Monte in Greenhead magazine

October 24, 2013

Last year a gentleman named Brent Birch from Greenhead magazine out of Arkansas contacted this blog to request the use of one of Monte’s illustrations for this particular publication. Permission was provided and images from the cover and the article within the magazine are below.

Greenhead cover



Greenhead mag pages

Below is the image without the text of the article.  Note, this illustration is somewhat incomplete and was later reproduced for a limited number of issued copies by Monte.

The finished product was later given to people, often in the form of a Christmas Gift.

Monte also used subtle amounts of color in a small number of these illustrations.

Early prototype of Mallards, Duck Island Marsh, 335






Monte, bw photo with Bald Eagle,smiling, 619Monte’s father John, had an older brother Fred (1909-1975).  Monte’s Uncle Fred was an avid outdoors-man and a self-taught taxidermist.  Over the years, Fred attained quite a large collection of animals and waterfowl and had many of these within glass enclosures in the basement of his home west of Banner, IL.

Fred Ellis passed away from a heart attack in 1975 while duck hunting in the Illinois River Bottoms.

Fred and John Illinois River Cabin. Monte, left, Fred Ellis, far right, Jared Ellis, kneeling.

Fred and John Illinois River Cabin. Monte, left, Fred Ellis, far right, Jared Ellis, kneeling.


Fred was married to a short, extraordinarily friendly woman named Theresa (1909-1992). Theresa was known for her radiant personality, perpetual permanent hairstyle and ruby-red lipstick, that would stain the cheeks of the many when in her presence.

Theresa Ellis and Sharyl Ellis in Hawaii, 1970's s

e Theresa Ellis and Sharyl Ellis in Hawaii

The reason this story could have ended badly is because under unknown circumstances, Monte’s Uncle Fred procured the corpse of an American Bald Eagle.  The American Bald Eagle was then stuffed and mounted and is depicted in the first and last photograph in this entry.

Monte was eventually given the American Bald Eagle by his Uncle Fred.

For years, the American Bald Eagle could be seen in Monte’s art room while the Ellis family resided at Big Lake. Eventually, the stuffed eagle was not so prominently displayed due to the mere possession of such an animal was illegal, with grave consequences if found to be in one’s possession.

Monte, bw photo with Bald Eagle, unsmiling, 619A year or two before Monte’s death, he was asked by his son what had happened to the American Bald Eagle.  Rather than directly answering the question, Monte simply replied that time had ravaged the appearance of the American Bald Eagle and that it was in terrible condition.

After Monte passed away in 2009, his home and possessions were carefully searched for the American Bald Eagle.  The eagle was never found.

It is very likely at some point Monte burned the eagle out of fear of not only having it in his own possession, but also out of the concern of leaving such an item behind upon his death.



Monte and The Law

October 20, 2013

Unk Location, Monte, 019

During Monte’s life, he had several encounters with Johnny Law.

One early encounter involved him and a long time friend being picked up in Peoria, Il as juveniles. It is unclear, but this encounter either included being picked up while trying to procure alcohol or trying to find an illegal poker game in a bad part of town. Unk Loc, Monte, with ducktails, playing cards, Mom's photos081 Another encounter was for a traffic infraction in late1960’s in the town of Banner, Il. Back then, this town had an explosive population of around 250. During this era, traffic scofflaws would be carted off to the Banner Township Hall and required to appear before a justice of the peace.

Mostly, Monte was respectful of those law officers deserving respect.

During the late 1980’s and into the early 1990’s, a somewhat rougher crowd would frequent the Banner Fire Department due to members of the fire department deciding to insert a keg of beer in a procured refrigerator. This included a beer tap and CO2 tank. It’s an ironic thing to imagine when it comes to volunteer firemen hoping for emergency calls with the thought of tapped beer awaiting their return. One day in the area of the firehouse, one of the more questionable guests came close to running over Monte’s grandson with a motorcycle. Plied with a certain amount of alcohol himself, Monte had stern words with this much younger man. The local sheriff’s department was called and somehow an older and frailer man was issued citation for disorderly conduct for trying to protect his grandson from that of a reckless younger man.

Around this same period, Monte and Sharyl became more vocal when it came to local politics and suspected irregularities when it came to local politicians and their practices.  Both of them and others started to attend township meetings seeking answers, which resulted in heated debates, the contacting of law enforcement officials and several articles in local papers.

At one point, Monte’s spirits were slightly raised when a federal agent expressed interest in possible federal infractions, however, Monte soon found out local issues lacked “sex appeal” to keep the action span of “the Feds” focused long enough to improve the local quality of life.

