Creating a moment that communicates emotionally with the viewer is the essence of Gregory Manchess’ artwork. Rhythm and timing, conveying emotion through brushwork and achieving a balance of concept and aesthetics are essential components of his technique.
His versatility and broad range of interests has garnered prestigious assignments from an ever-widening lists of clients, including magazine covers and spreads, numerous book covers, advertising campaigns, murals, movie posters and concept work, portraiture, and stamps for the USPS among many other projects.
Manchess’ interest in history and his excellent figure work has made his paintings a favorite choice of the National Geographic Society on many occasions. Recently, Gregory finished ten mural paintings for a National Geographic exhibition on an actual pirate ship. “Real Pirates: The Untold Story of The Whydah, from Slave Ship to Pirate Ship” will tour 15 cities over 5 years.
Widely awarded within the industry, Manchess exhibits frequently at the Society of Illustrators in New York. His peers at the Society presented him with their highest honor, the coveted Hamilton King Award in 1999, and a year later, the Stephan Dohanos Award. Manchess’ work has also been recognized in the children’s book market, with his first book nominated for a Caldecotte Award. He is also included in Walt Reed’s latest edition of “The Illustrator in America, 1860-2000.”
What is the most exciting thing you’ve learned recently?
I've recently realized that no matter how much a painting doesn't look like the picture in my head, I have the skills to get it there, or at least closer than ever before. I can get as loose or abstract, even with graphic or angular shapes, as I want, and even though at certain points it can look like a mess, I know I have the training to bring it to a visual point that is interesting or compelling. This understanding has freed me to be more creative and take greater risks.
Taking risks within a painting is often nerve-wracking and scary, but I understand much better now that that's the place where things can shift and change and lead a painter into new interests. Having trained to be comfortable with base principles, I can use those skills when I'm in trouble, or confused, or just unsure of where I'm headed.
How do you battle through rough patches? What drives you forward?
I keep my mind's eye on the ultimate goal I've visualized for myself. A kind of mental carrot. I picture myself down the road, painting exactly what I want, the way I want it, and selling images to people that love art. It sounds lofty, but most of us have goals like this as a painter. The trick is visualizing so clearly that it becomes second nature, knowing that it's real.
This visual world of my future artist drives me forward, knowing that the piece I have trouble with now only sets me up for a better understanding of my direction down the line and subsequently fits into the process of gaining that forward vision. That way, I don't take the current struggles personally, or as a signal that things are falling apart. It's quite simple, really. Visualize how you see yourself in the short term and the long. It helps one push through present struggles.
What do you wish you had known earlier in your career?
I wish I'd known that learning even more principles (lighting, perspective, anatomy) more accurately, would have given me much more confidence to try things earlier in my career. I pushed hard to learn, but I always feel that I could have learned more. I suppose that may be the feeling most of us have once we've reached a place of success, but knowing it all better allows for more progress, more experimentation, more accomplishment.
At this stage in your career, what is your dream project?
A series of fully illustrated books that tell stories through paintings and prose of my own ideas. After that, a series of themed gallery shows that focus on narrative pieces that tell parts of a larger story.
What’s one thing your students will take away from your workshop?
To question less and draw more. Asking good questions is very important, but the answers come from more and more drawing. As the drawings improve, so do the questions, and the cycle leads to better work.
Greg Manchess will be teaching his Plan Great Images: From the Ground Up workshop on November 15-17, 2013.
Enrollment opens on Oct 15!
Subscribe to the mailing list for updates, announcements and reminders!