18 May 2012

Coloring by the Creek: Monty Montgomery

Follow Me (2011)
   It's hard not to bump into Monty Montgomery; his distinctive style, helped by his strong work ethic, has led to his producing canvases for shows all around town, as well as many spots in the rest of the state and the country. So, it is surprising to find that he moved here relatively recently (2008) from Virginia. Montgomery's layout frequently combines recurring subjects with unshaded outlines filled in solidly with loud coloring which results in canvases that evoke the aesthetics of sticker art, stencils, street art, and early video games. There are also undercurrents of 60s psychadelia and 70s funk motifs. The resulting look is certainly unique and lively, and brings up contrasting notions of city-life and country, sex and personal journey, and the simplicity of childhood versus the complexity of modern life.
   We had a chance to talk to Montgomery about his visuals and how they relate to meaning and emotion. That interview follows below.

One Balanced Bearing
(mixed media, 2006)
YowzerYowzer: Hi Monty! Let's jump right in with a tough one. Do you think people spend too much time reading into paintings or not enough?

Monty Montgomery: Reading into a painting can take a few minutes or a lifetime. I have never felt that reading into a painting can be a matter of time. It must all be about what you're feeling and taking in freely, without comparing your vibes to anything else. I believe that feeling what you are looking at in some way is all that truly matters, whether it be through imagery or color.

YY: Do you welcome other people's perspectives on your paintings or do you wish that they would reach your ideas and feelings about them?

MM: I always welcome everything from everyone! I love hearing what people think and what they may pick up from looking at something that I have created. I actually love it as well when someone has something negative to say about my work, as long as it’s in a positive manner. I think all comments and vibes on a painting should be heard, and then the artist can use that in a positive way. That’s creating art!

Why Now? (2007)
YY: Your piece, Timed Steps (2007), like many of your pieces is easy to like for several reasons, its color combinations being one of those, of course. But we also like it for the low-to-the-ground angle, and the way the checkered ground seems to go off towards the horizon. It really gives the feeling of a life journey and of visual depth, despite the extremely limited details. The word "time" makes us think about mortality, and the number one brings up the idea of how life, in a way, is a solitary journey. How does that interpretation fit in with yours? 

MM: Timed Steps is exactly that! I feel that in life everything revolves around some cycle with time and how it happens. I feel that we as humans are always on some type of universal clock and that everything will happen when and where it should, I fully believe in this.

YY: One of the most interesting things about your work is how unique it looks. A lot of artists are wishing, hoping, and trying for a style that sets them apart visually as much as yours does. What's the story on how you reached a look so simple and static but also so remarkably dynamic and attractive? 

Timed Steps (2007)
MM: It all started back as a kid at the kitchen table with my mom who taught kindergarten for over 30 years. I would sit with her for hours and just color and develop images. As time passed, I started to use color and line a lot in high school and realized that, to me, this was what was needed to relay my feelings. I feel that the imagery and the color combined with the motion and position can be used to relay a feeling, I choose these images and then place them in a way that makes sense to me.

YY: It would be great if you could take us through the steps involved to making one of your paintings. Like what materials you use and how you apply them. Are stencils involved? Brushes? Spray cans? Any computers?

MM: I start out with simple thoughts, these then turn into drawings that build themselves on the canvas and as it comes to life I feel out what stays and what is erased, this process could take hours or weeks…. Once I am happy with what has been developed, I begin to choose colors, and then all the work is painted by hand with no stencils, just hand and brush. I usually paint on canvas and I always use acrylic paints.

YY: So, pretty much all of your paintings are done by hand and brush; but how did you do Obama's face in "Process" and the Beatles in "Living the Love"?

MM: That's all done with the brush. 

Flammable Substance
YY: Obama's face, Mickey Mouse, and the butterfly? They all look so exact, you're sure you didn't use stencils or a computer or anything?

MM: Not at all. No digital imagery, no stencils. That's all me. I mean, the Obama face was based off of Shepard Fairey's Hope image. But I only used a fine camel-hair brush and golden liquid acrylic. The fine camel-hair brush is what I use for all of my black lines, and the fluid acrylic is more manageable than regular acrylic.

YY: Well, great job! Your star is everywhere in your work. You use it so well that now whenever we see a star, we remember your paintings. It's amazing how simple the image seems, but also uniquely yours it is. Can you give us any insights into your use of these recurring characters or designs: the female dancer, the star, the butterfly, the baby, and the checkerboard motif?

MM: The star was developed because as a child I spent years siting with my Grandfater in the dark Virginia skies and he taught me many of the constellations, the stars represent that feeling to me and it really makes me feel magical remembering those moments, I love nature, life, the process and all that goes along with it, from the insects, to planes, to humans, etc, all the images are just a representation of motion and the cycle we are in, everything is always moving.

White Sofa (2009)
Funky Night (2009)

YY: Somewhere online, we remember reading your comments on one of your paintings where you said the checkerboard expresses a connection between people, kind of a union. But it seems like it's an image that you can use for different things depending on the painting. Is that correct? In other words, sometimes the checkerboard can be just an aesthetic choice rather than a symbolic one, right?

MM: To me, the checker board in much of my work does relay the feeling of a game being played between people or imagery. It is very often me trying to get across that there is some kind of competition between moments or thoughts. It is more often about how a person's mind may be attacking a thought and then how it plays a game with itself and the imagery involved!

YY: The overlapping technique in paintings like "High Octane" is a neat idea. It seems to express almost an overload of ideas. That didn't really come out like a question, we just like boldness of some of your ideas. 

