While Banovich is most closely associated with African species, namely elephants, lions, leopards, cape buffalo and rhinoceros, Siberian tigers, Chinese pandas, and North American megafauna (such as grizzly and polar bears, bison, and puma).
Raised in Butte, Montana, Since then, Banovich’s work has appeared in many venues, including the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum’s Birds in Art show, the Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum, the Salmagundi Club, traveling exhibitions sponsored by the Society of Animal Artists and showcases hosted by Safari Club International and Dallas Safari Club.
Under the umbrella of the Banovich Wildscapes Foundation, a 501c3 organization, money generated through artwork sales has been channeled back to support grassroots conservation efforts that promote habitat protection, science-based wildlife management and sustainable tourism. Over the years, the foundation and its partners have raised millions of dollars, supporting 12 projects in 7 countries.
John Banovich was born in Lewistown, Montana. His interest in art and animals originated at a young age, inspired by The Jungle Book and Grizzly Adams, and encouraged by his father's passion for wildlife and the outdoors. Growing up in Butte fed his appetite to paint the natural world. By the sixth grade, Banovich had acquired his first collector and sold two paintings who, with a few other early patrons supported his confidence and motivation.
After high school Banovich enrolled at the University of Montana in Missoula to double major in art and zoology. It was at this time that he took up lifting weights and even went on to win a few bodybuilding competitions, which served as an outlet for his competitive drive and energy. Banovich transferred to the Art Institute of Seattle for a degree in visual communications, then worked as a personal trainer in Seattle for eight years. Over they years, Banovich won several titles for competitive bodybuilding, including winning the Transwestern Continental.
Banovich then turned back to art and was introduced to an audience in Texas. He then started spending time with successful artists such as Lee Kromschroeder and John Seerey-Lester, with whom he took a workshop with in Alaska. The experience gave Banovich the confidence to enter the Pacific Rim Wildlife and Western Art Show, which at the time was the largest and most prestigious wildlife art show in the west, where his painting In the Heat of the Day won Best of Show. Banovich then traveled to Africa for the first time, and realized he had come home at last.
Africa and all of its flora and fauna was an immense influence to Banovich. In contemplation of these first experiences in Africa, Banovich stated, "I left Africa a different man, my soul changed forever by its ancient rhythms and extreme beasts. It was like leaving my family behind. A part of me is always missing when I am away from her, so I return often." He has now traveled to the Dark Continent over forty times.
Returning to Africa several times each year, Banovich began leading safaris with friend Kobus Moller in South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe, and he began to paint with more fervor, sometimes painting for twenty hours in a day. After winning Best of Show at the Pacific Rim Wildlife and Western Art Show for two years, Banovich was invited as a guest artist in 1997 to the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition in Charleston, South Carolina and as a featured artist in 1998.
John Banovich is known for his large canvases. It was in the late 1990s when his passion for large-scale paintings took hold. And his work moved beyond the canvas too as people began to see him as a communicator, inviting Banovich to speak at many different events about his work and about conservation. In his book, BEAST, Banovich comments on what it means for him to be an artist, "I learned that being an artist is more than creating good art; it involves sharing a vision and exploring ideas. Art can move, reveal and inspire people to seek a deeper understanding of the world around them. Art has the ability to paint a face on a region, a species and a cause."
After 17 years in Seattle, Banovich moved back to Montana. Paradise Valley, near the north entrance to Yellowstone Park, was where he made his new home. Just near the Yellowstone River and surrounded by the Absaroka and Beartooth Mountains, the scenery and wildlife lent itself well to his work. Banovich said that "the most personal space an artist can have is his or her studio. It is the womb of creativity - a place where ideas are conceived, nurtured and brought to life. I designed the studio at Revertrees Estate to function as more than just a workspace, as I also intended to use the site to host fundraisers, exhibitions and workshops." The studio boasted generous spaces, high ceilings and massive doors, allowing the artist the ability to paint even larger canvases.
Banovich's Studio West is now located just outside Seattle Washington, where he lives with his wife, Amy and two daughters. The studio has been featured in several magazines including Southwest Art Magazin, June 2015 and the December/January 2013 issue of Western Art and Architecture.
One of Banovich's most well known works, "Man Eaters of Tsavo" (2002, 50 x 80 in., Oil on Belgian Linen) was one of the first works to come out of the new Montana studio. The painting tells the powerful story of two lions who murdered and devoured more than 135 people in 1898, during the construction of the British railway. Colonel Patterson pursued them for nine months before finally putting them to rest. The painting debuted at the Safari Club International Convention soon after its creation, evoking a wide array of reactions. It drew much attention and Banovich stated that "by the end of the show, it had become his most popular painting. Even President George H. Bush came by for a look." The limited edition print run sold out immediately and the Foundation Edition has helped raise significant funds for conservation efforts.
