EK Interview: Goñi Montes

art blog - Goñi Montes - empty kingdom

Goñi Montes is an immensely powerful wizard (featured previously in April 2010). Some have tried to challenge him, their shattered souls lay as testaments to their own foolishness sprinkled about his Tower. We begged him not to crush us with his voice as he gave responses to our interview, he responded “Why not employ email so that I don’t break your mortal brains into a million bits?”**. We agreed that was a good idea. Read on:

**NOTE: this is paraphrasing, not a direct quote.

How long have you been an artist for?
Officially, 8 years. I started off as a scientific illustrator and then moved into editorial.

When did you decide that your favored media was digital art?
I have not made up my mind on a favorite medium. Digital is fun, but it only amounts for about half of my work. A lot of traditional media goes on behind all of my pieces. On the other side, the vibrant colors that the computer can produce are fantastic. This is probably what gives my work a more digital look. I’ll add that the editability these applications can provide helps with quick turnarounds.

art blog - Goñi Montes - Empty Kingdom

Did you experiment with other media before that?
Indeed, and quite a lot. That’s what art school is all about. The list is rather large, and goes from dry and wet media, printmaking techniques, to sculpting and modeling in clay, wood, and marble. In my last year of school, I dedicated myself to dealing with digital stuff, and that seems to have gotten attention from art directors, so I oftentimes stick to it. In the end, be it digital or not, it all feels the same. Choices are good for avoiding monotony.

Take us from the ground floor to the penthouse in terms of your art, what is the first thing you do with a piece? What is the last?
As almost everyone will tell you, it all starts with a sketch. After approval from the art director, I go over it with much more refined linework. This varies a lot. It gets done with either inks, pen and nibs, pencils, microns, photoshop, illustrator, and combinations of all of these. On completion, the look that these media produce is very similar… mostly. If done with traditional media, the drawing gets scanned and painted in Photoshop. There is an awful lot of wet media included within this process. It varies so much from piece to piece it is hard to describe one single process. The importance of this is to build texture. Without at least a bit of watercolor, acrylics, or inks it all looks terribly stale. The very last step is usually adding highlights. They make everything pop very nicely. It is always good to point out the importance of learning traditional media before the computer.

When you have competing ideas for a piece how do you decide which to pursue?
A lot of my work is collaborative. Other than me, there is also an art director behind almost every piece in my portfolio. This makes decisions happen a lot faster. This is one of the many aspects I love about collaboration. Having someone breathing down your neck helps you remain focused as well.

art blog - Goñi Montes - Empty Kingdom

Do you remember any ideas that you regret leaving on the cutting room floor?
For every illustration, we go through rounds of thumbnails that vary in intensity from project to project. During this process, a lot of ideas get chucked. I’m sure there are plenty of ideas saved up in drawers all over the studio that would render interesting illustrations. Nonetheless, out of sight, out of mind… I’ve no regrets.

When did you leave Puerto Rico?
August, 2006

Was that a hard decision to make?
No. I do not mean to come across as rude with such a short answer. Things seem to happen, and years later, it looks like I was riding on a whim… at least to me it does.

What do you miss the most since leaving?
Since I left, my brothers have been getting busy… very, very busy. They’ve produced a jumble of nephews and one niece that I only see once or twice a year. I love spending time with them and miss them very much. Skype is good.

art blog - Goñi Montes - Empty Kingdom

How would you describe your own art?
I don’t think about this much, which is problematic considering this is one of the most recurring questions in interviews. Colorful? Figurative? I’ve got nothing…

What has been the most challenging obstacle in your career as an artist?
Accepting the fact that most successful illustrators live in New York City while I am somewhat attached to Atlanta. I’m rendered stranded. There is so much happening there, which is not to say there is nothing happening here, but what seems to be the capital of the illustration business is so alluring.

art blog - Goñi Montes - Empty Kingdom

What has been the most rewarding aspect?
I’ve probably mentioned this in another interview, and I’ll say it again. Right after you’ve finished a piece, there are these five minutes in which you love what you’ve created. Then it dies and you immediately hate it. Those five minutes are bliss.

How long have you been teaching?
Two years now.

Among your students what trends have you observed?
A lack of interest in traditional media. It concerns me very much.
On a more positive note, they get so good, so fast, it concerns me even more 🙂

Which are you encouraging, which are you trying to stomp out and why?
I encourage drawing! Always drawing! It is the very core of what we do. I also encourage professionalism and all the other adjectives that come attached to it. When collaborating, this is most important.

What is your opinion of the future of art?
These thoughts all come to mind:
– The story within the story, WITHIN the story… forepostmodernism.
– Green… the color, not the movement.
– I can only hope that somewhere along the way we get back to painting on cave walls and ensure a successful kill…
– Cartography.
– 42.
– Seriously, I’m too young to concern myself with this. Which is not to say I don’t care, instead it is not yet in my nature to think of the future. I can say with conviction that the need for art will be higher, and the quality of work will match.
art blog - Goñi Montes - Empty Kingdom

Do you think there is the same level of quality and content among the work of younger generations as there has been in the past?
They just keep getting better… exponentially. This whole thing about standing in the shoulders of giants seems to be working.

What would you say is the most important lesson you teach?
Draw! Oh and never use the word style, let alone defensively.

Tell us about some artists you admire.
This list is HUGE… but I’ll keep it short: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s graphic prowess, Lord Frederic Leighton’s lighting, Alphonse Mucha’s subtle grace, and the amazing skills of Norman Rockwell and J.C. Leyendecker. There’s also a heavy infatuation with old Korean prints. Not to mention artists that are still spearheading this business like Greg Manchess, Bill Mayer, Sam Weber, Yuko Shimizu… I must stop now.
art blog - Goñi Montes - Empty Kingdom

How do you think they have affected your body of work, if at all?
They, along with many others, have indeed affected my work, but it is hard to pinpoint the ways.

Who are some artists you’re currently following/excited to tell us about?
Mostly illustrators that have become friends, which is why I’m so constantly interested in staying informed of their newest works. I frequent the websites of Sam Weber, Tyler Jacobson, Dongyun Lee, Mike Lowery and Edward Kinsella III. The latter was informed of how much I like his work in a disgraceful, drunken manner. There is a subsequent restraining order… but all in all we’re in fantastic terms.

What’s next for you?
I don’t know. I never know. I’ll find out once I get there.