Below are two early paintings by Monte, that hung in John and Zelma’s Monterey, Il home for many years.

Like other previously posted images, these were two paintings Monte tried to get back from his parents from time to time and even after Monte promised to trade pieces of a more refined quality, Zelma would not allow Monte to remove them from her home.

Both of these paintings were done when Monte was much younger.  The top landscape illustration is much older and smaller than the below Sycamore tree painting and was on the wall of the Ellis’ front living room for years.

The below Sycamore painting from 1968 adorned the wall of the back living room in the John and Zelma Ellis home.  In his later years, he grew to greatly dislike the Sycamore painting, due to it being one of his early paintings that to him, did not exhibit his later, much improved painting talent.

Monte would probably prefer to have kept these images stacked unseen in a locked store-room.  Again, the intent behind posting these two illustrations is to illustrate the progression of his talent over time.


In an earlier posting it was mentioned how often times Monte would see flaws in his works and unless the pieces were sold and out of his hands, over time Monte would go back to the pieces and make alterations to correct the pieces.  On one sold painting, though it can’t be recalled which one, Monte had repeatedly made the comment to the person who purchased it how he would like to get it back just to fix one “flaw” that needed tweaking.

Below is an oil painting of a fisherman and an example of one of Monte’s works that he never could complete to his own satisfaction.  During the years when he was painting with oils, he was known to take this painting off the wall and place it back on his easel for improvements, re-hang it and then repeat the process over and over.

Even after Monte was forced to quit painting with oil paints, he still wanted to make “improvements” to this particular painting and never considered it “finished.”

Lighter Subject Matter

September 11, 2010

When it came to his art,  Monte chose a wide variety of subject matters.  Some themes were clearer to interpret than others.

Below is a quickly crafted, hanging hillbilly cutout Monte quickly crafted once.  Over the years the hillbilly has seen better years and because it is now missing a right arm, the right arm has been digitally repaired for this post.

Below is a pencil drawing of an artist in his studio practicing his craft.

Below is a drawing of some sort of scientist.  The inspiration or reason for the above drawing or below drawing is not known.

The Death Of Monte

September 7, 2010

Monte, Eric and Kathy at Big Lake

Monte died on June 3, 2009 at the age of sixty-nine years and what would have been he and Sharyl’s forty-eighth wedding anniversary.

A young Monte

In the earlier part of 2009, Monte’s health started to decline and as spring wore on, Monte’s strength and weight declined. Monte was all ready frail, but he started to move slower and was forced to be more careful in his walking and getting around.

After Monte’s wife, passed away in June of 2007, Monte refused to mow his lawn and instead wanted to allow his yard to return to a more natural habitat. Lucky for Monte, his yard was mostly secluded, which allowed for the overtaking of plants to go mostly unnoticed to passer-byes.

Monte's attempt at a natural yard

In the first few months of 2009, Monte had uncharacteristically agreed it was time to start mowing his yard again. In hindsight, it is possible Monte sensed his time was growing much shorter. On a warmer day in March, Monte’s yard was cleaned up of tree limbs and items in preparation for later mowing. A nice bonfire was able to be built from these tree limbs. Monte’s increasingly poor health was noticed while Monte sat in a chair and watched his four grand-daughters pick up sticks and throw them on the fire.

As with many elderly men, Monte was stubborn when it came to visiting doctors. Lucky for him, both his wife and a wonderful sister-in-law, Sharyl’s sister Susan, were nurses and did what they could when it came to his health. When Sharyl was alive, her well-intentioned harping would eventually be enough to force Monte to visit a doctor. With her gone, his stubbornness ruled the day.

Sharyl and Susan

During May, Monte’s son, Eric, and two, long-time close friends of the Monte Ellis family, Mark Holloway and John Morrow, arranged an evening of dinner and drinks at Monte’s house in Banner, IL. Prior to arriving, Eric had told Mark this might be Monte’s last go around for their evenings together and until Mark and John saw Monte that night, they had assumed Eric had been exaggerating, but after seeing Monte, they immediately remarked upon his condition.

Over the spring months of 2009, Monte had lost a lot of his appetite, but was consuming fortified energy drinks, supplements and other nutrients. He was also battling other health issues as well and still resistant to seeing a doctor.

On Sunday, May 31, 2009, Eric spent most of the day in Banner with Monte. At one point Monte was asked if he wanted to go to the Emiquon nature preserve near Havana. Monte had grown very excited over the reestablishment of this area to a natural wetlands area and enjoyed frequent road trips to this site to observe the progress.

Mark, Monte and John at the Emiquon preserve, Nov. 2008

However, on this day, Monte did not feel up to the ride to Emiquon. Instead, he agreed to take a ride down the much closer Banner Dike Road. This road travels along the Copperas Creek until it joins the Illinois River and then leads down to an abandoned historical lock and dam. The front gate to which was once the Big Lake site, where the Monte Ellis family once lived, is located at the end of this public road. Fortunately, the Dike Road was closed due to the continuing construction of a well-water pump house at the end of the Dike Road by the city of Canton, IL. The ownership of this turnaround area had been transferred to the city of Canton years ago. What was once the remains of a quiet, historical lock and dam was now a large construction zone made up of hills of mud and partially burnt, bulldozed detritus of what was once an out of the place, wooded area bordered by towering Cottonwood trees.

Monte would have been disgusted to see the site on that day.

