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Greg Manchess Visits Kendall for Career Day

Posted March 23, 2011 in Events


Photo by Lisa Ambrose 


Career Day with Greg Manchess.

What a gift to the illustration students at Kendall.  They seemed to understand it as they sat in a packed room 103 for several hours listening to the well known and accomplished illustrator on St. Patrick’s Day morning.


His impressive resume includes Time, National Geographic, Atlantic Monthly and the Major League Baseball World Series programs.  He’s also done work for Playboy, Newsweek, the Smithsonian and Federal Express.  His work is found on countless advertising campaigns, book covers and movie posters. 


While I only heard the first session, he continued into the afternoon, giving a Master class and a talk about talent. 


His first presentation focused on his career, how it developed, who influenced him and some gentle bits of career advice to the students. 


Over and over he emphasized doing thumbnails.  These are small sketches that artists do to plan their work. Get the concept down. 


“When I was where you are, I didn’t want to do thumbnails,” he said to the students, grinning. “I hated them.  All I wanted to do was get to the painting. But I’ll tell ya, if you aren’t doing thumbnails, you need to.”


“Book covers, posters, National Geographic illustrations—they all started as thumbnails. Sometimes I have to show an art director as many as 20 before we settle on a concept.  Then they change it.” 

As he showed the students how a project progressed, it became clear that a thumbnail was the essential beginning. 



He also advised students to learn to draw figures.  “If you can draw a figure you can do anything.”  His work demonstrates this and what he calls, “ The Power of the Single Figure to Capture the Moment.” 


Creating a moment that communicates emotionally is the essence of his work. Here are a few examples.  For many more, go to his web site at www.manchess.com.

It was most informative to see the work that goes into illustrations with such emotional impact. Greg said he enlists friends to dress up in makeshift costumes and pose for photos so he can get the exact drape of a garment right or the impact of lighting.  Many times he dressed himself up and then using a remote clicker takes photos of himself to get the details.  He also does extensive historical research. No detail is ignored. 


The Q & A covered a wide range of topics.  Students asked specific things like ‘what kind of pencils do you use?” and "do you have preferences for canvas?"  Greg answered everything and added bits like “be sure to roll a canvas with image to the outside when you are mailing.”    He told them to be sure not to use turpentine—terrible health hazard.


Other students asked about getting an agent and about the move to digital.


He has an agent but it took him a long time to form that relationship. 



 “Digital means I have to work faster.  Deadlines are tighter.  I do love digital and have lots of friends who do digital, but I love painting.  Painting is my drug of choice. I love painting like air, like food.  It’s me.”


The following images show the progress of an illustration by Greg Manchess. 

- Susan J. Smith 


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