Creating a moment that communicates emotionally with the viewer is the essence of Gregory Manchess’ artwork. A native of Kentucky, he earned a BFA from the Minneapolis College of Art & Design in 1977, but is largely self-taught in drawing and painting. He spent two years as a studio illustrator with Hellman Design Associates before striking out on his own in 1979.
Ryhythm and timing, conveying emotion through brushwork and achieving a balance of concept and aesthetics are essential components of his technique. This has garnered prestigious assignments from an ever-widening list of clients. His art has highlighted covers for Time, National Geographic, Atlantic Monthly, and the Major League Baseball World Series Program; spreads for Playboy, Omni, Newsweek, National Geographic, and Smithsonian; countless advertising campaigns and book covers. For Federal Express he created five paintings for display in the company’s corporate headquarters, which were then reproduced and distributed as posters and greeting cards. He has also illustrated movie posters for Paramount, Columbia, and Disney; conceptual work for The Chronicles of Narnia. His portrait of Sean Connery was used as the defining climactic moment in Warner Brothers’ Finding Forrester.
Manchess’ interest in history and his excellent figure work has made his paintings a favorite choice of the National Geographic Society on many occasions, including an expedition to the Fond du Lac river in Canada for the 1996 article David Thomson: The Man Who Measured Canada, and illustrations for The Wreck of the C.S.S. Alabama. Gregory has completed a large portrait of Abraham Lincoln and seven major paintings depicting his life for the new Lincoln Memorial Library in Springfield, Illinois.
Currently, he has finished ten mural paintings for a National Geographic exhibition on an actual pirate ship. Entitled, “Real Pirates: The Untold Story of The Whydah, from Slave Ship to Pirate Ship” that will tour 15 cities and is currently showing in Philadelpia at the Franklin Institute.
His work has also been recognized in the children’s book market. His first book, To Capture The Wind by Sheila MacGill-Callahan, was published in 1997 and nominated for a Caldecott Award, followed by Nanuk: Lord of the Ice, by Brian Heinz, released a year later. His second collaboration with Heinz, Cheyenne Medicine Hat, a story about wild mustangs, was released to wide acclaim in 2006. Other books include, Giving Thanks, 2003, The Last River, 2006, and Magellan’s World, released by Mikaya Press in 2007. He has just completed a lavishly illustrated book of 5 classic Robert E. Howard stories with 60 paintings. A black and white version was published by Del Rey in 2006 and a full color limited edition is forthcoming from Subterranean Press.
Widely awarded within the industry, Manchess exhibits frequently at the Society of Illustrators in New York, where he has won a gold and four silver medals. The Society of Illustrators in Los Angeles awarded him two silver medals and a Best in Show Award. His peers at the Society of Illustrators in New York honored him with the coveted Hamilton King Award in 1999, based on an artist’s career accomplishments. The following year they awarded him the Stephan Dohanos Award for the best illustration of the year by a member. Artist’s Magazine gave him First Prize in their 1990 Wildlife Art Competition. He was featured in Communication Arts in 1995, and featured in 1996, 1998, and 2000 in Step-By-Step Graphics. He has since appeared in many issues of the Communication Arts, Step-By-Step, and Spectrum juried annuals. Spectrum awarded him a silver medal in 2001 and showcased a painting for their call-for-entries 2003 poster. He has exhibited with Eleanor Ettinger Galleries in New York and Hong Kong, and in 1997 was featured in a solo exhibition at the Witham Gallery in Ohio. Gregory is included in Walt Reed’s latest edition of “The Illustrator in America, 1860–2000”.
He lectures frequently at universities and colleges nationwide and gives workshops on painting at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA.
YOu can see his process video here
Warner Brothers Pictures
US Postal Service
The Nature Conservancy
The RAND Corporation
Mutual of Omaha
Holland Cruise Line
The New Yorker Mag
Car & Driver
National Hockey League
Simon & Schuster
St. Martin’s Press
Little, Brown & Co.
I work up images based on the needs and overall outcome of conversations with the client. This may seem like a standard approach, but for me, concerted effort is needed to begin the visualization process. Dreaming images into reality is the crux of successful picture-making for my work. The mood and emotional balance of the artwork is it’s ultimate connection to the viewer.
Inherent within those first, small thumbnail sketches is the core of the communication. I refer back to these original gestations over and over again throughout the process. Here lies the key to drawing the viewer in and holding their attention. And it all starts with composition, color, and light.
From there, I research the subject matter to familiarize myself with all aspects…and begin to develop the sketch. Final sketches are based on more conversations, as in the final sketch for “Magellan Enters the Strait” and fine adjustments are made, comparing the final sketch with the initial thumbnail. From there, the final painting develops very quickly.