Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Rise As One, Continued

Lt. Zemisch orders his men not to shoot during Christmas

Greg Manchess

Thursday morning, March 27th, I had to teach an online class for SmArtSchool from 9a to noon. Just after, I checked my email. There was a message from Gamma One Conversions.

“The package is not here.”

Continuing my work on Rise As One, a time-critical assignment, where the smallest schedule shift could cause me to miss the deadline, the first set of paintings was now lost. Perfect.

Losing three hours on the phone, working with (see: screaming at) several Fedex representatives, we discovered that the package had never been picked up. It was still sitting at the Fedex station where I’d dropped it off, 2400 miles away from NYC.

This is the loose quality of thumbnails that the client allowed me to show them, to get a sign-off for the finish paintings. 
I thanked them for that...a LOT.

reference of actual British trench, used as a guide

 This thumbnail was basically flopped to get the two trenches calling to each other.

I cannot describe my frustration. But there was no time for that. I told Fedex to hold the package as I had another coming and we could ship them together. I got back to work, adjusting and finishing the first set. After showing those finished paintings to the AD, he informed me that the gallery shoot was now scheduled for the following Tuesday.

Wait a minute. That meant the paintings had to get shot and printed on canvas by Friday night as the photographer is closed on the weekend. And the first five paintings were still missing.

 The British troops celebrating Christmas Eve.

(You know that sinking feeling you get when you realize you’ve promised something you can’t deliver on, that you’ll be exposed for the charlatan you think you are, and the world will absolutely come to a flaming end...just because of you? Yeah. Me, too.)

My answer to the client? “Ok.”

While the Germans celebrate, Lt. Zemisch calls over to the British, wishing them a Merry Christmas.

It was late in the day Oregon time, and the Fedex cut-off time is 4:15 pm. I raced over to my station to pick up the first package that was delayed, and send several more paintings of the next batch. But as I approached the station, the truck pulled away...with my first package on it.

Signalman Brookes, in his dugout listening over the wire, can hear the Germans singing.

Attempting not to scream at the Fedex employee who was trying to be helpful, I had to race to another station hub where the first package was headed. It’s over a half hour away in traffic. Their cut-off is 5 pm. It was past 4:30.

This series of thumbnails are from the original set drawn early on to convince the client to use my artwork for the film

I pulled onto the freeway and into rush hour traffic. After a couple lane changes, traffic thinned sufficiently and I made it the the Fedex station by 10 minutes. They said they couldn’t send them together, but I was assured they’d both arrive at the same time on Friday to Gamma One. I went home to continue painting until late.

Capt. Hamilton returns the good wishes.

Gamma wrote Friday morning that they still didn’t have the package...this time, neither of them. I was livid.

During the night, Memphis had a terrible storm and delayed all shipments into NYC. It was now 3pm in New York. I'd lost most of a day to shoot the paintings, and two more hours on the phone with Fedex.

Lt. Zemisch ventures out into No Man's Land with a lantern.

Luckily, during the first package loss, I’d made friends with one of the operators in Cincinnati, where I grew up, and she worked hard to track each package down and convince the drivers to drop off the packages that day. It pays to be amenable. Gamma finally had them, but it was too late to shoot.

The Brits see this and slowly come out, leaving their weapons behind.

I stayed focused, trying to think of anything else but the timing, and continued painting into the night. I’d never laid down pigment so fast in all my career. I had to complete 20 pieces by that weekend, or I’d miss getting everything done for the shoot. What would happen if I failed?

Failure was not an option.

A truce, sealed by a handshake on Christmas Eve.

Final Post: Finishing the next 12 paintings for the shoot...down to the wire, with less than 48 hours to go.


  1. Greg, this story is awesome, your illustrations are awesome -- YOU are awesome! The only guy in the business who could have pulled this off. A thrill a minute!

  2. Cool under pressure, this is the absolute definition! I am amazed (and horrified) by this story. Incredible paintings! Can't wait for the finish. Thanks for posting, Greg...

  3. I breathlessly await the final outcome.

  4. Sounds like a nightmare Greg. I think I would still be waking up in the middle of the night in cold sweats, and a gut ache.

    Love the night shot with the soldiers laying down their weapons and crawling out of the trench....great composition!

  5. Great paintings. Great story, reads like an episode of "24".
    I love the fourth from the bottom with the butt of the rifle laying down. It sums it all up simply and perfectly.
    Did you find the Christmas trees in your research or was that artistic license?

  6. Thanks, all! It was most definitely a nightmare. Looking back, it was fun and comical as things fell apart. I got to the point where I just sat back and said, "well, of COURSE Fedex lost the package....of COURSE there would be a storm in Memphis..." And I would laugh like an insane person and go back to work.

    David...the Germans actually decorated the edge of their trench with small Christmas trees...! Lit by candles! In the video, you can see how they animated the flames a little bit. The artistic license used was painting them from me wee head, instead of looking up reference. : )

  7. Absolutely beautiful paintings, but just reading this story is giving me anxiety haha. Looking forward to (hopefully) the sigh of relief in the next part!

  8. Damn. Another cliffhanger! Don't you wish the "Star Trek" transporter was for real?

  9. Wow, I'm on the edge of my seat here! And the paintings - beautiful! Great compositions and delicate use of values. *Takes hat off*
    Even though this tale isn't over yeat I've got a humble suggestion for a possible future post: What do you have to say about getting as much information as possible from limited reference? Using oneself as a model for multiple figures and faces etc. And also, doing a recognizable portrait of a particular person (such as an historical person in the context of an illustration) with very few exisiting photographs of the subject. Sculpting a maquette would help to visualize the face from different angles, but this might be too slow when in a hurry.
    Looking forward to the next part (and the Manchess art book)!

  10. Can you, for a moment, think a lawyer would go through what you have for the client? The rates would've tripled and there would be no apologies. It's almost sardonic what illustrators and designers will do to accommodate an absolutely unrealistic AD and/or salesman,rep.,etc. I feel sorry for you, and for all of the freelancers trying to make a living.

    Regarding the "stitch counters", take a flying leap! This isn't intended to be illustrations for Osprey Publishing! It's a RUSH project - gets my blood boiling to nit pick, not understanding what is needed for an assignment like this.

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  12. Nice! ( the artwork that is - not the crazysh*t….)


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