« Whiskey Thieves @ The Shooting Gallery | Main | DJ Shiro's Botanical Angel Can Pot Head »

Sep 11, 2006

Angels and Gringos - Interview with Daniel Monahan

For the past month or so we've brought you the behind-the-scenes development of Sancho, the first figure in the exciting and promising Angel and Gringos series from the Monahan brothers.  We recently sat down (well, virtually through the magic of IM) with Daniel Monahan, the creator and sculptor of Sancho to get better acquainted with the artist, his artistic perspective, and the origins of Angels and Gringos.

Tell us a little bit about yourself...

I'm a classically trained sculptor. I started a mentorship with a professional sculptor (Chris Pardell) when I was still in HS. From there I went to UCLA to major in business. On the side, I continued to sculpt and even worked a few jobs in the entertainment industry including editing motion-capture data for film and video games, and working as a reader for a producer on the Sony lot.  Now, I work freelance for the animation and fine art industries.

When you went to UCLA were you planning on working as a professional sculptor?

Yes. I never really considered going into banking unless I ended up on the street. I still haven't picked up my diploma.

Daniel Monahan’s art style is…?

Fun. Interactive. Varied. I've always been really inspired by the work of Alexander Calder. He made art that moved.

I just Googled him. He’s credited with the mobile?

Yes. most people don't know this but much of his work was actually toys.

Any plans to make a vinyl mobile?

None currently. But now that you mention it... Much of what he focused on with the mobile - form and balance, I try to include in every piece I create.

Balance in an artistic sense or a physical one?

Both but mainly physical. It was really important to both Johnny and I that the Sancho piece balance correctly - without a base.

Why is that so important?

Because we like toys that stand on their own. I believe that balance gives sculpture a real sense of life. As an artist it's a fight to make a piece that doesn't just look like a lump of bronze or plastic

Driven to make it work?

Pretty much. I really labored to make Sancho. I wanted something that people would still enjoy 20, 50, 100+ years from now.

That's an ambitious goal -- to make something timeless. Which leads in to a new question -- tell us about your concept for Angel and Gringos and specifically Sancho.

Angels and Gringos is a project I've been working on for about 3 years now. It's a retelling of Don Quixote set amongst the backdrop of Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos). The tale is told through Sancho's perspective. That's why we decided to make him first.

How did you come up with the concept? 

Growing up in San Diego, I've been exposed to Dia de los Muertos all my life. I love the way it makes something vibrant out of death. I've always wanted to do something with it. Over the years thoughts gather and one day about three years ago it just hit me.

Bronze Sculpture Previs
Where did the Don Quixote aspect come into play?

I've always loved the characters. When I was creatively wrestling through the land of the dead I kept going back to Quixote and Sancho, and imagined them going through a world where the demons were both in their head and standing right before them.

Do you see Sancho as art, toy, or a hybrid?

Both. I don't see a distinction. My art is to make interactive sculpture, ie toys.

Can you talk about the articulation in Sancho and the ostrich?

Sancho will have articulation in his arms and head. Much of the interaction, however, will come from placing him alternatively on the Ostrich and the mechanical bull- and his accessories. There are a lot of different ways to display Sancho.

Definitely. We were really impressed that you decided to include an alternate figure/stand for him – Toro.

Thanks. That aspect was Johnny's idea. He's got a knack for toys.

Can you tell us a bit about how you and Johnny break down responsibilities on Angel and Gringos between the two of you?

Right now Johnny is taking on the manager/producer/editor/publicist-type roles. He also offers a lot of input in the creative process. I’m the creator/sculptor.

What  future figures can we expect in the Angels and Gringos line? We know that there are plans to do Don Quixote. Any demons or angels as well?

Don Quixote is in the works - as are a few demons - and a few surprises. We'll be posting more of the story too as things progress - right now we've been pretty swamped with setting up our operation.

Are you and Johnny producing Angels and Gringos on your own rather than licensing the property to a toy company?

Yes. We really want the creative freedom to be able to stay true to our original vision. There were many times in creating Sancho that we opted to take a more elaborate design approach instead of compromising. If we were doing this for another company - we might have had to settle.

So you're in the thick of creating your own line of designer toys. How did you get interested in designer toys?

Truth be told - I was in the process of saving up for an injection mold machine when I found out about the movement. I have wanted to make art toys since I started my mentorship in high school. There are just some things that you can't do with resin or bronze. When I started getting serious about buying my own injection machine - I was drawn to the vinyl movement mostly through Google searches. Being able to do this is really an amazing experience for me. I still would like my own injection machine - as there are other pieces I want to do that can't be done with rotational molding. For now though, I'm right where I want to be.

Do you see Sancho as bringing a new aesthetic to designer toys?

I hadn't thought about it when I started, but the more I learn about the movement the more I realize that my process is different. Most artists are 2D artists by nature - who have their designs made into 3D. I'm a 3D artist by trade - who thinks and creates in 3D.  Naturally i think the two processes would produce different aesthetics. Fans can enjoy both.

Where would you like to see designer toys go in the near future?

 I would like to see them stay true to the artists. I would hate for large companies to start mass producing pieces to cash in on the movement.

Bronze Boxers
The best thing about designer toys?

The individuality. Just like indie comics it allows the artists to put their vision out there unfiltered.

Do you feel that individuality is still going strong?

I do -- if you want to find unique pieces they're out there

 What about the worst or most troubling aspect of designer toys?

I think it's starting to attract the attention of large companies who care little about the artistic integrity. But ultimately I think that artists who want to make toys will always have the avenue now thanks to this movement.

Any last words for our readers?

Thanks for everyone's support so far.


Posted by Jack @ 07:31 AM in Angels and Gringos , Interviews | Permalink  | Comments (3) |


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Angels and Gringos - Interview with Daniel Monahan:


Cool stuff.

Thanks, Daniel. Really looking forward to this release and those that follow!

Awesome! I really look forward to seeing new work. To have a 3 dimensional sculpture adds so much to the development of these characters.

Post a comment