MM: The layering in many of my new works symbolizes a process of understanding moments in our everyday life, out past, our future, etc. I am constantly flavored with so many feeling each and everyday and I try to combine these emotions and layer them in various directions to roll with a flow that changes every second. I feel so many emotions and see so much that I just in some way try to control the confusion and let there be peace in it!

Tempted (2009)
High Octane (2010)

YY: To us, some of your paintings, like Timed Steps (2007), stand out because of their clear symbolism, while some others, especially White sofa, which might be our personal favorite, stand out because of their clean, almost abstract design look. It's like you've created a space that's free of meaning, where we can enjoy the purely aesthetic feelings most of us haven't experienced since childhood when we were filling in our coloring-books. Clear shapes, a few natural objects, pretty designs, and upbeat colors and contrasts. Is there a meaning beyond this in even those pieces?

MM: You hit it right on the head. Some of my paintings, like At War With SELF (2009) have a pretty clear meaning, while others have more of a feeling that I hope people connect to. I decide on the shapes, the positioning, and the coloring, and the viewer is free to bring their own experiences and draw whatever they can out of their connection with a painting. I still feel the need to make those decisions though, rather than to leave it to chance or my unconscious, because I want to guide you into a specific feeling, whether its a connection with birds or stars, or sitting on a white sofa with coloring books. It always makes me happy to think that people had that kind of interaction with one of my paintings, and it seems like you've done that.

YY: Yes. We think we have. Thank you for making that possible. Are there any artists whose work has opened your eyes to new ways of communicating?

Process (2010)
MM: Not really. I've never studied an artist. Even in college, when I majored in graphic design, I was learning how to make art myself, and not studying other artists. Sometimes people look at my work and assume I grew up in New York because of the way I paint, but that's not it at all. I grew up looking at the cows and fields and bugs and the creek. I was into sports. I mean, maybe the fact that I'm a neat-freak has influenced me, but not an individual artist. I do have a kind of backwards answer to that question though: Over the years, I have heard a lot of comparisons of my work to Peter Max's work. I didn't recognize the name, but I kept hearing the comparisons, so I checked him out. I bought a book, and it blew my mind. I do see the resemblances. He's been interested in the universe and stars, and wild colors, and the whole hippie 60s look. He did a lot of work for the Beatles. It still freaks me out a little to this day, that we shared some of the same ideas.

YY: It sounds like what happens when people sees a resemblance in two different faces which makes them think they must belong to the same person.

MM: Exactly. I think that's a great way of describing it.

YY: With that said, we personally don't see a strong connection. Max's work is more fluid, the images blend together, whereas yours stay distinct. And the moods and meanings are wholly different. Both seem great, they're just different. But it's interesting to think about the similarities that others including yourself see while looking at your delicious painting Living the Love (2011) which has the Beatles as its subject. Did that come about because you wanted know what it felt like to paint in his shoes, a sort of homage?

MM: Not at all. It actually happened in the exact opposite way of what you just said. Oceanside Museum of Art contacted me to invite me to paint for their Beatles party. And so, that's what I did. But I haven't changed a thing to bring our styles closer together or to push them further apart. It's just part of that same weird thing of our separate courses happening to run closely to each other.

YY: You moved to SD from Virginia in 2008, after you had worked in other cities along the East Coast; what do you believe are some of the challenges and benefits of living as an artist in SD? 

Living the Love (2011)
MM: Sure, everyone always talks about how it's more laid-back here in SD, and it's true. You see it the way people give hugs here, and the way they're willing to work together. 

YY: Like everyone's on the same team.

MM: Yeah, totally. It's team-oriented. I mean, I still love the fast-paced, driven energy of the big cities back East, and I have a lot of friends and family back there, so I'm not trying to compare coasts. But there's something about the laid-back environment here that allowed me to get in touch with some of the energy and ideas that has helped me make a lot of my work.

YY: Are there any projects coming up for you that you'd like to share with us?

MM: JFeather who is a great friend and local artist and I just did a 7' by 20'' mural at the Urban Air Market in San Francisco, Ca. That went amazing, and we will be heading to Las Vegas for the International Licencing Expo at Mandalay Bay Resort to do a large 3-day mural at the event. It’s going to be awesome!! I will also be painting live all over the city of San Diego and Los Angeles through the coming months which will be super cool! There are so many exhibits coming up all the time, and for that just always roll into the Exhibitions section on my website.

On My Way (2011)
YY: Off the top of your head, what artists around town inspire or excite you?

MM: The San Diego art scene is growing faster than ever now with so many awesome styles and ideas. I am pumped to exhibit with and paint with so many of the great artists’s here in the area and will be collabing with many in the near future.

YY: You said SD's art scene is growing faster than ever: why do you think that is?

MM: I think that that cooperation-mindset is part of it. But also it's just San Diego's time. There are more places to show, more people coming out to shows, more artists doing their thing. People networking online. It's simple really. It's just really coming alive. I've seen the difference even in the four years I've been here. It was pretty rough for a while, but it seems like people really want to keep the arts strong in San Diego.

YY: That's it! Thanks so much for your time and ideas, Monty. It's been a pleasure and an honor.

MM: Thank you, YowzerYowzer.

[For more information on Monty Montgomery, feel free to check out his website at: montymontgomeryart.com]

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much to YOWZER! YOWZER! for the Article. Take care crew and see you around the way!! -Monty