Later in his life, while leaving the tavern formerly known as the 9/24 Club, Monte, driving when he should not have been, struck and knocked over a heavy wooden road sign. The sign shattered his windshield and dented his hood, but he kept on going until the gasoline safety shut off in his Ford station wagon caused his vehicle to stall along the edge of the highway. Monte then walked home. Later in the evening, a Fulton County Sheriff’s deputy located Monte at his home after finding his damaged vehicle. Monte, still irritated over his much earlier disorderly conduct citation, was too wily to accept the deputy’s invitation of a seat in the back of his squad car. He told the deputy he was certainly drunk at the present time, but was sober hours earlier when the raccoon ran out in front of his station wagon, causing him to strike the road sign. He added, he was so upset about that inconsiderate raccoon it had caused him to come home and start imbibing at a much heavier and quicker pace.

The deputy ended up writing him several citations, none of which included DUI and informed Monte he would be on the look out for his station wagon.

When Monte’s son learned of this, he fabricated a tale of having a prosecutor friend from another jurisdiction contact Monte’s county seat on Monte’s behalf for a quick resolution.  His son simply called the local prosecutor’s office and asked what would happen if Monte plead guilty and afterwards called Monte and told him about the sweet deal offered for the plea because of the invented special influence, hoping to instill more responsibility when it came to his behavior.

During the last few years of Monte’s life, Monte’s behavior was being covertly reported back to his son by a cousin. Monte was stunned over the accuracy of the information his son was receiving and while consorting with one of his drinking partners, the two of them tried to figure out the identity of the spy, eventually latching on to the wrong person. Monte would rant over the incorrectly identified spy, describing this person in the most foul of descriptive words, however, over time, reprimands by his son had less and less impact (when Monte’s daughter Kathy was alive, for a time she had some influence on his more uncouth behavior, often referring to Monte as, “You asshole!”).

Peoria, road trip, Monte, Kathy, 636In the end, Monte simply declared he wanted to have as much fun as possible in the limited time he knew had above ground and went about his own way of doing so.  Monte, later Idaho trip, drinking beer at bus stop, 629Montie, guitar, Far North canoe trip 179


Above is a lithograph image of Canada geese in flight. Later in his attempt to modify earlier creations, Monte tried adding very subtle shades of color in hopes to enhance his artwork.

Below is an image illustrating Monte’s experimentation with developing an easier way to reproduce his artwork. Later in his life, Monte would try adding additional items, such as the bird, to previously finished pieces.

Ink, experiment, reproduction, tree, with bird, IMG_1323

Ink, tree, IMG_1324

Ink, Trees, Art033

Below is a very detailed ink drawing of a bare tree. In interviews and comments, Monte was not shy regarding his view of overwhelming detail in contrast to pieces with what he considered possessed more feeling and passion.  Though he thought too much detail would become the focus in pieces, he also was known to state, his artwork creations were based on what his eyes saw and how his brain processed what he had seen.

Pen, Tree, No leaves, 017


Throughout the 1970’s,  Monte visited Canada and Alaska on canoe trips several times.  Certainly, these trips provided grand inspiration for later pastels.  Some of these pastels turned out better than others.


Pastel, pine tree outcropping, lake, 1979 DSCF0211

Some pastels were of more dramatic and darker hues than others, while others focused on more bright imagery.  For some time, many of these pastels hung from cords draped from the ceiling of an upstairs bedroom of Monte and Sharyl’s home.


Monte once told a man pastels were very easy for him to complete and he could produce one quite quickly.


Above is a pastel Monte most likely was not too fond of in either its entirety, or the lower half of it.

An interesting question to ask Monte would have been about his decision to not utilize the Wood Duck in more of his artistic creations, especially when the male Wood Duck is one of the more colorful of waterfowl.

When it came to waterfowl depictions, throughout his artistic career, the number of Monte’s pieces appeared to favor Mallards, Pintails and Canada Geese.  Monte’s use of the Wood Duck is mostly seen during his earlier pieces.  Of the images posted here, it is possible the Wood Duck decoy carving is possibly the latest of his creations.

Of his sculptures or three-dimensional pieces, the only recalled one of a Wood Duck is of the created decoy below.

Carved Wood Duck

Below is a photograph of an early painting a pair of Wood Ducks and most likely one Monte grew to dislike through the years of his improving artistic progression.

Art, Photo, Early Wood Duck painting, 650

Below is another image of an early Monte painting depicting a pair of Wood Ducks in flight. The style of this painting is reminiscent of the portrayal style once he once used and later discarded.

In family photographs when the Monte Ellis family lived at Big Lake, this painting can be seen hanging on the wall.

Wood Ducks in flight, 172


Below is another Wood Duck painting by Monte.  In this painting he has recreated the imagery of a marsh-like scene favored by Wood Ducks.

