Wednesday, March 2, 2016

First Glimpse at Timberline


Greg Manchess

Painting away on my novel, Above The Timberline …and I’m very excited to give Muddy readers a first look.

My days are dominated by sketching and painting and the almost overwhelming feeling that I’m already quite far behind. By about six months. That time is difficult to make up, but many paintings are moving along faster than I expected.


It’s all in the pre-planning. From initial thumbnail sketches conceived in coffeeshops across the country to larger sketches to final paintings, the way to control time is through practicality. This is the best way I can ever hope to create this book on schedule.

What’s different about my approach is having the images push the story and the reader along, instead of illustrations only serving what’s written in the text. Each painting has multiple elements and conditions that serve the flow of the story. The manuscript doesn’t work just by itself; it needs the visuals to capture the sequence of the plot, to push the story forward through images that reveal extra information for the reader than what’s in the prose. And the words provide much of what can’t be painted.


This was intentional from the beginning. I didn’t want a picture book or an illustrated novel. I wanted something that expanded the usual concept of a book-with-pictures or a graphic novel.

I started with the manuscript, capturing the story that grew visually in my mind. I worked on the manuscript for six years while composing page designs to support the sequence. Even after all of that time, I’m still making some manuscript changes as the paintings bring up another level of situations that need to be addressed.


The novel is a risky venture as I’ve shut down most assignment work to complete the book. I plan to record as much of it as possible though, to serve as a method for artists who may later be inspired enough to try this themselves.

This will be the first of quite a few posts describing the work without ruining much of the story. I figure that many of you might like to watch the progress as I go through it.


There will be one hundred twenty paintings in the novel, each one a double page spread. At this writing, I am about thirty paintings in. Ninety paintings to go!

How’s that for an assignment?

33 comments:

  1. If anyone can pull this off it's Greg Manchess! Kudos! looking forward to see it's completion.

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  2. If anyone can pull this off it's Greg Manchess! Kudos! looking forward to see it's completion.

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  3. Looks fantastic, Greg. Both content and style are something that no one has ever seen before, and the images just overflow with story potential. Can't wait for any tidbits you can toss out to us in future, and it's OK if your work schedule only permits time for one-sentence posts on MC. On to victory!

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  4. Looks great!! A book with one hundred twenty paintings of pure Manchess?!?! can't wait. All of these snip-its tell a story - take your time - I think it is more important to have a good book then a rushed one. Neil Gaiman said that with Sandman he put more and more time into each book and it has paid off year after year as that book held up and created the foundation for everything after.

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  5. Would love to see a sample layout with type incorporated.

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  6. The wooly rhinos are intriguing, looking forward to learning more. I sense a 'Lost World' vibe, but in someplace cold. BTW, I ran into you a few times in Dayton umpteen years ago at figure drawing sessions. You do get around.

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  7. Thanks, all!

    LOL, Jim! Thanks so much for your support and encouragement! But you know, projects like this can trace roots back to Dinotopia and a very few others before that, if any. (I found an ancient Japanese paneled story that was quite interesting!) Your story and paintings have been a tremendous inspiration.

    It's a gargantuan effort, as you know, to get something like this off the ground, but perhaps there's a chance that more artists can be inspired to try it. I'd love to see that idea supported by artists and publishers alike. And maybe we'll see that spark here at Muddy.

    And Jim, much of the story came out of visualizing the paintings. I don't know if that happened for you...? (It would be fun to do a discussion sometime about process for artists on projects like this, and talks about story development. Sometimes artists are reluctant to write, but they already tell stories in their pictures...)

    I'll do my best to report on progress without spoiling the story, but it might be tough with all you artist-folk....nothing gets by your powers of observation! That, and the idea that people will likely pick up the book and flip through it first, thereby stealing some of the page reveals a bit before they begin. But I'll take that risk!

    I'm encouraged by these comments to carry on. Thanks again, y'all! More to come!

