Mountain Bear Ink

Fred Montague established his art studio and independent printing/publishing operation as Mountain Bear Ink in 1993 in Summit County ,Utah, about 26 miles east of Salt Lake City.  Prior to this, in Indiana, he published his work under the Foxbrook Press imprint.

His studio and printing workshop are part of his family's 20-acre homestead in the boulder-strewn uplands between Utah's Wasatch Range (to the west) and the High Uintas Wilderness Area (to the East).  The half-acre around the house is occupied by a greenhouse, and several high-altitude gardens.  The remaining land is a sagebrush-gambel oak wildlife refuge .

The Mountain Bear Ink Mission

Fred's overarching goal, through his art, writing, and teaching, is to share ideas and images originating from the natural world-- a world disturbingly threatened by the increasing and largely unintended consequences of human activities to satisfy needs and wants.  He hopes to promote environmental awareness, to cultivate ecological consciousness, to share the joy and beauty of Nature, and to celebrate the twin gifts of biological and cultural diversity.  The hope is that with awareness,we can work together to provide for our needs while cultivating a deeper and more responsible relationship with our island home-- Earth.

Fred's Background

Education

Fred was born in 1945, a time he claims, when Western societies made another interesting choice in the fork in the road of cultural development.  He grew up in the prairie-edge region of north-central Indiana where he spent his free time hiking, canoeing, and camping.

He graduated from Purdue University (B.S. in wildlife science) in 1967 and then served three years as an office in the Navy on a coastal minesweeper (one of the several wooden sister ships of Jaques Cousteau's original "Calypso."

After his naval service, he completed graduate study at Purdue and earned a Ph.D in vertebrate ecology in 1975.  His thesis research centered on the ecology of red foxes.  During this time he also spent portions of two winter study periods on the Isle Royale National Park wolf project with his major professor Durward Allen and fellow graduate student Rolf Peterson.

 
 Fred Montague. Photo © Curtis Judd

University Teaching

For seventeen years (1975 through 1992) Fred taught courses in theDepartment of Forestry and Natural Resources at Purdue University.  The courses included Wildlife in America, Wildlife Investigational Techniques, Earth System Science, Deep Ecology Principles, and Field Sketching.  At Purdue, Fred received numerous teaching, student advising, and public service awards.

In 1993 he accepted a position in the Department of Biology at the University of Utah.  There he developed and taught a series of new courses:  Introduction to Environmental Science, Principles of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, Global Environmental Issues, Literature of Ecology, and Principles of Ecological Gardening.

Two of these were service-learning classes, and over the years students participated in long-term ecological restoration projects with TreeUtah.  Students also established and maintained two campus food gardens and several gardens at local elementary schools.  The service-learning program provided a solution to one of Fred's long-time teaching challenges-- how do we teach the general student body about environmental issues without overwhelming thoughtful people with the enormity of the situation?  Like the 1970's bumper sticker "think globally/act locally," service-learning courses introduce the abstract and intellectual components of the topic in the classroom and then empower students as they move into the community to work to accomplish important tasks associated with sustainability and environmental quality.  The courses were recognized by Utah Campus Compact in 1998, and the University of Uah selected them as the 2004 Service -Learning Courses of the Year.

During his seventeen years at the University of Utah, Fred's classroom teaching and student mentoring earned numerous department teaching and advising awarrds.  In addition, in 1999 he was named the University's  Outstanding Academic Adviser, in2004 he was named Professor of the Year for Teaching in Environmental Science, in 2008 he earned the Univesitiy of Utah Distinguished Teaching Award, and in 2010 he received the Outstanding Civic Engagement Award from the University's Lowell Bennion Community Service Center.  

Fred retired in June 2010 after 34 years of university teaching.  In September the University granted him emeritus status and Bioneers (Salt Lake City) recognized him at the 2010 Bioneer of the Year.  In 2011 the Utah Green Building Council awarded him the Craig Forester Lifetime Achievement Award.

