Oil Mountain Landscapes

August 26, 2010

Below are two oil paintings of mountain landscapes.   After Monte passed away, a large portion of his artwork was placed in storage without being recorded with photography.  In the near future those pieces will be photographed for possible future postings.

It is not known if these two paintings were sold or exist in the remaining, undocumented pieces.

During Monte’s oil painting days, it was not uncommon for people to pepper his immediate family with questions about what piece or subject he was currently working on.  And if one examines a handful of his oil works, there are a few where it can be seen how Monte struggled to finish the piece according to his own eye and had a very hard time getting the painting just right.

When Monte was still painting, it was common for him to touch up his oil works even after they were supposedly complete.  It was also common for him to comment how he wished he could get back previously sold pieces of artwork to “fix them” or comment on how the paintings still weren’t “finished” and he wished he could get them back to finish them.

When it came to Monte’s skills and perceptions of his art, he often would speak of how most artists could always see flaws in their pieces and even if those flaws were corrected, new flaws would be noticed and continue to irritate the artist.

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More About Monte

August 21, 2010

Monte at Big Lake

Any person familiar with Monte knew he was fond of alcohol.  Those who knew him well would probably claim the use of the word “fond” is an understatement. In moments of candor, even Monte would admit he was an alcoholic.  Even so, he also believed there were different forms of alcoholism.  There is no doubt, Monte’s use of alcohol created various problems through out his life and was a constant cause of friction between him and his wife, Sharyl.

Still, Monte’s use of alcohol and the culture of the drinking life did have essential influences upon Monte, his life and his artwork.  For one, when it came to his artwork, Monte would admit the use of alcohol allowed him to dream and did  foster creative ideas and drives.  It also allowed him to escape from the realism of the commercial art world and the way the natural world is perceived and exploited in American life.  As earlier mentioned, during much of his life, Monte greatly enjoyed nature shows, but during the later part of his life he had a difficult time watching programs dealing with issues such as the destruction of the Amazon rain forest and other unnecessary acts of human destruction upon the environment.

The older Monte became, the more his world  encroached upon him and the smaller his area of comfort became.

Above is a photograph of Monte outside of a Illinois River cabin once owned by his father, John, and uncle, Fred (Fred, John’s brother, was an accomplished taxidermist and decoy carver).   The brown hat worn by Monte was knitted by hand by Sharyl and for many years always worn by Monte.  The hat is still in wearable condition and in the possession of Monte’s son.

In the years closet to his passing, Monte became more and more obstinate when it came to doing things he did not want to do and the more one tried to persuade him to do these things, the more he would dig his heels in and refuse to do them.  This attribute also created friction between Sharyl and Monte.  In their later years, Sharyl continued to enjoy going places, while Monte was the opposite and was content with remaining within his areas of comfort.   While Sharyl would enjoy traveling and interacting with a variety of people, Monte would enjoy nothing more than having a long discussion with an intelligent and thought-provoking conversationalist.

Above, left to right, Monte’s father John Ellis, Monte’s mother, Zelma Ellis, and Monte holding his granddaughter, Caitlin, in Banner, IL.

Above, Monte holding his newborn granddaughter Caitlin, Peoria, IL.

In a much earlier posting it was discussed how Monte was a panoply of contradictions.  Some who knew him would certainly describe him as selfish and egocentric, which would be correct.  But with all people, Monte was many things at different times throughout his life.  As he aged, he rationalized the life he led was his own and that he was responsible for his behavior and the repercussions that came along with his behavior.

For years Monte stored many of his drawings and smaller pieces in a large cardboard box and a large portfolio case.  After his passing, many photographs Monte had taken over the years were also discovered.   The below photograph was in his possessions and the below pencil drawing within the cardboard box.

Many years ago, for some reason, Monte did a pencil portrait rendition from this photograph of a nephew from Sharyl’s side of the family.

It is not known why Monte created this drawing.   He could have done it for practice, because of the quality of the image captured in the photograph or because he might have been asked to create a portrait.  It is also not known why he chose to keep it in his possession.  Reasons for that may have included it was for practice, that it was never finished or it never met his perfectionist eye.

