Q&A with Monty Montgomery

Monty Montgomery

Profoundly affected by his upbringing in the rural woods of Virginia’s countryside, Monty Montgomery’s work has always been informed by his visceral and emotional reactions to everyday experiences, such as exploring nature, or trekking city streets. Below, Montgomery explains his process of working in geometric abstraction, and how texture and artistic collaborations have inspired him on his current artistic path.

Sparks: How do you envision a landscape or cityscape and then put it on to a painting?

Montgomery: That’s a really unique process. I love when I’m doing cityscapes or landscape pieces, or a Geo series piece. It’s really interesting how I’ll walk around, often with my sketchbook and if I’m in nature on a hike, which I love to be in the woods, or I love to be walking around in different locations, or I’m in a major city, I’ll take my sketchbook and I will draw shadows, I will draw corners of buildings. If I was in nature, I would see the shadows from trees, I would look at the landscape, I would see the patterns and the grass and the flowers. 

As I’m viewing all of these things, whether it be in nature or in a city, all of those things become a geometric or a geometric or an abstract pattern in my brain. And then as I spend more time in my sketchbook, I might bring in colored pencils, I might use different colored Sharpies, I might use just graphite and use different tones or different lightness or darkness areas to really bring out how I was feeling on that walk. So a lot of my paintings are representations of those original sketches and the feelings that I might have in that city, or walking down the sidewalk, or sitting in a park, or being deep in nature, and it’s windy.

 Oftentimes, in my nature series pieces, there will be blue diagonals moving through the pieces, and that represents the wind blowing. So a lot of those visions and feelings that I actually have when I’m in the moment, like in the nature series, each piece is called Moment #12 or Moment #18, because they’re all stories within travels that I’ve experienced. That’s how most of almost all of my paintings come to life– through a moment that I’ve experienced, naturally.

Monty Montgomery - Exhibit Back Wall - Art Exhibition San Diego Gallery
Monty Montgomery – “Intersection” Solo Exhibition

Sparks: Is there anything you want to give us an insight about for the show, such as the origin of some of the pieces?

Montgomery: I would say the top things with that question would definitely be, relating to my statement for the exhibition for Intersection, my moments now that are deeper in nature– moments that I’m traveling in different places and I’m allowing myself to be very present there. I’m also taking in the sound around me. I’m taking in the birds chirping in a specific spot in nature that I might have rocks that I’ve put in a spot that I might revisit over time and the rocks are still there. I will sit in that same spot, you know.

 On the other side of that is like traveling through cities. I’ve decided now that instead of walking certain ways down a sidewalk, I’ll take a different street or I’ll go sit in a different park because in all of my series of work, from the Geo series to the Nature series, I think it’s all developed by me really being present through my sketchbook, through my journal, and then through tuning in my listening and my visual experience in nature. Say, I’m deeper in nature, I went further down the path than I’ve ever gone before, and I find a lake at the end of it, and then I’m like, oh, well, then that, to me makes the color brighter, it makes the experience more unique, even in that natural environment. I will often change the colors in my work so that you feel it more, or actually, I feel it even more. So I think that the depth of the colors, some of the textures and where I’ve placed them, the way that the colors work in certain pieces, it wouldn’t be evident to the viewer, but I know what I saw from that moment and I have done my best to reflect what I experienced into a certain painting a certain way. 

So, in all of my works from the Nature series to the Geo series to the Core series, you are able to experience different moments in nature or in the geometry of a cityscape. I see the light shining through different ways that respond to me differently for different yellows or oranges, different gray tones and rocks, dirt, you know, grass, flowers. I think that really looking at the intricate part of the creative process now has changed for me over the last few years and I believe now differently in what a natural setting is giving me to use in my specific way within my work.

Monty Montgomery – Geo #166 Skatedeck

Sparks: Why did you decide to put texture into your work?

