Gregory Manchess, in his own words

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Editor's note: After learning about a local youth cast performance of "Above the Timberline Radio Play" written and illustrated by current Norman Rockwell Museum exhibitor, Gregory Manchess, the authors interviewed the artist by phone on Monday as part of a Job Shadow Day experience reporting for The Eagle.

Even as a student at Highlands High School in Fort Thomas, Ky., Gregory Manchess had a demonstrated artistic flair, which included writing, art-making and being a drummer in an award-winning school band. But, he said, a well-meaning but misguided guidance counselor once told him to not bother applying to the big-name art schools on his college application list because "she didn't want me to be disappointed if I didn't make it." Manchess said that moment made him feel at once disappointed and all the more resolved in his work.

After earning a bachelor of fine arts degree from the Minneapolis College of Art & Design in 1977, he went on to hone his own unique style and skill set, which landed him art gigs for the covers of magazines like Time, National Geographic and Smithsonian, as well as work in mainstream television, film and advertising.

Here, he fields a few questions from The Eagle, about the recent world premiere of his animated illustrated radio play, "Above the Timberline," and his work with local high school students.

Q: Why is the story set in winter?

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A: "I could never get enough snow as a kid. In Kentucky, we didn't have snow-capped mountains. [While visiting my brother in Colorado] I fell in love with the mountains out there. I love to paint snow ... people think it's all white, but it depends on how the light hits it that colors it and allows for a dramatic tone that kind of lends itself to graphic adventures."

Q: You said you first considered making "Above the Timberline" a graphic novel, but then turned it into a book with 120 full-page art panels. Now that you have the radio play and the artwork done, would you consider going back and doing a graphic novel?

A: "I'd really love to do a sequel to "Timberline." I've got another book in progress about griffons. It's sort of about technology versus mythology. I got into illustration through comics. I don't like doing so many panels, but I love the graphic landscapes [presented] in comics."

Q: You once said you were reluctant to share your work, techniques and process with other people, but now regularly teach and hold workshops. What have you since learned from working with students?

A: "It goes full circle to back when I was in high school. When I saw the kids there on stage this weekend, I saw a piece of myself and thought about when I was young and getting involved in different productions. When I was in high school, I didn't know what I was doing. But with each step I would take, I would take a bit of risk and put it out there to get a response. If it was positive, it encouraged me. If it was negative, it helped me understand how to improve."


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