Relief work: Tiffinite has devoted her lifetime to art

PHOTOS BY MARYANN KROMER In this photo taken in her Tiffin studio, Patricia Banks adds details to the second panel of “Gates of Heaven.”

Around the age of 4, Patricia Banks remembers watching her mother drawing the comic strip character Blondie. Her mother was delighted when her daughter copied what she saw.

“She said, ‘I think we have an artist here,'” Banks recalled.

At St. Mary Elementary, her classmates were making stick figures, while Banks’ sketches looked more like real people. For an assignment to draw sailing ships, hers had flags flying and sails billowing, while the other children produced more typical flat images.

Banks said art — in any form — always was something she wanted to do.

After graduating from Calvert High School, Banks moved to Texas and studied art at North Texas State University. Although she did not earn a degree, she set about creating her own drawings, paintings, photographs, posters, digital art and sculptures. She learned by doing and by getting instruction from other artists along the way.

Closer look above of a clay image of an angel caressing an infant.

Banks said she lived in Texas for 37 years, but then “life got in the way,” and she returned to Tiffin a few years ago. Because sculpture is her favorite genre, Banks discovered and joined the Toledo Area Sculpture Guild, led by James Havens. He maintains Havens Studio and Rose Foundry in Gibsonburg.

In 2004, Havens crafted a bronze sculpture, “Kneeling Chaplain,” to honor military veterans. It was dedicated and placed in Gibsonburg’s Veterans Memorial in Williams Park. Banks said she was able to assist Havens when he was commissioned to make a second sculpture.

“I helped him make the sculpture that went to (Norfolk) Nebraska, so I’m really proud of that,” Banks said.

She also participated in Gibsonburg’s Art in the Park for 2016-17 with three sculptures. One of them, “Cheetah” was donated to Kiwanis Manor in Tiffin and installed near a railing along the river. It is composed of painted polychrome cement.

As a sculpture guild member, Banks has access to Havens’ kiln and other equipment in Gibsonburg. She also rents studio space in Tiffin where she can work on projects several months of the year.

A mother and child in clay waits for completion.

Multi-panel work

The day of this interview, Banks was working on a section of “Gates of Heaven,” a relief sculpture that is to be comprised of 10-13 panels, using the lost wax technique.

“It’s going to be bronze. I want to eventually put them all together … in an arch, like an opening to heaven,” she said.

Each piece begins by swabbing clay onto a flat wooden surface. By hand, the artist shapes the desired images in the clay. Banks has completed the clay image for the first panel featuring smiling angels carrying unborn babies to paradise. She envisions subsequent scenes to depict other age groups ascending with their celestial escorts.

Multiple steps are needed to finish each panel. Banks said she will work with liquid rubber, wax, ceramic, sand and molten bronze in a lengthy process that requires “inspiration and money.” She couldn’t say when the grouping might be finished.

A complete look at a relief showing angels cradling infants.

Around the studio are other sculptures Banks has done. She pointed out a pair of large cement discs that developed cracks and could not be used. However, she kept the molds and hopes to recreate the discs in bronze. Nearby, a three-dimensional clay sculpture sits unfinished on a pedestal.

“I don’t know if I’m giving up on her yet or not … She’s been here about three or four years,” Banks said. “My forte is the relief work … because 3D is a lot more complicated and a lot more work … and a lot of money.”

Nature is a recurring theme in Bank’s works. Many reflect scenes from Texas, such as four hand-cast paper sculptures of horses heads. The artist said she started by drawing each head and making a plaster mold of each.

To make the paper, Banks shredded acid-free cotton fabric and mixed it with water. Next, she spread the pasty mixture onto the mold and allowed it to dry. The finished sculptures are mounted on wood and framed with rope.

Photographs and the internet are sources of ideas for Banks, but she said she does not plagiarize the work of other artists. Although an online image may serve as a starting point or model for an original piece, she is careful not to duplicate anything. Her imagination makes that unnecessary.

Banks holds a mermaid sculpture.

As an adult, Banks learned about other family members with artistic talent. Her grandfather, Byron Banks, was a master etcher at Tiffin Glass. An aunt, Mildred McCoy, taught art classes at the university level.

Upon returning to Tiffin, Banks exhibited 20 paintings in The National Theatre at The Ritz, and two of her photographs were chosen for a photography show at Tiffin Art Guild.

Her work can be seen and purchased online at www.fineartbytjbanks To contact her, call (419) 617-9054.

Horses are a favorite subject for Her. Banks said she combined sections from multiple drawings to make the framed artwork seen here.