The Hawk & the Hummingbird

Now and then I get a commission and sometimes they come in groups. A Hawk and a Hummingbird came together and became a priority problem. I tried to bring them up together and they both suffered from lack of focus. Way too much time was spent on them because of false starts. The Hawk you see here is the third version. The first two were torn up and tossed after many, many hours of cutting, painting, and assembling, but not nearly enough hours of planning, research, and determining the graphic and dimensional symbols that would satisfy the solution to the problem. If I ever do another Hawk, I will start with the eye and beak and then build a hawk around them. In this case, I built a hawk and tried to fit the beak and eye into the feather structure…had a helluva time.

Hawk Commission

Hawk Commission

I was cutting and painting the Hummingbird and flowers at the same time as the work on the Hawk was being done. The blossoms were just a bunch of flower-like shapes for a couple of months, and again the bird was done several times, until I simplified things and did my impression of a Hummingbird and not a realistic rendition. I seem to get hung up on the beauty of the real bird, and not on what I can do with my limited abilities and the limitations of my technique.

Hummingbird  Commission

Hummingbird Commission

Photos by: Michael Mauny

In my professional past as a paper sculpture illustrator, jobs came in, sometimes more than one at a time, and they had to be prioritized by deadlines. But I always worked on one at a time, sometimes day and night to finish the first and get on to the next.

In the past dozen years or so, when preparing, say, twenty or more pieces for an exhibition, I could work on several at once because they had similar themes and visual content. I found that they fed off each other and elements in one suggested ideas in the others. But a Hawk in autumn had almost no relationship to a Hummingbird among flowers and there was a conceptual fistfight for several months.

I was so frustrated that I avoided going into my studio for weeks, which is why they took so damn long to finish. As an illustrator, I never missed a deadline in fifty years. Currently, I have two more commissions, a male cardinal, in flight, and a mountain landscape. I am going to work on one at a time, for sure, for damn sure!

Thanks for visiting me…


P.S. A new series of collage classes starts on January 17th in my studio.

2015 Jan:Feb:Mar Leo Monahan Unexpected Image Class Flyer


When I work, I never throw away the scraps of painted or specialty paper. I have boxes of trimmings and the detritus of my efforts while making paper sculpture and collage.
IMG_0753I am the paper garbage collector and hoarder. I have large inventories of cut paper feathers, leaves, flowers, pots&pans, weavings and various shapes, some painted and some unpainted. I cut and paint way more than I need for projects and I select and assemble from these inventories.

The Andrew Charles Gallery asked if I might have something that would fit the theme of their next show, which was, “False Faces.” In the past I had done two series of paper sculpture/collage images called, “Faces From the Past” and “Painted Faces,” both based on my friendship with Ben Black Elk, who had a fabulous, lined, and wrinkled face.
Ben Black Elk for Website

I said that I could get one done for the show, but I produced four finished faces and pieces and parts for several more. I clawed my way, picked&sorted, cut&snipped, pushed&pulled, fitted&fiddled, and foundmyway through boxes of visual trash, some 20 years old.IMG_0743

There were so many options that it took longer to assemble the faces than I thought it would. The fantastic, visual scraps covered every table in my studio and eventually were all over the floor. I was on a high and in a rush because Robert Reitz had to have a month to fit me into his framing schedule and build the shadow boxes.

This was pure, unplanned, graphic fun. I finally produced four, dynamic, lick and stick, collage/paper sculptures, and I’m going to continue to produce a few more fantasy faces, that I’ll spring on you in the future.

There is a closing party at the Andrew Charles Gallery on Thurs., Nov., 6th from 5 to 8pm…

Thanks for visiting me.

leo f. monahan

P.S. The Weaverville Art Safari is this weekend. Come by and see some sketches I’ve been working on. They’re 9×12, unframed, $75.


Also, the next level two Unexpected Image class is Sat. Nov. 8th from 11:30am to 5:00pm… This is a continuation of collage composition, focusing on making masks to go along with the “False Faces” theme at the Andrew Charles Gallery. Call 828.989.0111 to register. There are four spaces left.