It is difficult to know where to start writing about the career of Barnardsville, NC artist Leo Monahan. Leo shares in this interview how the many threads of his life led him to Western North Carolina. He transitioned from commercial art to fine art upon moving here ten years ago. Now 83 years old, Leo continues to create his colorful cut and folded paper sculptures in his home studio on a daily basis.
Leo is also the creator, along with his friend John Otto in California, of the Local Hearted logo, for which I will be eternally grateful.
In this interview with host Meredith Adler, Leo talks about his 50 years as a commercial illustrator in Los Angeles, where his company designed 1200 record album covers in a period of 5 years, and NBC was his largest client. Leo taught color and design at Disney, and is now a member of the Southern Highland Craft Guild. Now that I have started writing about Leo, it’s hard to know where to stop, but I would rather you listen and let Leo tell you the stories himself!
To connect with Leo and see more of his work:
- SCROLL down this page!
- Leo’s blog: http://www.leothecolorman.com
- Leo’s web site: http://www.leomonahan.com
- Grovewood Gallery
- During the Weaverville Art Safari Twice each year, Weaverville and Barnardsville artists open their studios to visitors (Leo also created the logo for the Art Safari)
Highlights from this episode include:
- Leo explains why he wouldn’t mind if his inventory of completed work was destroyed
- How a series of lucky breaks and opportunities Leo accepted came together, culminating in the creation of his original art medium
- Leo’s opinion that you cannot call yourself “creative”
- Leo’s history as a teacher of the Bauhaus design and color course and how he is teaching a version of the Bauhaus design to his students here in WNC
- Why Leo thinks the opportunity for an artist to have their exhibitions viewed by people is actually greater here in the Asheville and Western North Carolina area than it is in Los Angeles
- How the theme of process rather than product runs through everything Leo does artistically
Local artists mentioned in this episode:
- Nancy Swift, who is also Leo’s agent
Another local resource mentioned:
Other people, places and things pivotal to Leo’s life story mentioned during this episode:
- Ben Black Elk, the man Leo honors by referring to him as his mentor when he was young. Links with good information on Ben Black Elk can be found here and here.
- Chouinard Institute, now called CalArts, where Leo received the first Disney Scholarship ever awarded.
- The Bauhaus Movement, the style of design Leo learned and taught at Chouinard Institute, and still teaches today
- Murray Garrett, the photographer who was Leo’s partner at the commercial art agency (whose request for Leo to design “something different” for Liberty Records was the catalyst for Leo to develop the format of cut and folded paper sculpture)
- Studio Five, the Los Angeles commercial art agency of Leo Monahan and Murray Garrett
- Jeff Nishinaka the artist Leo refers to in the interview as “the Master of White.” Jeff was a student of Leo’s. Leo himself is known as “the Master of Color.”
- The Dada Movement in art
- Ed Parker, Leo’s martial arts teacher in L.A.
- An example of one of Leo’s students who went on to great achievement–Don Hall, Oscar winning Director of “Big Hero 6”
- Leo’s role at Disney included teaching color to the Disney teams and designing aspects of the parks. In this article, Leo talks about how he could design 3D models using paper and the engineers would then translate his design into steel. The website this link takes you to is a little tricky to figure out, but if you wait for the magazine to load and then “turn the pages” till page 5, you will find the article about Leo.