Interview with Artist, Photographer Monty Knowles

Monty Knowles

Monty Knowles is an artist and photographer we were first introduced to when we saw his work for the Danish women’s Handball Team (Danish Women’s Handball Team Gets Painted) and were quickly hooked.

Monty Knowles
Monty Knowles

A trained architect, Monty decided to move away from that path in 2010. He then went onto pursue “travel, photography, art and happiness.”

Photo: Monty Knowles
Photo: Monty Knowles

In order to learn more about this Bahamas-based artist and photographer who also lives on a boat and is a trained pilot, we knew an interview was a must.

MalenDyer: We love how you exude happiness and positivity. When you are having an off day, how do you work to keep that mood going?
Monty Knowles: Fortunately, I don’t have many off-days (he says with a smile). Recognizing the negative thinking that causes the “off” and supplanting it with positive thoughts, is probably the most important tool for enjoying wonderful moments. Of course, it also helps that I am surrounded by a lot of positive people.

MD: You must share with us more details on how you decided to live on a boat in the Bahamas?
MK: Every summer, my family would vacation with my uncle on his boat. Those trips are some of my favorite childhood memories. When I was younger, I listened to all the “why NOT” reasons for living on a boat. Fourteen years ago, I started listening to the “why YES” reasons and have been happily living on a boat in the beautiful Bahamas ever since.

MD: Any times you wish you were land-based?
MK: I travel all the time, so I often have a land-based aspect to my lifestyle. I am also just signing an agreement to take over six little cottage accommodations on a remote Bahamian island, so I envision spending a lot of time up there with the swimming pigs, lots of photography and body painting.

Monty Knowles
Monty Knowles

MD: Now onto your work. We first stumbled upon you when you did the body painting for the Danish women’s Handball team. Although you have a photography and architecture background, among other disciplines, what drew you to the art of body painting?
MK: Body painting emerged out of photography projects. Initially, Kristin Pedersen was painting while I was photographing – until she convinced me to paint her and her friend. Five of us went down to the Exuma island on my boat.

Monty Knowles
Monty Knowles

MD: What do you find most challenging about the art of body painting?
MK: Scheduling time is always a factor. Each painting takes six to 10 hours, plus photography. It would be hard to identify any other challenges; there really aren’t any.

MD: How do you prepare for a body painting session?
MK: Knowing the person is essential when the painting is intended as a reflection of their personality. Sometimes I draw a design prior to the painting and sometimes the painting unfolds more organically.

For the Handball players, I made several studies to develop designs portraying “fierce femininity”.

Monty Knowles
Monty Knowles

MD: The Junkanoo Nymphe is living art, which is body painted by yourself and is a global ambassador for Bahamian culture and art. Can you share more details on how this concept was started?
MK: The Junkanoo Nymphe was born on a cold night in Oslo when I was painting a woman with only four hours before my flight home. The resulting painting made me think of Junkanoo, which often has a kaleidoscope of colors. On the airplane ride home, I developed this idea of creating a compelling Bahamian personality capable of taking Bahamian art and culture to the world.

Monty Knowles
Monty Knowles

She has been formally received by the Governor General of the Bahamas at the Government House, opened Junkanoo-in-June with the Minister of Tourism and headed to Denmark in February to showcase Bahamian art at the Danish Travel Show.

There are several Junkanoo Nymphes, and they all have their unique identities.

MD: What would you like others to know about Bahamian culture and art?
MK: Bahamian art is embodied most spectacularly in Junkanoo. Every year, millions of man hours go into creating incredible costumes and floats using cardboard and paper mache. Like my body paintings, these pieces are ephemeral and dismantled after the parades.

MD: How has your architecture background influenced your art, whether photography or body painting?
MK: Perhaps my architectural background is the reason that I see bodies as 3D forms to be painted and enhanced, instead of surface skin to be used as a canvas for 2D paintings.

Monty Knowles
Monty Knowles

MD: Any upcoming projects you are working on that you could share with us?
MK: I am teaming up with a non-profit in the Bahamas to hold an exhibition called “We are Orange”.

Almost every person living on Earth is a shade of orange. This can be demonstrated using standard image-editing software. This exhibition invites viewers to see beyond “skin” color, and to perceive others on the basis of their thoughts instead of their outward appearances.

MD: Now, a few lighthearted questions. As you travel around the world, outside of your supplies, what is something you must always bring with you?
MK: An open mind (he says with a smile).

MD: As a pilot, what is your favorite destination to fly to?
MK: Great Harbour Cay in the Bahamas is probably my favorite destination. It is only 30 minutes from Nassau, and the beach is literally across the road from the airstrip. It also boasts some of the most spectacular aerial scenery of any place on Earth.

MD: When on land, what’s your favorite mode of transportation?
MK: I love walking around Paris and other interesting cities. There is something about walking in these environments that stimulates my thinking. Trains are fun too.

Monty Knowles
Monty Knowles

Connect with Monty
Instagram @monty_knowles
Facebook @monty.knowles.1
montyknowles.com

Monty also holds body painting retreats. Find out more details on MontyKnowles.com.