Technology surpassed Monte

December 26, 2009

During Monte’s later life, he slowly started to practice with combining the different mediums of his own artwork from one piece to another. He found with current technology, blending aspects of two pieces into one could lead to an interesting piece of artwork.

Monte was well-known for his creative ability to come up with an initial piece, while mass production of the piece created the largest of problems for him.  He loved to come up with a unique piece, but dreaded the work to repeatedly create the same thing over and over again.

Unfortunately, technology was some what too progressed for him.

Below is a piece where he combined a pastel drawing with cut out photograph images of a Pintail sculpture.


From this to that…..

December 26, 2009

The pencil drawing is a draft of a painting done by Monte.  At the bottom of the pencil drawing is a notation the final painting would be approximately two feet three inches by four feet.  The final painting is more likely about three feet by five feet.  This painting was a favorite of Kathy, Monte and Sharyl’s daughter.

The Riverbank Gallery

December 26, 2009

Sometime during the late 1970’s, Monte purchased a cabin along the Illinois River from a cousin of his.  He then used this cabin as an art studio and showroom.   Unfortunately, the cabin was prone to flooding from the Illinois River and after each flood, Monte would to make repairs to the flood damage.

This cabin, along with many others, was located along the side of the Banner Dike Road, with the Illinois River to the east.  These cabins existed for some time until the State of Illinois decided to no longer allow the leases to be renewed.  The owners of these cabins were then forced to either destroy and remove the remains of their cabin or allow the state to do so and then receive a bill.

In the better days, travels along this raised, gravel road was quite precarious due to the number of people who would frequent this area during the warmer times of the year.

One time when Monte and Gary “Scrubby” Brush, his then brother-in-law, were clearing and burning left behind flood water debris, the decision was made to also burn other items from a storage building.  Amongst these items were some old dynamite blasting caps.  When burnt, one exploded and sent shrapnel into Monte’s hip.  He had to go to the hospital and made up a tale that he had accidentally burnt firearm ammunition.

The hospital had to leave the shrapnel in his hip.

One would have to imagine the goings on in the minds of potential art customers when walking across the rickety, wooden walkway from the gravel road to the front door of the Riverbank Gallery.  The wood slats would bow and did add spring to one’s steps when walked across.  The handrails weren’t too reassuring, either.

Below is a photograph of items covered by Monte to protect them as best as possible.  Note the path through the dirt on the floor left behind after the receding water dropped below flood stage.

When it was thought the waters of the Illinois River would enter the gallery, items would have to be stacked up for protection.

Below are two photographs of the Riverbank Gallery either prior to or after flood repairs had been made.

Below is a photograph that offers a contrast to before a flood and after.  Note the wooden slats of the floor that had been forced free due to flood waters.

Below are two photographs of the gallery portion of the Riverbank Gallery.  The ceiling light shades were made by Monte.  When this showroom was in viewing form, it was a quite nice attraction to see.

Any one from Central Illinois above a certain age knows who Captain Jinks and Salty Sam were.  For those who are not, these two locals hosted a campy show on Week-TV that involved cartoons, skits, gifts from a treasure chest and low brow entertainment for the kiddies.

At some point, Jared (“Mutt”) and Monte, ended up traveling to Peoria, IL to some function that featured Captain Jinks and Salty Sam.  To prove the  success of their endeavor, they even were able to obtain an eight inch by ten inch black and white photographed signed by Salty Sam.

Notice on the rear of the photograph Monte’s name is misspelled.  The misspelling of his name was not uncommon.

A Monte Original Bird House

December 16, 2009

This ogre-like bird house is a nest casted from a clay face Monte developed.  Other than sparrows, not too many quality birds seemed interested in making their homes in one of these.

More commissioned art work

December 16, 2009

Above are two handbooks Monte was commissioned to do for Graham Hospital in Canton, IL.  Simple illustrations are also throughout the interiors of both handbooks.

Graham Hospital also bought paintings by Monte.

Drawings for a son…

December 16, 2009

One good thing about having an artistic parent is, cooperation willing, entertainment on the spot.  Below are two drawings Monte did for his son, Eric.  His son was quite fond of all the classic tales of monsters and horror.  These two drawings were also done very quickly, on the spot and in a matter of just minutes.  Both show Monte’s perfectionist attitude when even creating art of a leisure nature.  Both are in the possession of Monte’s son.

