Timothy Banks can tell you about perseverance. The illustrator reached out to Paste magazine multiple times, eager to contribute to the Atlanta-based entertainment publication. He sent them samples of his whimsical work, the subject line reading “A Somewhat Edgy Illustrator.” He didn’t get a response.

Finally, a writer contacted Banks out of the blue. It was a Saturday, and the magazine had a Woody Allen retrospective that needed a cover illustration — immediately. Banks responded right away and said he’d do it. He busted out a sketch that day and finalized the illustration the next. Since then he’s become a regular Paste coverboy, with three additional covers under his belt: a spooky one starring Breaking Bad‘s Walter White, a fall television preview cover featuring The Walking Dead, and another with a happy-go-lucky — and nude — Patton Oswalt lying on the forest floor surrounded by cuddly animals to promote his new Boy Scout comedy, Nature Calls. At first, Banks thought about putting Oswalt in sweatpants based off of one of the comedian’s bits, or having him in a Scout uniform, but Banks decided to go au naturel. “The more I thought about it, it was like, ‘You know, this guy would be perfect nude in the woods.'”

Paste is actually one of Banks’ easier clients to work with, since the publication gives him fairly free reign with his ideas. In the past, he’s done illustrations for Nike, Cartoon Network, and various publishers, and he currently works with local self-publishing company CreateSpace. But he likes the blank check that the magazine gives him. “For me, it’s just so much easier,” he says. “I like not having a lot of structure at first, because it allows me to not get nervous.”

Banks doesn’t even read the cover stories he’s illustrating ahead of time. “I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing,” he laughs. “They’ve never sent me the articles. I’ve never asked for them though. I feel like they want the pictures to be independent of the articles.”

Obviously the Paste job has given Banks the kind of widespread exposure that most illustrators dream about. But he admits it’s a double-edged sword. “It’s a magazine and there’s a big viewership of it, so in one sense, my work’s being seen by a lot of people,” he says. That may be good for exposure, but there’s a sense of nervousness that comes with having your work out there to be judged — whether positively or negatively — by the greater public.

Most importantly Paste allows Banks to be, as he says, a somewhat edgy illustrator. A flaming portrait of Walter White is certainly different from his more kid-friendly illustrations, like the birds of his Bird Chronicles (like Mr. Hoots the owl or Penny the penguin). But don’t expect illustrations of AMC TV shows to exclusively occupy Banks’ future. He’s hoping to land a children’s book deal in 2013.

View more of Banks’ work at timothybanks.com.

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