Fred's Art Activities

During his graduate work in the early 1970's Fred needed technical illustrations for his reports and thesis.  Prior to that he had enjoyed sketching and drawing natural history subjects, especially while hiking, camping and conducting his own nature study that was to become the core of his career.  So, out of enjoyment and necessity, Fred began to develop a drawing style with pen and ink that provided the required detail and reproducibility.  Over time he expanded his art activities, exhibited his work publicly, and generated a modest following from the sale of original drawings and limited edition prints of wildlife and other nature subjects.

Drawings:   Pen and ink drawings are Fred's foundational art activity.  Interesting composition and realistic detail, achieved by patient stippling and cross-hatching, characterize his drawings.  He works slowly and deliberately,  He seldom accounts for his time, but his journal reveals that one particular large drawing consumed 200 hours.  He begins with pencil sketches from field notes and in-hand reference materials.  His notebooks are littered with depictions of birds, mammals, insects (and other invertebrates), tracks, plants, rocks, clouds, landscapes, and large and small patterns in Nature.  Photographs (with real film) provide reference images for animals in motion.  After composing the drawing with pencil and addressing the challenges of balance (or deliberate imbalance), light and shade, texture, posture and overall effect, he transfers the image to heavy archival paper or illustration board for the final ink rendering.  He use techniical pens, crow quill (dip) pens, pointed twigs, brushes, and other inking implements.  

Limited Edition Prints (from ink drawings):   Signed and numbered print editions, generally ranging from 8 to 880 impressions, permit a wider distribution of Fred's work and provide an affordable means of acquiring art, whether one is a newpatron or a long-time collector.  After several decades, most of the early editions are sold out.  Others exist in low quantities.

Many of the early limited editions were printed by means of photo-lithography (photo-lithographs).  Each was printed under Fred's direction, and individual impressions were accepted or rejected.  Currently Fred prints editions of medium-sized images on his Model 1913 Golding letterpress.  He uses zinc plates that an engraver prepares from his original drawings.

Limited Edition Prints (woodcuts):  During the last several years Fred has added a series of woodcuts to his artistic output.  These prints, while representational and realistic, are somewhat more abstract in their design.  They emerge as high-contrast, silhouette-like images that are dramatically evocative in their black boldness.  He carves the reverse images in maple blocks with gouges, chisels, and engraving tools.  Then he prints each edition on the letterpress.

Hand-lettered and Hand-made Books (Artists Books):  Fred writes, designs, illustrates, and in some cases, prints and binds his books.  He has created several limited editions of artists' books.  These range from very small editions of books with hand-lettered texts and original drawings to larger editions printed on his letterpress.  Three of these, One Earth, FoxSense, and Rambling are among the more ambitious projects, each book requiring weeks or months to print and bind.  Fred also wrote, lettered, illustrated, and published textbooks for his university courses.  Environmental Notebook and Fundamental of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation are two that he used over the years to help students understand principles and concepts.  Both are currently out of print.

His latest book project has been the publication of Gardening:  An Ecological Approach.  This book, intended for the general public, incorporates ecological concepts into the ecological activity that gardening actually is.  The book proposes that gardening is a direct action that promotes individual, community, and global health-- and thereby is one of the moret important environmental actions a person may undertake.  The 400-page coil-bound book is hand-lettered and profusely illustrated.  Its major contents include The Role of the Garden, Ecological Principles, Gardening Methods, Garden Plants, and Nutrition and Health.  Each book is signed and numbered (in the first edition of 8,800 books).

Art Exhibits, Commissions, and Awards:  Fred's drawings, prints, and books occur in public and private collections in 50 states and 30 countries. He has exhibited at over 150 art fairs, including the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, the Park City Art Festival, the Kansas City Country Club Plaza Art Fair, the Wisconsin Festival of the Arts (Milwaukee), The Cincinnati Creative Arts Festival, the "Round the Fountain Art Fair (Lafayette, IN), and many others.

He has been an "Invited Artist" at the Utah Arts Festival. He has exhibited in the Indiana Wildlife Artists Exhibit at the Indiana State Museum (Indianapolis), the "Nature Interpreted" exhibit at the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History, and at the Mendicino (CA) Book Fair. His work has earned many awards, including numerous "Best of Show" and purchase award distinctions. He has had several solo exhibitions-- at the University of Utah (Union Gallery and Red Butte Arboretum), at the Dawes Arboretum (Newark, OH), and other galleries and shops throughout the country. His drawing "Wood Ducks" earned recognition in the Indiana Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp competition. Most of that print edition was donated to Ducks Unlimited to assist with fund-raising for waterfowl habitat acquisition.

