Written by: Tercena Carey
Monty Knowles is one of the Bahamas premier artist, born and raised in Nassau his work as a photographer and an architect are well documented. He studied architecture and pursued photography courses. But it is Monty’s talent for artistically painting the body that cannot go unnoticed. His exotic and colorful `Nymph Series’ encourages people to see past the sexual element of the female body and appreciate the aesthetic beauty inherent in natures most beautiful art creations. We recently spoke with this talented artist…Listen in..
What drew you into using the human body as a canvas and how long have you been using this method to showcase your art?
The body painting materialized out of a series of photography projects that I undertook early in 2012, and it is largely a self taught process, although I have been graced with great supporters and helpful critics.
What did you have in mind when you started and did you think about being in magazines ?
Producing beautiful art photographs was the only thing that I had in mind when I started painting, and it still is. Magazine articles, galleries, and other displays are a welcome bonus as it allows me to share my art.
Does the human body (women) fascinate you?
Yes, the female body fascinates me more than any other type of art. It is the greatest sculptural art form in the world. Unfortunately we teach women to hide, and be ashamed of it.
Why do you call your models Nymphs?
‘Nymph’ seems to impart the sense of a deity, and non-humanness that I find fitting. They appear to be some kind of beautiful alternate species.
How long does it takes to paint a Nymph?
Depending on the complexity, extent, and painting assistants, today’s nymphs are usually completed over a 6 to 10 hour session. The sessions run the gamut of a spa experience, to a painting party.
Tell us about your technique . do you use your hands only or paint brushes ?
LOL. All of the painting is done with paintbrushes. There is no airbrushing and certainly no finger painting.
What is most challenging about this kind of body painting?
It is difficult to move the nymphs extended distances once complete, so coordinating comfortable, interesting locations for painting that are in the same proximity of the photography shoots is often difficult. One also has to be aware of the few unfortunate people who are unable to appreciate the beauty of the human form.
Are the models nude and if so, how do you connect with your models to make them comfortable ?
Commonly, the models wear a sort of strapless G-string that allows the painted patterns to flow down their legs without interruption. Most of the nymph models are comfortable with their bodies and unconcerned about showing their natural skin. We take care to exclude from the sessions, people who are incapable of appreciating the aesthetic beauty of the nude human form.
Who, what and where inspire you?
Kristin Pedersen, one of the original painted nymphs, was a significant inspiration. The Junkanoo theme came to me when I was painting a model in Oslo, Norway at 2:00 in the morning with an airplane to catch in 4 hours. Paint schemes are primarily inspired by the model’s body type as I aim to highlight the strengths of the model’s form. Ideas spring from a variety of subjects. Beautiful insects, plants, modern art, fashion… literally anything can be an inspiration.
Do you use photo shop on any of your work and can you elaborate more the art of human painting ?
None of the photographs have been touched by Photoshop. I manually process the digital photograph to attain the most realistic rendering of the painted work of art. Light-room is the program that allows me to ‘develop’ the digital negatives much as we did film in darkrooms. As a result, you will see the imperfections where the nymph rubs paint off, or sweat stains, etc.
Where else have you displayed your talent?
I had a showing in Norway that received a lot of positive attention and press, but so far I have not taken the nymphs out to the world. I am considering looking for a partner to help manage my nymph art.
Give us a few names that you would like to become a Nymph and why?
Beyoncé Knowles comes to mind because she is famous, has great form and features; perfect skin tone…. and we share the same surname. I end up spending a lot of time with the nymph models, and although form and features are important, I look primarily for great attitudes.
Describe your feelings about your work , now that you are seeing it take flight
Whatever road it takes, the art will remain an enjoyment, and a sort of meditation. If I find clients who are willing to purchase the art that I enjoy doing, it will be a bonus.
Where do you see your work in the future?
In the near future, I see the nymphs starting to highlight some of the social and environmental issues that we are experiencing on a local level as well as globally. I would also like the see a Junkanoo Nymph Queen representing the Bahamas to the rest of the world. She would be a sensational marketing asset for our tourism industry.
What do you think of the galleries here at home and what you think can be done to attract more tourists to them?
We need more galleries on Bay Street.
Should more of our Bahamian Artist work be displayed in hotels around the Bahamas ?
Yes, of course. The government actually stipulates in many of its heads-of agreements, that the hotels are to promote local artists. Many hotels do a great job already.
What are you passionate about ?
Many things. Helping my son learn how to be happy is probably paramount. Fighting social prejudices is pretty high on my list of passions.
Who is your favorite artist and why?
Leonardo Da Vinci has always been a favorite, not because of his art necessarily, but more because he made great art works in addition to his other extraordinary interests and achievements.
What do you do for fun?
I do everything for fun. The boat I live on, my airplane, art, photography, architecture, traveling, etc. are tools that I employ to enjoy every moment of my life. Collecting great memories, and spending wonderful moments with amazing people are my favorite hobbies.
What do you like most about the Bahamas and would you like to live anywhere else in the world?
Bahamian attitudes are what I like most…and sometimes what I like the least. I enjoy living all around the world. Paris, Sydney, Rome and Hong Kong are cities I would love to have residences in, but home will always be the Bahamas.
What advice would you give to younger individuals that will help them in life and finding their passion?
Focus. Learn to be happy with less. Do what you love.
We need to fight against the societal thinking that makes exposure of the human form into something dirty or vulgar. The human body is nature’s
greatest art form. We can learn to appreciate it as such.