These are pencil drawings Monte did of the Ellis boys as they were in 1964. They were most likely done as a gift to Zelma.

From  top, left to right, Monte, 25; Lonnie, 23; Larry, 21;  from bottom, left to right, Jared, 19; Fred, 15; and Jon, 12.

For the longest time, each of these pencil portraits were framed and on the wall in John and Zelma’s Monterey bedroom.

Note the small addition illustration on the lower, right corner of each portrait.  Also, the slash marks noticed in Monte, Fred and Jon’s portraits are due to cracks in the glass to the framed pictures.

These drawings were favorites of Monte’s daughter, Kathy.  They were passed along to her when Monte’s mother Zelma passed away.

These portraits are now in the possession of Monte’s son, Eric.

Monte’s A Christmas Story

December 14, 2009

In some ways, Monte was very similar to the character Darren McGavin played in the classic movie, “A Christmas Story.”  He was one of those people always looking to find a good deal or make a good bet.

One night, while in a tavern then known as the “9/24 Club, ” Monte came across a gentleman selling sets of kitchen knives.  This particular set of knives consisted of an attractive, decorative boxed set of knives. This display case even came with a hidden drawer of steak knives.  The little side, pull out drawer of steak knives was the “piece de resistance” of the whole set.

(On a side note, the 9/24 Club has an interesting history of its own.  This tavern is now known as McDuck’s and is located in Banner, IL.  It’s former name was what it was due to its location – the junction of Route 9 and Route 24.  During this era, the configuration of this junction was quite hazardous and vehicular traffic coming down the Route 9 “Banner Hill” would have to stop at a stop sign where the two roads met.  Unfortunately, for the 9/24 Club, this stop sign was directly across the junction from the tavern.  So any time a vehicle, most likely a semi-tractor trailer, came down Banner Hill with failing breaks or during icy roads, the possibility existed for the truck to continue through the intersection and right into the 9/24 Club.  This establishment was struck by vehicles any where from three to five times.  After one truck barreled into the tavern, Cotton Upchurch ended up with the gear shift to the truck.  This shifter was then hung on a pillar inside of the tavern with a number on it to designate which truck it had been.

The intersection has since been changed to allow traffic coming down Banner Hill to continue east without stopping.)

While assisted with a fair amount of good spirits, Monte bought this “attractive” knife set and then later on showed it off to anyone he felt should be enraptured to see it.  Eventually, Monte gave this to one of his family members for a Christmas gift.  Oddly, the first recipient did not have the same appeal toward this knife set Monte had first felt.  This was even after Monte pulled out the hidden steak knife drawer.

Eventually, each year, this terribly cheap knife set was passed from family member to family member as a family joke.  Because this knife set was seen as such a hoax during each Ellis family Christmas, other family members that were fortunate enough not to receive it were required to kick a dollar into the till to lessen the blow to the poor recipient who would receive this gift the following Christmas.

For a long time, the most sought after question in the Ellis family was of which family member would be the one to receive the “knife set” during Christmas.

Each year, the distinctive size of the knife set would be disguised in the most ingenious of ways to add to the surprise of who would receive such an unwanted gift.

This grand surprise went on for many years.  Sadly, some family members did not appreciate the uniqueness of this gift and eventually assisted in its demise.

It is unknown where this knife set now exists or who was the last Ellis member to receive it.

These are a series of artwork pieces Monte submitted to duck stamp contests.  These pieces include submissions to both the state of Illinois and Federal government Duck Stamp Contests. Of these contests, the Federal Duck Stamp Contest is the most prestigious for an artist to win.

One interesting thing to notice is the progression of skill exhibited in these pieces.  The pieces have been posted from oldest to newest.  Also, the illustrations of the highest quality (the last four) are submissions Monte made to the Federal Duck Stamp Contest.

After some time, Monte became weary of making these submissions.  Often he would proclaim the lobbying to win one of these contests was beyond his desire.

These are all originals and in the possession of his son, Eric.

Click on an image to enlarge it.