What an amazing month it has been. Just a whirlwind of talking to people that I met at the January 2007 SCI Hunter’s Convention. I am still overwhelmed by the amount of charismatic people I have been able to talk with and meet through my attendance at this show.
Friday at the show was one of those memorable days. Mom was at the Sables dinner and while I had a ticket, I was not about to be the only man in attendance. I handed someone my ticket, reveled in the karma of the situation, took out my Nikon and went exploring. I spent four hours wandering the event halls and taking in the art, the guns and the people.
As I cruised the exposition floor, I came upon a painting of an elk in the fog coming through the mist and I remembered my first encounter with an elk in the coastal range of Oregon. The print was titled “Echoes of Yellowstone” and it reverberated through me bringing a memory back from my past.
I was 20 years old and I had my first bow with me that only pulled about 45 pounds. I was looking for Columbian Blacktail deer on the coastal range and I also had an elk tag in my pocket. I had stepped off the logging road, crossed through some blow down and began an ascent up the mountain across the canyon. I was exploring a mile from the road as the clouds came in and enveloped me in a mist that allowed me to see about 15 feet. I began to hear the mews of some cows and the movement of the herd animals coming up the mountain.
At this point, I had never even hunted elk before and had a tag so that my father and I could go out later in the season and chase elk with a rifle. Hearing this group come up the mountain and not being able to see them, I was nervous. All of the sudden I could begin to see the outline of the first cow as she came into view on the hillside below me…and then there was the bull.
Instinct took over and I immediately drew the bow and brought it around as the bull began to come clear and clean into view. I looked at the pin, looked at the bull as my whole body was shaking and let down the bow. I had that bull, but I was alone on that mountain, it was a Tuesday and I had no knowledge of what I was doing. I was in over my head and that bull was so beautiful, I could not risk it, he disserved better then I was able to give him at that moment.
Wildlife artist, John Banovich created this original that had so moved me and reminded me of that one moment in the coastal mountains of Oregon. Isn’t that what art is supposed to do, making you feel in the moment, that passion, that excitement?
While touring around inside the booth of John Banovich there was a stock car in the booth. I instantly recognized it as the # 29 of Kevin Harvick from the RCR (Richard Childress) race team. On the hood was one of the most dramatic images I had seen on a race car (in fact it was the only painting I have seen on a stock car in my life). The work of art was titled “Inside the Red Zone” and it aptly fit the feeling that NASCAR drivers must feel as they come around the tracks inches from their prey at 180mph.
On Friday night, Mr. Banovich and Mr. Childress auctioned off that hood for $51,000 with an additional $10,000 that was donated by Mr. Childress. The money was split between the Banovich Wildscape Foundation and Safari Club International Foundation. As we left the auction that evening we walked by Mr. Banovich and he was on the phone with his entourage and you could see his excitement from the evening’s events.
This one-of-a-kind hood will be exhibited on the wall of a Mercedes dealership showroom in New Jersey. You could feel the excitement in John’s voice in knowing that the public would be able to see and appreciate this piece.
I made some connections through the last two weeks and with a bit of luck, I had the pleasure of interviewing John Banovich. I had a set appointment to call him at 4:00pm his time in Livingston, MT. I was sitting in the Cleveland Airport and struggling to take notes while hanging on every word of Mr. Banovich.
John Banovich is a wildlife artist, philosopher, wildlife conservationist, world traveler and environmentalist. John Banovich is also a hunter who grew up in Montana. His father inspired in him a love of hunting at an early age for deer and elk. Banovich stated, “The wide open spaces of Montana tend to fill up your soul.” Now Banovich is challenged between the opportunities of bringing his rifle, camera or sketchpad but he is always hunting and enjoying the wild outdoors whether it is with a rifle, pen and pad or lens.
One of the statements that really got me thinking was Banovich’s comment that by being a hunter he understood the actual anatomy of the animals that he was painting. His hunting helped him to understand certain animals from the inside out and that gives one a whole new understanding of how that animal moves. The knowledge of how these animals move allows him to create a 3 dimensional painting on a 2 dimensional canvas.
I asked Banovich a couple of questions about his craft and learned that each painting can take anywhere from a week to 3 months or more to complete. His words were something like a lifetime of work to be able to paint in such a short amount of time. After seeing his work up close, I can fully understand why it would take this long to be able to paint with such amazing detail. In 2004 Banovich created a ten-foot by ten-foot life sized elephant painting. The original, “Once Upon a Time,” is his largest original oil painting to date. In March 2008, Banovich will head to Pakistan for his first snow leopard research trip.
Banovich has been exhibiting his work at the SCI Convention for over 16 years and has a list of awards attributed to his name and his work that is as long as my arm. His knowledge of conservation issues has been from time spent “ on the ground” and direct communications with scientists, field managers and local community leaders. Banovich spent many years contributing to conservation efforts among large organizations that have had a bulldozer effect on making a difference for wildlife.
John Banovich founded the Banovich Wildscapes Foundation to provide a surgical approach to wildlife conservation. His organization will be putting specific dollars to work in places where it does the most good. He has surrounded himself with experts like Dr. Laurence Frank, Dale Miquelle and Dr. Lance Craighead. This team leverages donations by partnering with other individuals and organizations that are involved with similar projects. The Wildscape Foundation combines resources to help wildlife, habitat and the communities who live with both. Banovich’s vision for BWF is to facilitate the bridge that connects the desires of sportsmen conservationists and environmental conservationists to bring them together and work toward the common goal of wildlife conservation.
John and I talked about his work with the Khunta Mi Initiative, an effort to bring greater commitment to conservation of the Siberian Tiger in Russia, in partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). He talked about how a specific amount of money was able to have a tremendous impact in protecting two important areas with a combined total of over 750,000 acres. This area will be open to tourist hunting on a very specific managed level and the only way to engage the local population in the protection of these animals is to show clearly the value of the animals to international sport hunters. This economic value for each animal keeps the local population (three distinct communities) in check and creates an acceptance of the impact of living with these animals.
The Banovich Wildscapes Foundation (BWF) has worked on several unique and notable programs such as:
- The Lion P.R.I.D.E. initiative which fosters lion research, education and human animal conflict resolution in partnership with the LLP and the African Wildlife Initiative (AWF).
- Khunta Mi Initiative, an effort to bring greater commitment to conservation of the Siberian Tiger in Russia, in partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
- Honorary Game Warden Program in partnership with the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI).
- Engaging in Scientific research and sustainable conservation of the Mountain Nyala and critical habitat, in partnership with The Murulle Foundation (TMF).
John Banovich has admitted that he has never really grown up. He carries the same fascination today as a young child does with painting animals. His passion for sketching, and painting comes from the desire to want to understand these animals and become a part of their world. Banovich’s ability to freeze a moment in time with his painting and show every ripple of movement is what draws the viewers into the painting. In every painting he produces you can feel his passion and love for wildlife.
Ten percent of the net proceeds from Banovich Fine Art Publishing and the Home Accent collection is donated to BWF. “I started the Banovich Wildscapes Foundation as a way to give something back to the world that has given so much to me. I believe there is nothing more important to future generations than wildlife and wild lands. It lifts our minds, replenishes our spirit and renews our passion for living.” – John Banovich.
I am awestruck by the work Banovich has done and cannot even imagine what his work will look like as he continues to mature. I look forward the development of the Banovich Wildscapes Foundation as it continues to practice its surgical or syringe effect in wildlife conservation protecting animals.