ‘Passionate Pink’ with a single painting. Clint has been lucky to have had a career full of opportunity and met so many interesting and talented people, but he still gets so much pleasure knowing that so many of his images are making people smile all over the world.


More about the artist, by himself

I am Clinton David Banbury, named by my mother who recognised the power of an unusual name at a time when unusual names were uncommon. I am not from Oxfordshire.


                

I was born in Billericay, Essex, so that makes me an ‘Essex boy’ and to a certain extent I have never lost the connection. I have lived in Essex, Lancashire, Essex again, Cornwall and now the Midlands.


                

I have always drawn. As a kid I was able to amuse myself as long as I had a pencil and paper. The paper I used then was the scrap from the Durrards printing works, the backs of mysterious financial directories. These early sketches were entirely ephemeral, drawn and destroyed as soon as they were finished. Though I never learned to draw in the true sense and have zero classical training, I was encouraged by both parents and was recognised as the kid that could do this magical thing. Not a great achiever at school, but I knew early on that the sky met the earth on the horizon and that tree trunks were not always a muddy shade of brown. I am also blessed with a very good visual memory which continues to be a great help.


                

I don’t think I ever received any prizes for my early doodles because I hardly ever finished anything, it was however generally acknowledged by the boys, (the girls always championed Helen Gurney), that I was the best at art. At this time I began calling myself an Artist, something I forgot in my later drive to be a Graphic Designer, and produced complicated collages that represented machines influenced by Heath Robinson and monstrous faces with shining eyes that exploded beyond the edge of the paper. It was obvious then that my thought processes leaned towards the imagination, rather than to factual representation. True, I could draw a still life of a couple of apples and a bottle of milk, but why not add a face to the milk bottle and take a chunk out of the apple, then add legs and arms to the pear that’s running in from the side, then let’s make them all fight one another. I guess it’s a different way of seeing matched with a restless hand that starts the process. The rest is just getting on with it.


The story continues

                

I graduated from Preston Polytechnic with an Honours Degree in Graphic Design and became a Chartered Designer. Working as a designer was not all plain sailing, though I like to think I was quite successful in the end. I created some things I still like and designed some corporate identities that are still in use today. I made quite a bit of money, then I lost some! When the first recession came I was forced into deciding what to do. The design company that I set up with a friend, Banbury Meayers partnership, had finished amicably a couple of years before. New business opportunities loomed and financial responsibilities matched with an unknown dilapidations order, forced me to consider my future. I couldn’t work any harder and I decided enough was enough. I had outstanding contracts, considerable debt, and legal action pending. It was a dark place but for the first time in a long while my personal life was simple and all my worries were compensated and shared by jewellery designer Zoë Marie. I stopped calling myself a graphic designer and built a portfolio of drawing. Luckily things started moving quite quickly.


                

I started illustrating books, ‘Write a Better Letter’, for Basildon Bond, followed by a children’s guide to the Old Royal Observatory. A Series of graphic novels for adult readers for Harper Collins; editorial illustrations for BBC Music Magazine; ‘Creepy Crawlies’ for The Natural History Museum; and children’s guides for The Tower of London, National Trust and English Heritage; drawings for advertising editorial and merchandising followed.


                

People often ask ‘How did you start selling your art?’ and I always tell the same story.


                

One day, while still at college Zoë put some of her jewellery in a table top Christmas bazaar, but things weren’t going too well. After we set the table up and had a quick look around we settled down. I think her work was too expensive for that market, we made a couple of sales, but it was hard work. On one side of us there was a space, perhaps someone had decided not to come, so I wondered what I could do to make the day worthwhile and more fun. Luckily, I had a marker pen and an A3 layout pad in the car, so I got a chair and started to draw animals. Every kid that passed I asked if they had a pet or what their favourite animal was. I drew it for them telling them they could colour it in when they got home – Children and adults were fascinated. At first, I produced sketches for free then I charged 50p a drawing. I distinctly remember we took £70, (perhaps we put the price up), and Zoë was spending more time organising queues of children and collecting money than selling her own jewellery. Work was suddenly great fun; it was exciting, and people liked what I did!


Art for Everyone

                

From this small beginning my career as an artist began. Drawings got smaller and more detailed, then larger and more detailed. Zoë and I attended over twenty shows a year, mostly craft and agricultural events with this work. People still remember these ‘Personalised Paintings’ with great affection and I can understand why. It was an opportunity for anyone to commission a widely published illustrator, I was still illustrating books, to paint their house and family including cars, pets, relations, neighbours, etc. the resulting paintings were loved so much that when we took the idea to the Country Living Spring Fair, (a big financial gamble at the time), we did extremely well and regularly took over £20,000 worth of orders. It was a success, but then of course I still had all that work when I got back to the studio!


                

After a while these ‘Personalised Paintings’ became sterile as an artistic pursuit. I wasn’t short of work but I was always searching for artistic satisfaction elsewhere. I had so little time to explore other avenues because I was always up against commission deadlines. Any spare time I did get was used working on commercial projects.