Montgomery:  Over the years, I think I would like to say life has been smooth in many ways. It’s always a lot of work artistically and in life in general, as we all know, but I feel like when I was working the smoothness with something, especially mainly using aerosol now, but even years ago when I use acrylics and different types of paints, I really took pride in there not being a brushstroke, there not being any type of texture anywhere, and it was kind of my thing. I was always known for how it was always so smooth. 

That also came from being a graphic designer for so many years. My design etiquette was always very tight and clean. For many years making everything so smooth was very important to me, almost a role for me, but recently I’ve just really enjoyed the transition into texture. I would say my life is more textured now; I’m getting older and I welcome that, I really love that. I’m finding a lot more comfort in just the belief in putting texture places and letting folks know, if you know my work, and you see texture somewhere, you know, 100%, that I chose to put that texture there in a spot because I wanted it there for a reason. 

So the texture now has become, I’d say in the last, gosh, two, three to four years, maybe a little bit longer. But I use different materials– fiber paste, light molding, paste, Granular Gel, all kinds of different things, because the texture now kind of represents a whole different place in my work that I can almost go to. And where it was smooth before in a location on a painting, skate deck, or massive mural, it enables me now to be able to make it feel different by choice. 

Especially in some major series pieces, I’m literally now putting texture where rocks really were in my sketch. I might add swirly meringue, like I think of my grandma, when I was a little child, and she would always whip the meringue on the top of the pie, and I literally do that sometimes with the light molding paste, and I think of Nanny. And there’s little moments of like, wow, this texture, I remember her taking so much pride in the top of that. Ironically, I think of little things like that now, and I try to bring texture into my work in different ways now, to express how I feel in different depths. And maybe even you know, if it’s in the wind that expresses that the wind was really swirling. So texture now has really become a part of things that I really enjoy and I look at it now as a whole new way to really express emotion and depth.

Monty Montgomery – Geo #163

Sparks:  Is there anything else you would like to add about your process?

Montgomery: Something that is very important to me is just the travels through our lives. I think that especially over the last three or four years, for all of us, it’s been very interesting. 

I was really excited for this body of work and I’m thankful to Sonya and the family here because to allow me to actually have the Hand Embellished prints and originals and different series– I think something that’s very important to me now, that a lot don’t think is very important to me, is everyone. How everyone feels different emotions, different feelings, different textures, different smooth spots, different travels. I think that in this body of work, and I can feel my body vibrating while saying this, it’s so special. I’m really proud of it because I want everyone from all aspects to really feel each piece and enjoy the travel. 

You know the moments in life that we have, ups and downs and lefts and rights, this is my way, through expression and color, to make you feel some of that and then mix some of it together and then make you feel none of it. Well, using so much color, it’s bright and happy overall which I love the most. So that’s something that is very important to me. I want to do what I can through art and color, and travels and studying natural elements. All of it is very important, because I think all of us have that in us and I’m just so thankful and blessed to be able to create and try to share it with everyone.

Kaleidoskull Collaboration

Sparks: Tell us about the Kaleidoskull collaboration…

Montgomery: So, one cool piece of this exhibition as well, which goes along well with its title. This exhibit is titled “Intersection” for a very specific reason, because I feel like there have been so many unique intersections in my life with humans, with events, and with moments. Kaleidoskull is a collaborative effort with one of my dear friends, Tony Philippou. 

He is based in Orlando, but we met in the Bronx in New York 25 years ago, and we have stayed in touch. Kaleidoskull is a collaboration of all of us coming together to use Tony’s creativity with mythology, and he is such an amazing painter. We create visions together, we’ll come up with topics and then as we’re working on things, these amazing worlds come to life. We work together and come up with different paths, and then we talk about bringing them to life in a very unique way. 

With his painting skills, and with my geometry and color, we come up with some really neat paths that neither one of us could do in a solo way. Kaleidoskull is something that’s becoming stronger and bigger in a quiet way and we’re just letting the flow of our creations together lead the way.