Featured Artist: Bill Monthan

Describe your primary medium and explain why you’ve chosen it for your artwork.

Currently, my primary medium is Oil Paint. For many years, I worked with pastels, but decided to experience a medium that allowed for more color mixing and texture. While I loved working with pastels, I believe that every medium offers a different artistic adventure and result. I found that with oils, I can layer and mix colors to create depth in a different and more permanent way.

When did you start working with oils? How did you get introduced to this medium?

I first learned about oil painting watching my father, an accomplished commercial artist and oil painter, during my youth. I was also introduced to oil painting in my fine art college training during the 1970s. However, I really immersed myself into oil painting in 2014 after I retired from my healthcare profession. Since then, I have worked with Deborah Wilcox, a very accomplished, self-taught Corrales oil painter. Deborah has been very helpful to me towards getting my bearings with oil painting techniques, and color mixing.

What other media have you used?

I was an art major at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff Arizona from 1970 to 1977. During that period I focused more on 3D art. I studied general sculpture, ceramics, Jewelry making both fabrication and lost wax casting. My other areas of focus were art history, drawing and etching. When I changed my vocation to healthcare, I continued drawing in pen and ink, as well as pastels, in my limited spare time. While employed in healthcare, I was frequently asked to illustrate policy and procedure manuals, as well as promotional and education publications. Additionally, as a member of the New Mexico Society for Respiratory Care, I designed their current logo and program designs which are used on T-shirts, promotional material and in convention programs,

How much time do you devote to your artwork?

My goal is to spend two to three full days a week on actually making art. I consider myself a slow working artist. To put an image to this, I could be compared to a fast-moving sloth. Fast for a sloth or a turtle, but slow to all others. I spend another day or so a week on art related tasks.

Did you teach yourself or do you have formal education?

My learning spans many different formal and informal experiences. Growing up, I watched my father and his friend work in, and debate the arts. My mother was an author and collaborated with my father on numerous publications on Native American Art. Together, they produced three trail-blazing Native American Art books and published many articles for the American Indian Art Magazine in the 1970s and 1980s. I was also exposed to many artists in fine arts, theatrical arts, and music growing up in Los Angeles. I traveled Europe with my folks going to art museums and architectural sites. So, while attending formal art training in college I continued my learning in a more focused way.

What is your favorite aspect of what you do?

Making Art. One of my favorite professors always said “Art is Everything”. When we think of what defines our societies and various cultures in the world, it boils down to human expression in its purest form. When we want to gain insight into past civilizations, we study the arts of the time. We study the cave paintings, and petroglyphs from thousands of years ago, or sculptures and paintings from the Renaissance. For a brief moment, we time travel to a time long ago, reflecting on what life was like, what they ate, what they wore, what they loved, and what was most important to them in their time on earth. I can’t count how many times I have stood in front a work of art and posed the question; “what is the artist trying to say or project through their work?” I think there is a certain level of trust or assurance that most people have in the experience of enjoying the arts. They trust or believe they are witness to gaining a glimpse of what is in the artist’s heart and soul through viewing their work. I believe that making and exhibiting art takes courage, because the artists are making themselves vulnerable to criticism through their art.

What are your sources for ideas and inspiration?

The wonderful beauty in the world, both man-made and natural, that we are exposed to every day of our lives is inspiring. The sky and clouds have always been a big inspiration to me. My head is often in the clouds because of their free form and whimsical to scary ever-changing formations. Light is, of course, at the source of my inspiration. The way we witness how light moves through the atmosphere of our physical world is inspirational. That being said, I also find inspiration in artists who do not live and work in the world of light because they are physically blind. The blindness that they experience does not affect their vision and ability to create some of the highest forms of artistic expression. I find inspiration in watching any artist develop and grow to the next level of human experience through a new founded artistic skill, ability, or vision.

What obstacles do you encounter as an artist? How do overcome challenges?

Most obstacles that get in my way of making art are self-imposed.
One obstacle is the fear that I may not have the skill or be able to make the art that I am envisioning so that people may not understand or like the work.
Another obstacle can be waiting for inspiration to come to me, rather than going out and creating it.
I think it is important to realize when faced with self-imposed obstacles, is to remember why I love working in the arts. Simply put, it makes me happy and gives me a sense of accomplishment. I try not to let high expectations get in the way of making art.

Do you know what the finished artwork is going to be when you start? Do you ever just work from spontaneous impulse?

I like to have a sense of what my finished work will look like, therefore, I plan out my work focusing on composition and lighting. While I try to control and plan my work, I have found that when I study the characteristics of my finished works, that two personal styles surface. My work seems to have both whimsical and/or ethereal qualities. I have to focus and work hard to keep these qualities from surfacing in my work. One of my goals is to become more spontaneous and adopt a more loose approach to creating art. No matter how whimsical and/or ethereal the finished work may become.

Do you have a philosophy about producing art?

I believe that our artistic endeavors define us, our culture, and our society. Working in the arts helps us grow and influence how society views humanity and how we will be viewed in the future. The arts can help humanity cope and embrace what we can and cannot control in life. The creative process that we as artists under go in our pursuit provides a template for creative thinking in all disciplines from science to medicine to daily challenges.

Do you collaborate with other artists and if so, how does that happen?

I have not collaborated with other artists since attending college in the arts. This is a great leading question which I will now pursue.

Do you show your work commercially? If so where? Do you produce your art for a living or is it more of an avocation?

I have shown my work in the both the Corrales and Alameda Studio tours, Corrales Holiday Fine Arts show, Corrales Fine Arts Show, Encantada Painting Exhibition, and the Old Church Fine Arts show. I currently have work showing at some of the Range Café Restaurants, The Hispano Chamber of Commerce, and The Yucca Gallery in Old Town.
I produce my art as an avocation.

What advice would you give aspiring artists entering the field?

Artists of all ages entering the field should try to find a passion in a medium and subject matter. Pursue your passion as long as the passion and happiness it brings you lasts. Don’t let critics discourage you from pursuing your artist passion. Once you find your passion try to learn something every day and develop your skills. Realize that if you work hard and follow your passion that someday you will surprise yourself, and possibly many others, with your incredible talent.

What else do you want to say to help introduce you and your work to our readers?

If you should happen to see my work, I hope that it brings you at least a fraction of the happiness viewing it that it brings me making it.

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