NASCAR legend, winemaker and conservationist Richard Childress and his wife Judy invited Banovich to create a painting for their great room. In his book BEAST, Banvoich said "To exceed their expectations, I reached deep within myself and chose a painting I'd been carrying in my hear since I was a young man: a life-sized elephant, something that to my knowledge, no artist had ever attempted." The title of the painting was a tribute to the big tuskers who once inhabited the Dark Continent. The painting of a life-size elephant proved to be a taxing ordeal for the artist, with immense detail in the endless wrinkles and folds of skin, across a ten by ten foot canvas. “The painting (Once Upon a Time) just reminds me so much of the real thing. It’s the details that count: the wrinkles on the tusk and brow, the clouds of dust rising from the massive feet, the birds scampering to avoid the charge. That’s like the real thing that you would see in Africa.” - Richard Childress, President/CEO of Richard Childress Racing
Banovich was commissioned by Tom Siebel to create a painting, "Bad Day" memorializing the elephant attack that he barely survived. In August 2009 Seibel was on safari in Tanzania when the attack occurred, the extensive injuries he sustained resulted in a long road to recovery. The background shows the African safari with a grazing herd of elephants; however the main focus is that of the hulking female elephant that is thundering toward the viewer with only a few feet to spare before contact. The piece transports the viewer to the last terrifying moments Seibel faced before the elephant struck. “I know this area in the Serengeti’s western corridor well, and the human-animal conflict is a daily occurrence along the game reserve’s isolated border. I think Tom Siebel will not only be remembered for his many business and philanthropic accomplishments but as a guy who survived the un-survivable. Although he did nothing to provoke the elephant charge (however, his guide failed in keeping him safe) he was simply at the wrong place at the wrong time and the cow elephant was simply protecting her herd from a perceived threat. This painting will always be one of the most personal works I have ever created. It took extensive research to accurately portray the profound event that changed Tom’s life forever and the painting will tell the story for generations to come.” – John Banovich, 2012
Another recent major commission was for the Warren Miller Lodge of the elite Yellowstone Club in Big Sky, Montana. The club’s Warren Miller Lodge commissioned this detailed painting of a herd of bison. The action-packed scene features the animals stampeding through deep snow with a massive framed size of 8’ x 16’, making it one of John Banovich’s largest paintings. “It’s perfect,” said Sam Byrne, whose firm Crossharbor Capital owns the private resort, “I have always had a vision of what a Banovich painting would look like in this space and he executed it perfectly. We wanted to create something experiential for the Yellowstone Club, and he nailed it.” Banovich said "I wanted the painting to show the familial aspect of the Yellowstone Club with bison in all stages of life, and of course the snow, an integral part of the club, and animals native to this region, plowing their way through amazing powder. In my work as a conservationist, I have found so many situations where humans beleaguer wildlife, but this shows a native animal in a natural setting, unfettered by humans and civilization. One hundred years from now I hope we are blessed to live in a world where this iconic beast roams free."
Banovich worked with Mill Pond Press for a few years to reproduce his work and then ventured into the publishing world on his own. In 2001 Banovich Art released its first limited edition giclée under the new publishing identity, Banovich Fine Art Editions. They released prints that Banovich believed revealed the diversity and importance of the world's wildlife. They limited the edition sizes (Studio Editions were produced as an edition of 37) and worked to preserve the absolute integrity of the original oil paintings. They published an owner's edition that allowed an original buyer to give a small number of canvases to family and friends, and also published Foundation Editions for conservation or humanitarian charity programs. Banovich Art now offers over 80 artworks in limited edition.
John Banovich has hosted and participated in many benefits, fundraisers and exhibitions and has spent significant time traveling overseas performing research for his artwork and the Banovich Wildscapes Foundation. His paintings are owned and exhibited by noteworthy organizations, museums and important corporate and private collections across the globe. He has participated in many exhibitions including the Society of Animal Artists "Art and the Animal" Tour, Prix de West Exhibition, National Museum of Wildlife Art, Dallas Safari Club, Safari Club International, Jackson Hole Art Auction, Coeur d'Alene Art Auction, Scottsdale Art Auction, Southeastern Wildlife Exposition, and the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Museum "Birds in Art" Exhibition.
The Nature of the Beast exhibition, composed solely of Banovich works, was displayed in 2010 at both the Wildlife Experience Museum and Museum of the Southwest, providing the public with a rare opportunity to view a selection of Banovich paintings from mostly private collections assembled together for the first time.
Now sold out, BEAST features 264 large-format pages and illustrates the artwork of John Banovich over the course of his career. BEAST was winner of the 2010 National Indie Coffee Table Book Awards and earned its place on the Barnes and Noble Best Sellers List. Written with David Cabela; introduction by James Bellis; foreword by Guy Coheleach and prologue by Jack Hanna.
The Banovich Wildscapes Foundation (BWF) is a nonprofit organization fostering cooperative efforts to conserve the earth's wild places benefiting the wildlife and the people that live there. Founded in 2003 by John Banovich, BWF is the culmination of conservation efforts over the past two decades. Through his career as an artist, Banovich has inspired a deeper understanding of the world and its wildlife, encouraging successful conservation efforts and awareness of endangered species and their habitats. Traveling across the world seeking inspiration for his work, he has utilized opportunities to research wildlife and to learn about associated conservation challenges at the local, regional, and national levels. Through his career, artwork and his publishing company, Banovich Art, Banovich has developed effective ways to help implement and support conservation programs and is utilizing his imagery to promote a message of wildlife preservation.
“John Banovich has merged the world of wildlife art and conservation in a unique and exciting way. John is able to use his status as world-renowned artist to further conservation efforts even in the remotest parts of the world, working to save Siberian tigers in the Russian Far East, lions in Africa, and even the brown bears of North America. John brings energy, imagination, and leadership to the conservation arena, seeking new partnerships and new mechanisms to save the world's wildlife.” - Dale Miquelle, Program Director, WCS
BWF seeks to support conservation niches that its limited resources can impact. This is accomplished by developing initiatives that work in partnership with existing organizations on the ground, promoting scientific research and conservation education, facilitating habitat protection of large conservation landscapes and restoration projects, developing creative and respectful partnerships to fund conservation programs, and building build long-term community economic well-being. BWF has launched tow initiatives. The Lion PRIDE Initiative is aimed at conserving lions outside of protected areas, with a focus in East Africa and especially Kenya. The Khunta Mi Initiative aims to create economic incentives for local people to conserve tigers in the Russian Far East. Banovich has partnered with several different world-wide organizations that demonstrate a successful history of bringing the non-hunting conservation community and the sportsmen conservationists together for united efforts to save wildlife for future generations.