NASCAR legend, winemaker, and conservationist Richard Childress–like Banovich–has been deeply touched by the charms of Africa. He and his wife, Judy, invited John to create a painting (for their great room–a room framed by thirty-foot ceilings) that would redefine wildlife art. Banovich reached deep within, exceeding their expectations, and chose a painting he had been carrying in his heart since he was a young man, and one that no other artist had ever attempted: a life-sized elephant. The title, “Once Upon a Time” pays reverence to the magnificent tuskers that once roamed the African continent, before the world’s fascination with ivory greatly reduced their numbers. In modern times, it is very difficult for an elephant with this genetic capacity to live long enough to grow such an impressive set of trophies.
“Due to the physical and emotional challenges, I believe artists have a limited number of large canvases in them. The creative, physical and emotional tests of this painting pummeled and almost drained me. I started the idea of a life-size elephant with a concept sketch, then recreated this on to the 10 foot squared canvas and washing the line drawing in with an acrylic - sepia wash. Finally the whole canvas was over-painted with oil to "breath life" into the beast.”
“An elephant is one of the hardest animals to paint; its skin wrinkles dictate shape and volume and give the painting a three dimensional look. Every little line must be drawn perfectly. In fact, it takes longer to draw an elephant than it does to paint one.
Using a two-tiered platform, I placed my paints, chair and other tools and aids next to me on my perch. The high platform allowed me to work on the top of my ten-foot canvas while sitting down. I placed a large mirror twenty feet behind me allowed me to see the image the way others might see it. When you are ten feet in the air, you can’t just step back and look at your work. When I was working on the upper-right side, the lower left corner was twelve feet away, and it’s impossible to see a painting that big as a whole from a distance of two feet. The mirror also gave me a fresh eye. By reversing the painting, it broadcasted any issues I was having and was an indispensable tool.” – John Banovich
“The painting 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