Interview with Leo Monahan

Color and Concept

by Greg Vineyard

Concept is EVERYTHING!” Leo Monahan exclaimed during our recent conversation.

I had the distinct pleasure of hearing these words directly from the man himself recently at his Western North Carolina studio. We were surrounded by all stages of his colorful paper sculpture illustrations, and I noted to myself that I was also standing amidst all the elements of awesome works yet to be.

I first became aware of Mr. Monahan in the 1980’s while in design school in Colorado. One semester, we were graced with visiting instructor Eugene Hoffman, who pushed us to notice, appreciate and feel strategic ideation. He also pointed out Good Stuff in the art world, including Leo’s paper creations, which leapt at the viewer off ad pages and magazine covers, reinforcing for us the notion that designing isn’t always a flat process.

Fast-forward to 2012 (Whoosh! Dizzy?). I’m in Asheville, a town of huge artistic talent and culture wrapped in a vortex of synchronicity. At an art event in Constance Williams Gallery, I was introduced to a “Leo Monahan,” and the name was… familiar. And then paper sculpture was mentioned, and it all started to gel. After getting past being a slobbering, fanatic idiot, I have now gotten the chance to learn more about Leo The Colorman’s take on things.

Leo, a color expert, taught at Chouinard, CalArts, USC, and lectured world-wide. He opened and ran successful design businesses, working in major industries. Over time, his fine art paper sculpture illustrations went from a few, to many, as well as from white to full color. He uses very basic art tools (X-acto knives, scissors, paint, brushes, airbrush and fine art papers ), and fueled by “memories, interests and desires” as inspiration for his concepts, Leo considers his works to be continually fluid, each one an experiment in shape and color.

A few select questions and answers:

Greg Vineyard: From whence does your creativity flow?

Leo Monahan: My creativity flows from my experience and fear of poverty.

GV: Do you have a favorite zen-type moment during your creation process?

LM: Zen moments are few and far between… I write zen poetry, haiku, and zen is difficult.

GV: What in your art life makes you feel free or joyous?

LM: At my age, I feel joyous waking up on the right side of grass.

GV: What in your studio inspires you to keep working?

LM: Other artists’ work inspires me to keep working.

GV: Were there any pivotal moments in your life and work that altered what you make or how you make it?

LM: Every project with new content alters what I make, because I experiment on every new concept…sometimes successfully.

Via emails and in-person, Leo is personable, engaging, sharing, funny, humble and gracious. His favorite art has stories and connections and history. He’s a man with a sincere appreciation for the view from his porch. I’m reminded that an artist’s life involves engagement, endurance, commitment and making. I’ve now met yet another inspiring concept of who and what I’d like to be when I grow up.

For more on Leo Monahan and his art visit Or check his blog at

If You Go: Leo Monahan’s fine art paper sculpture illustrations are on view and for sale at Grovewood Gallery. His solo show, “Cut, Bend, Fold, ColorColorColor – Paper Sculpture & Collage in Dimension,” runs from October 6 through December 31, 2012. An opening reception will be held Saturday, October 6, from 4 to 6 p.m. More information available at