This image was also used for the cover of the Peoria Journal Star’s Weekender insert on Sunday, October 23, 1971, which also included an accompanying article about Monte.

Wood Duck painting, pair


Below is a rough pencil sketch on a possible future Wood Duck piece.

Pencils, rough draft, pair Wood Ducks, Art028


Below are two photographs of two more early Wood Duck paintings by Monte.

Male wood duck

Male wood duck, 107


Previous postings have discussed Monte’s attempt to create artwork faithful to how he observed nature and wildlife in the natural world. Again, Monte expended a great deal of energy and many, many attempts to try to recreate imagery, not only as how he directly observed it, but how his mind recalled it.

In previous entries, illustrations have been posted which showed Monte’s attempts of doing so by blurring the wings of landing waterfowl and by recreating the different curvatures of the wings of in flight waterfowl.

The first painting deals with waterfowl off in the distance and how they would visually appear.  An assumption can be made from knowledge of Monte’s past behavior, if given the opportunity, he would probably have ended up painting over the waterfowl in this painting due to his strict standards and allowed it to be a stand alone landscape painting.

Painting, Geese, Moutain Dark Sky scene, fixed damage, DSCF0154



The bottom painting is another painting illustrating waterfowl from a distance, but this time in a migrating “V” pattern.

Oddly, the bottom painting was an earlier illustration than the top painting and more likely to have been acceptable to Monte and remain in its original form.

Painting, Geese, over water, cut through brush, DSCF0166

When examining Monte’s pencil illustrations over his career, two major observations are noted.  The first observation is that which is seen in almost any of the creations by an artist and that is the individual progression of an artists skills and talents over time.

The second observation is Monte’s move from one very distinctive pencil style to that of a entirely different style of pencils.

The more obvious difference of this change is how his earlier pieces reveal Monte’s reliance upon a more profound contrast between the darks and lights in his pieces. The content of his earlier pieces also has a different make up that is hard to explain, but visually apparent when viewed.

Below are two previously unpublished illustrations as examples of Monte’s earlier pencil style.

Pencils, ducks over open water 087


Man, woman, 294

As mentioned previously, one of Monte’s desires was to try to create illustrations that reflected the way he perceived nature with the naked eye.  Below is a previously posted illustration to show how he tried to create an image of what it looked like to see waterfowl in flight.  This illustration also is an example of how he moved away from his earlier pencil style and which may have been done so because he felt his earlier style was not as accurate to what his mind observed in the natural world.

Pencils, pastel mixture, ducks over water 023

In the above illustration from 1974, Monte’s signature had changed from his much earlier pieces. The change in his signature is one way to determine which part of Monte’s life the piece was created.

Below are earlier posted images that are indicative of Monte’s earlier pencil style.

Birth of Christ, 340


Pencils, catamaran,  041


Pencils, house, pine trees 010


Pencils, Knight 006


Santa and Elves


Santa and Elves loading up, 270


cute rabbit, deer, raccoon, squirrel, 74


Three generations of men, 268



Kids seining, 75


Monte’s Pencils

January 3, 2013

Through his artistic creations, Monte turned out many pencil drawings. Many of these pencil drawings have not been framed or largely seen by many people.  It is not known why he chose not to frame more of his pencil drawings.

A number of his pencil drawings, as mentioned before, depict solitary creatures in the natural world.

Pencils, flying bird, tree scene 072

Often times, he would depict these creatures in their own battle with the natural world and harsh environment.

Flooded rabbit, 088


Subtle rabbits, pencil 011


In an interview, Monte revealed visuals in his artwork often came from things he directly observed throughout his life.  In a journal Monte kept, he mentions a tree he could see out a window while living at Big Lake.

Below is an image of a buck deer resting on the ground in front of a large, hollowed out old tree.

Along the dirt road into Big Lake, west of the Clubhouse, once grew a large Sliver Maple tree with a hollowed out base.  In the image below limbs to the tree are partially seen coming into the left of the photograph.

The photograph is a picture of flooding around the Big Lake Clubhouse.  The square portion of the Clubhouse was known as the Boot Room and was where hunters would change out of their hunting gear.

Below is a photograph of the same tree.  Note the similarity of the hollowed out portion of the bottom of the tree.

Below is another photograph of the same tree with Sharyl, Monte’s wife, sitting upon one of the limbs of the tree during a flood at Big Lake.  Note the location of the limb she is sitting upon and how high it is from the ground in the above image.

Below is a black white photograph of Eric standing in front of the same tree.  Both of the Ellis children were afraid to fully enter the hollowed out portion of the tree and often would dare each other climb inside.