                

At about this time we moved to Cornwall. Regular income, better communications and the need for more studio space led us to purchase a Chapel near St. Just. I decided to gradually end the commissions but I struggled again to find an artistic voice. This time I played with conventional watercolour painting and dabbled in oils. I still worked on commercial projects.


                

I loved Cornwall, the summers were glorious and we made lasting friendships but the winter wind seemed to blow constantly. I used to lie awake listening to it howling and worrying about the chapel - until eventually part of the roof did blow off! I remember this as a really low period, but once we sold the up things started looking more optimistic.


                

Light-hearted drawings with odd titles like ‘The Wow Wow Bird’ emerged. ‘Wooly Nest’ and ‘Cat Stretch’ had been only quick sketches on paper scraps up until now, but sudden inspiration hit and I just drew them big. ‘Art that makes you smile’ was born.


                

At first we sold these original watercolours on the stand in conjunction with the ‘Personalised Paintings’ as it was too much of a gamble to give up commissions completely. Then we sold originals through galleries like Collier and Dobson who also produced canvas prints, but quickly realised we could sell more as prints ourselves. My humorous pictures were really liked by all ages and all walks of life, and most importantly people loved to give them as gifts. ‘Clucking Mad’, a madly clucking chicken became a best seller, it fitted the Country Living profile well and was licenced for use on tea towels, kitchenware and ceramics.


Clint’s Prints

                

The print range developed surprisingly quickly. People often ask how I have produced so many different images, well, luckily I can draw really quickly and as customers were asking for new things all the time, I simply responded. We aimed at good quality reproduction that could be given as a gift, presented in a nice thick mount, right from the start, no compromises. Also I wanted ‘Limited Edition’ to mean just that. Limited and Guaranteed. Small print runs and then a new drawing or idea when the 195th print was sold.


                

The first show we did with ‘Art that makes you smile’ on its own was Spirit of Christmas at Olympia. It was obvious from the first day that we had a hit. People were enthusiastically picking out prints and passing us money above other people’s heads and I was having to have more prints sent up from the studio and was signing them in the coffee lounge while Zoë busily made sales.


In May 2010 we moved to Stratford-upon-Avon into a normal house just large enough to have a studio on the ground floor. After a couple of years struggle we managed to get a unit on a nearby industrial estate to house all our equipment.                 

All this happened over ten years ago and to be honest it seems like yesterday. We have stuck to selling mainly at retail shows, which is hard work but great fun. We get to meet a lot of nice people, with many regular customers buying again and again. So a big ‘Thanks’ to you all. Our seasonal routine starts in early spring at Crufts where we obviously focus on dog prints. Summer is spent at Royal Horticultural Society shows or at good quality art and interior events. Then it’s my favourite show, The RSPB BirdFair. After that it’s full on preparation for Christmas where we hope to be in various cities such as Bath, Winchester and London.


                

The rest of the time I work in the studio on commercial projects. I spent four years working as a design consultant and illustrator at Twycross Zoo; I produce drawings for ‘ScribbleDown’, our children’s rubdown transfer business and I work on children’s books when I am asked and they grab my curiosity. The wonderful Vicki Thomas of Vicki Thomas Associates handles all my licencing agreements for greetings cards etc.


Where now?

                

Most recently I have been concentrating on the fine aspect of my painting which has been born partly from the success of ‘Art that makes you smile’ and ‘ScribbleDown’ which has enabled Zoë and I to indulge in our passion, observing wildlife in the wild. In the last few years we have watched some amazing animals. Our most unusual and favourite wildlife encounters have been: in Tobago we saw Mot Mots and a Pootoo that was discovered after a long hot sticky trek in the rainforest. In Australia Little Penguins, a Tiger Snake, and Platypus’s from a kayak in a mysterious flooded forest. By the pool in Sri Lanka we watched fly catcher’s drinking; the rare black necked storks (one of only three in the country) and a great front seat view of a leopard. Tanzania of course my favourite was the Elephants; In South Africa we saw in close and high definition Great white sharks dental arrangement and Meer cats at sunrise. Hungary was memorable for the beautiful Penduline Tit and the magnificent Great Bustard. Also while eating lunch in the rain we watched a mole dig near the surface and come up for a worm; Texas contributed black bears with cubs in the carpark, red kneed tarantulas and the Hummingbird migration. But surprisingly it was not until 2016 when we went to Zambia in the company of John Threlfall and other wildlife artists that I actually began to draw wildlife from life. Although I have in the studio a huge collection of sketches, thoughts and reworked drawings I had never kept an actual sketchbook before. Now I never want to be without one.


                

If you keep a sketchbook you can see the progressive nature of your drawings. Things you think of as rubbish at the time are revealed later as marvels. Drawings you do this way become full of life through the need to capture images in moments. And here’s the important bit, this collection becomes your best reference for finished work rather than photos. You discover so much more about the subject because you are forced to look closely, and record quickly. My finished works which I still produce in the studio, become much more than a copy of a photograph.


If you have read this far, many thanks and I hope you enjoy the rest of the website. Meanwhile, I’ll keep on drawing!