The National Park Service commissioned him to illustrate Rolf Peterson's a monograph describing the ecology of wolves and moose in Isle Royale National Park, and Macmillian Publishing commissioned him to provide illustrations for an outdoor recreation textbook. Purdue University commissioned him to create a special commemorative print for Marlin Perkins (of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom television series). The Department of Forestry and Natural Resources at Purdue commissioned the drawing "Silent Snow."  

Current Activities:

 

 

 Since his retirement in June 2010, Fred has continued practicing the same philosophy and engaging in many of the same activities as when he was teaching full-time. He is gardening, building things, initiating permaculture projects, watching the night sky, executing more drawings, engraving more woodcuts, outlining more book projects, making numerous presentations and workshops, and keeping track of his neighbors-- elk, deer, and bushy-tailed woodrats. 

Homestead Projects: Retirement from the University has provided Fred with time for more projects at the homestead where he and his wife Patricia live. Always striving for a pragmatic self-sufficiency, he is continually working to incorporate conservation and "perpetual" energy for his family's needs. He prefers to call solar and wind energy "perpetual" sources, because they are (instead of the commonly used term "renewable," which they aren't).

His year-round food garden includes a lean-to greenhouse, an efficient cold frame, and a hoop house. Even at an elevation of 6,500 feet and in a deep snow zone, his structures provide fresh greens, brassicas, herbs, and other produce during the time of the year in temperate regions when they are needed most in the diet. Of course, in the summer, the modest, but adequate, outdoor beds provide food for the table and the pantry.

The challenge of providing water for the garden plants (in a region with about 16 inches of annual precipitation-- often primarily as snow) is met, in part, by rainwater and snowmelt harvest, by creative home plumbing with dedicated sinks only for freshwater rinsing (for food preparation) with that water collected for garden use. While this is not graywater use, that potential exists also.

Fred also builds furniture, vertical axis windmills, solar thermal panels, long stucco walls (that provide sun traps and animal barriers), and other concrete, masonry, wood, and straw projects.

Art Projects:  Now with a little more time to devote to his art projects, Fred is engaged in creating more large original drawings. With sketchbooks brimming with images and more appearing daily, there is no limit to the range of possibilities. The limit, of course, is the great amount of time required to render each drawing. He always has two or three "under construction."

He likewise is producing more woodcuts.  Recently he completed five new editions-- "Wolf Pack-- Alpha Pair," "Bur Oak Leaves," "Chickadees," "Two-tailed Swallowtail," and "Wa-Maka-Skan: all the moving things of the Earth."  For Fred, this medium is very satisfying. His entire art activity is founded on black ink on white surfaces and the information and visual excitement these contrasting extremes create. He likes the hint at detail of a carefully carved silhouette which engages the viewer's imagination in "seeing" the image.

 

 

 

 

 

Lectures, Presentations, and Workshops:  Fred makes numerous presentations to clubs, organizations, and university classes. The presentations are consistent with Fred's life work as stated earlier-- providing information and images that promote awareness of, and appreciation for, the life-promoting processes and entities on Earth They are typically engaging "chalk talk" events with much audience interaction (sorry, no PowerPoint). Presentations last abut an hour. The general themes as revealed by some recent presentation titles, are "The Global Imperative for Sustainability," "The Role of Gardening in Creating an Ecological Consciousness and a Sustainable Society," and "Principles of Ecological Gardening."

Occasionally, Fred conducts one-day field sketching workshops. These usually begin at 9 a.m. and conclude about 4 p.m. and involve continuous guided drawing projects in an outdoor setting. These are popular with children and adults, beginners and veteran artists, teachers, naturalists, students, and anyone interested in using a pencil and paper to create images of natural history subjects. Participants typically bring a stack of white copy paper, several #2 pencils, a clipboard, a pencil sharpener (or pocket knife), and a sack lunch.