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?