Northeast corner of Copperas Creek Lock and Dam

Monte, Eric, Mark, John and sometimes Jay, Monte's nephew, would stand on this slab sipping beer and telling stories

On Monday and Tuesday of the same week, it was later learned Monte had driven up to the local drinking establishments and it is believed, said his good-byes to people in his own way. Later, after his death, people remarked about cryptic comments Monte had made and pointed out he had barely finished his beer before leaving (Monte preferred people not buying him drinks, not because he did not like free drinks, but only because when it came to tavern etiquette, he would have to reciprocate).

On Wednesday, June 3, Monte could not be raised on the telephone. His sister-in-law Susan was asked to check on his welfare and he was found deceased in his bed.

Monte had a scheduled a doctor’s appointment for later in this same week.

The cause of death noted on the death certificate is acute myocardial infarction, a massive heart attack.

In their last conversation, Monte had told his son he had lived a long life, was not afraid of dying and indicated he was ready to die. Monte also hoped to pass away like his mother, Zelma, and dreaded the “mess” he would be leaving behind; meaning his home, property and the process that would follow.

Sometime on June 3, 2009, similar to his mother, Monte passed away in his own home and in same antique oak bed he had been born in back on July 23rd, of 1939.

Monte, Kathy and Sharyl at the Banner Betts House

Monte and Jared

September 4, 2010

As posted earlier, Jared was a younger brother to Monte and passed away in 1998 at the age of 52.  Jared was a tall, thin man who spent much of his time in the out-of-doors.  Jared worked at the Rice Lake Conservation Area for many year before his passing.

Jared and Monte shared a passionate and affectionate relationship and while their relationship was very close, that does not mean they did not argue.  Many years ago, there was a period of time when the possibility of strip mining at the Rice Lake Conservation Area arose.  This topic created a great deal of controversy in the Banner area and split many families, people and friendships in the area.  Often times, people would avoid local taverns by the vehicles parked out front.

Jared and Monte had differing opinions of this controversy.  Monte believed ample proof in Fulton County all ready existed why private strip mining of Rice Lake would be a terrible idea.  During these years, many areas surrounding the Banner area were owned by private mining companies and fenced off.  Unless people had ties to these mining companies, very large areas of good fishing and hunting were off-limits to most people.  Also, in Monte’s belief, mining companies were not known for their altruism when it came to returning the mined land to what it once was.

Jared viewed the mining possibility as an opportunity to increase better fishing, hunting and water activities for the area.  He was one who hoped instead of a shallow lake, the mining of Rice Lake would result in deeper lakes with better hunting and fishing.

As this controversy went on, the arguments between Jared and Monte would become so heated, for a time they avoided each other.  Eventually, they had to agree not to discuss this topic at all.  Even after the proposal to mine Rice Lake was defeated, it remained a sore subject between Monte and Jared.

Below is a photograph of Jared in 1973 while manning a skiff with a push-pole at Big Lake.

Jared was known for his hard work, generosity and habit of borrowing things and not returning them in a timely manner.   Jared was known to toss coins up on the dash of his vehicles and would tell his nephew Eric, Monte’s son, he could have the change if he could retrieve it from the small space between the windshield and dash.

Jared was an avid hunter and fisherman and enjoyed playing softball.  On many Sundays, the Ellis family would have noon-time dinners in Monterey and Jared would stretch out on the back room floor to rest.  During softball seasons it was not uncommon for him to have sliding raspberries along his legs.

Below is a sketch by Monte of Jared with a shotgun.

Below is the previously posted pencil portrait of Jared by Monte from 1964.

Below is a photograph of Jared in an unknown drinking establishment.  Jared is at the far right.

Below is a parody drawing by Monte of himself, Jared and long-time family friend Sam Ruey while in a duck blind and being harassed by a less than frightened duck.

Below is a photograph of Jared in an establishment that was then called the 9-24 Club in Banner, IL.  During the 1980’s Jared would catch and cook fish at the 9/24 on Friday nights.

Jared and other local fishermen were also known for their generosity when it came to providing fish for local benefits and fund-raisers throughout the area for many years.

Below is another re-posting of a parody pencil by Monte of Jared.  Monte’s parody drawings of Jared were not done out of ridicule but of the highest affection for his younger brother.

Monte and Jared shared another thing in common and that was their consumption of alcohol.  This is not mentioned to embarrass or shame, but to highlight the influence the culture of tavern life and drinking alcohol had upon their lives, especially in an area known for hunting and fishing.  For Monte, tavern life highlighted and emphasized the vast difference of his thoughts of the natural world when contrasted to the beliefs of others.  Walking among those who viewed the natural world as mainly the plaything of man was often revealed in the atmosphere of a tavern where the honesty of others was teased out by the lubrication of alcohol.

Experimental Art Forms

September 3, 2010

From time to time, Monte would try different mediums and art forms.   One time he created a four or five piece set of sculptures inspired by Eskimo sculptures.

Below are two foil presses Monte made.  The top is of a Walleye and the other of a snapping turtle.   To make these, Monte used pieces of plastic and cardboard.  He scored the plastic and cardboard to create the texture and then compressed foil over the templates to come up with these two pieces.

More Pencils

September 1, 2010

Below are more pencils from Monte.

The sketch below is a very rough draft sketch of a possible upcoming project.

The subjects or inspiration of the below drawing are not known.  The two characters could be fictional or representations of actual people.