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  8. I've been taking the opposite approach to a graphic novel based on a historical figure with tons of documentation to wade through. I've collected visual reference from the period but have held off on sketching pages so far for fear of compromising the story by getting sucked into cool visuals. But maybe it's time to see how they work together...

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  9. Definitely, Mark. After you've put some writing time in, I think the images can lead you to other places you hadn't expected. It's a fascinating process....

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  10. You can take my money now...that's how much I believe in you and this story.

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  11. Can't wait, Greg. For the book, or the movie...

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  12. Yahooooooooooooo! Can't Wait! On the first day of IMC2010 when all the Artists work was mixed with music I said (almost out loud) This Manchess guys got Adventure pouring out him!

    Until your story is published it will be like sitting with my big brother back in the early 70's waiting for the old black and white TV Saturday afternoon B-movie matinee, I was just chock full of anticipation for a good story, cool characters, and lots of adventure.

    Thank you, Cheers, and Enjoy!

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  13. Looks impressive. Nice going. I also appreciate your approach to allow the pictures to drive the story.

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  14. Record everything... everything. 24/7 surveillance on the Manchess estate. If for some reason you find yourself thinking "Oh I won't record this, they won't think this is interesting." Think again. You are wrong.

    lol. Very excited! Look forward to purchasing every single thing even remotely related to this. Can't wait!

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  15. I should start saving for that hardcover book :).

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  16. Nothing but respect for your determination and discipline in attempting such a feat. 120 paintings....puts me to shame...

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  17. Nothing but respect for your determination and discipline in attempting such a feat. 120 paintings....puts me to shame...

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  18. Got no feedback beyond "This is amazing!" I'm afraid. I always admire your painterly work but the style and the design of the subjects is really engaging too. Nice one Greg!

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  19. Good job, above the timberline is one of my favorite painting from you, great it becomes a whole book !
    So there's a market for such illustrated book for adults ? Glad to hear that, in France illustration is reserved to small children, otherwise comics & mangas take all the place (covers excepted)

    Pierre.

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  20. Having just finished 135 full paintings for a Marvel trading card set, I fully empathize with you, Greg. I ended up a lot further behind my original schedule than I ever expected. That amount of continuous work takes a toll after a while. Really looking forward to seeing this project as it progresses. Good luck!

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  21. Thanks so much for the sneak peak. I'm extremely excited to follow the progress and to see this work come to published fruition! Amazing stuff Greg...these images are already taking me there. ;)

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  22. Inspired. Can't wait to see more and to buy the book.

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  23. I know I commented on the announcement post, but I just HAVE to say it again: I've already set aside a small fund dedicated just to this book! I can't wait!!! :)

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  24. I am so excited about this project. I will be eagerly following along -- as much for the awesome artwork as for the process.

    "What’s different about my approach is having the images push the story and the reader along, instead of illustrations only serving what’s written in the text." <-- You've managed to succinctly put into words what I've been trying for a while now to explain to people about my own "hybrid illustrated novel that isn't actually like your typical illustrated book" project. I'm so curious to see how you practically craft a story this way. How does one manage the text and pictures so that they are complementary, carrying equal (or nearly equal) weight/importance in telling the story, without letting one or the other become redundant?

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    Replies
    1. Makes me think of the revolution in musicals back in the 50s or so when they figured out how to advance the plot during the songs, not just in between them.

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  25. That painting with the divers is the most amazing thing.
    I love it.
    Knowing that you're recording everything is great cause that means we'll have DVDs of this too!
    I like the concept of a sort of hybrid graphic novel. It's like a totally unique project. 120 paintings are a lot for most painters but you can do it!!!!
    I'm so excited for this book!

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  27. Great to see you again tonight, Maestro, and DAMN! what an opus work you're creating! Simply must have the deluxe edition when you've finished!

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  28. Your painting of Above the Timberline is one of my favorite paintings. I cant wait to see and buy the book!

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  29. Thanks again, EVERYONE! You keep me going with these remarks! Fantastic...

    Putting up another post about my progress tonight, with more images...

    G

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