A Few Pencils

August 19, 2010

A few pencils by Monte of different subjects.

It’s not known if the child in this drawing is from Monte’s memory or of a particular toddler.

The Clubhouse at Big Lake

August 13, 2010

Of the buildings at the Big Lake site, the Clubhouse was the largest and most interesting.  The two-story, with walk-up, unfinished attic, served as the sleeping quarters for those who would stay at Big Lake, most often during duck hunting season.

The largest portion of the main floor consisted of a sitting room with a huge fireplace as the primary focal point.  Large maps of the area decorated the walls, as well as humorous, vintage hunting illustrations advising hunters to practice safe acts of hunting at all times.

The majority of sleeping rooms were located on the second floor of the structure.  Because the large building would remain quite cold during the hunting months, each bed came with an electric blanket and each room with a floor heater.  Because the building remained mostly empty during the majority of the year, the odor of the rooms would be familiar to any child sent away for summer camp.

Below is a photograph of the Clubhouse as it was when a person would travel down the Big Lake entrance road.  The square building on the right was added for a place for hunters to remove and store their hunting gear and muddy boots.

In this room, a large, hand-made, wooden device existed to help hunters remove their boots without forcing them to bend over.  At one point the device came up missing and after the Monte Ellis family moved from the Big Lake site in 1975, one of the Big Lake owners came to their house and demanded the return of the boot remover.  Monte explained he did not have the device, nor would he have taken it.  The owner did not believe him and accused him of being a thief.  While Monte did not take the boot remover, he knew who did and never told who was responsible (the person was not an Ellis).

The Clubhouse rested against the side of a raised portion of land and was built upon concrete pilings.  Bats would roost beneath the structure in the back where the building met the raised dirt.  Swallows also built nests beneath the building.  Often,  Monte’s son Eric and other children would disturb the bats enough to be chased out from beneath the building.

Above is a photograph of the Clubhouse during a receding flood.  Prior to winter time flooding threats, Monte and others lashed together a protective system of barrels to prevent the Big Lake Clubhouse from being damaged by ice.

For some time, Monte’s art studio was located within the main house at Big Lake.  After a time, Monte received permission from the owners of Big Lake to move his studio to a room within the Clubhouse.

When the Monte Ellis Family children were young, often times when dinner  was ready, one of them would be required to fetch Monte from his studio.  While the sidewalk to the Clubhouse was illuminated with pole lights and the trek not too far, for small children, when it was dark, it still could be creepy.  Especially when the child that did not leave the main house would turn the lights off on the other one making the mad dash to the Clubhouse.

The Clubhouse also served another function for Monte and Sharyl.  When they were a younger, volatile, married couple, from time to time, arguments would result in Monte’s banishment to the Clubhouse for residence.

Above is a photograph of the Clubhouse during one of the many floods.  More will be posted later about the flooding of the Big Lake site.  The above photograph is posted to illustrate one way Monte tried to “dress up” the Big Lake Clubhouse.  At the right front of the picture, a Mallard Drake and Mallard Hen pair of decoys can be seen affixed to the outside of the Clubhouse.  Monte painted these decoys and drilled holes in their sides for nesting wrens.

The Big Lake Clubhouse was damaged beyond repair by ice and water in 1979 and replaced with a non-descriptive steel building.

The Curio Cabinets

August 8, 2010

When it came to Monte’s artwork, the commercial aspect was probably the area of his least drive.  Monte’s strongest enthusiasm was in the  initial creative process of developing new pieces of work.   As posted earlier, Monte hoped to create pieces of work that could be re-created without losing quality.

During one period, Monte started purchasing curio cabinets and then would fill them with pieces of his artwork and then sell the cabinet as one piece.

Unfortunately, it seemed each time Monte developed such a line and means of production, life would throw some sort of road block up and derail the process.  Below is a photograph he took of one of his earliest curio cabinet assemblies.

Fall Mountain View

August 7, 2010

The above illustration comes from a photograph of one of Monte’s oil paintings of a fall, mountain scene.  The location of this painting is not known.