Wednesday, July 9, 2014

20,000 Leagues Under The Sea

The Harvest

Greg Manchess

I’m happy to announce, officially on Muddy Colors, my first European Solo Show opening this October 17th at Gallerie Daniel Maghen, in Paris. If you find yourself nearby, please stop in.

There’s no title for it yet, but the show is generally my adventure paintings. I’ve been thinking about this show for many months, but have been preparing it for years. From science fiction and fantasy to literary and historical themes, it will include book cover work, personal visions, and many pieces from the Wandering Star edition of The Conquering Sword of Conan. A couple paintings from stories I’ve painted for National Geographic Magazine will hang as well.

This is the first of a series of posts about new paintings for the show that I’ll preview for Muddy’s followers. Just off the board late last week is a painting based on the Jules Verne novel, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (referring to distance, of course, and not depth...I was confused by that as a kid).

The title alone is intoxicating. There are so many scenes to work with from the novel, but this painting isn’t for a cover, or an inside illustration for the book. This is solely for lovers of the story to be excited by. Entitled, The Harvest, it's iconic, with elements of the story, envisioned with my own personal approach. Very different than reporting a scene from the pages.

I tromped around the studio in a jury-rigged costume, shooting reference of me doing the spaceman walk on the ocean floor. Then I gathered all the helmet reference I could collect and redrew each figure separately.

Lastly, I traced off the figures, cut them apart and moved them around to build the composition, then retraced the final version. This allows me to stay flexible with the placement of overlapping forms. As always there were things I wanted to show off, but I had to stay strong and let go of favorite elements in order to preserve the integrity of the whole piece. For example, I really liked the light on the bent arm of the figure behind the main diver, but it had to be sacrificed so that the two figures could work better as a unit.

I designed a Nautilus that was my own, based on the text. It’s remarkable how accurate Verne is to the sub’s dimensions in the book, even for 1870. It’s tough to get away from the Disney version, even when changing all the general shapes. One thing I did focus on is the direction of the forward serrated edges used to rip open ships from beneath. If the edges angle backwards, the Nautilus would get lodged in the ships’ hulls, like a barbed hook. Pointing forward allows it to tear and move away quickly.

All of that is fun to think about and include, but the overall feeling is the presiding idea. Generally, I was happy with the motion in the scene, the light, the fish, and the color.

I'm planning a series of paintings from not only this story, but from other Verne novels as well.


  1. You pencil sketches look so nice, how do you smear the pencil so smoothly?

  2. Gregory, how long will be the show? I will be traveling to Paris for christmas and would love to visit your exposition.

    1. The show will be up for 3 weeks, so I think you'll just miss it, Leonardo. Too bad!

  3. Oh, to have been there to watch the filming of deep-sea spaceman walk! Ha!

    But seriously, another superb painting!

  4. As a fan of the book and all things Verne, plus deep sea diver imagery, this one hits on many levels for me. Wonderful!

  5. I live in Paris and won't miss it for any reason. Looking forward to it!

  6. Greg are you going to be at the opening? if so i will stalk you down, consider yourself warned ahahah

    It would be awesome to have a chat with you if i had the chance, as always you keep me astonished with your work!

  7. Love the old school Nautilus design! Spectacular work! All my best to you and the show!

  8. That blue hits such a perfect nostalgic vibe. Love this.

  9. lol. Many years ago Kelsey Grammer played Captain Nemo in an SNL skit wherein he dramatically informs M. Arronax and company they are his prisoners for a voyage "20,000 leagues under the sea", and then morphs into Frasier at his most pedantic as he tries to get them to understand he's talking distance, not depth. Hilarity abounds as Nemo/Frasier's frustration mounts. I tried to find it on youtube, no luck, but you can imagine. Nice picture, by the way,

  10. Hah! So glad you guys like it! I had fun with it....only after I was just about ready to quit, throw in the towel and consider myself washed up. But hey, that's what happens on every painting, no? : )

    Yes! I'll be at the opening in Paris on Oct. 17th....would love to chat with any of you that can make it. Just let me know you're a Muddy fan. Looking forward to meeting everyone!

    Cory....let me know if you ever find it. Sounds hysterical. I'm a Frasier fan....

  11. Now THAT is an adventure painting! Absolutely love this, brings back good memories. Each brushstroke is its own little story. Keep it up!

  12. This is wonderful, Greg. And, as always, those prep sketches are great. I love that you're so exact with them, but still have a sense of play. Definitely hope to make it to your show in October.

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  14. Congratulations Greg! DM is a fabulous gallery. Love the design on this piece.

  15. I'm feeling so lucky I live in Paris right now!!!

    I'll definitely be seeing you at the opening. Hopefully you won't be so busy that I can't even say hi haha

    The painting looks amazing by the way. The air bubbles coming out of the helmets look so real!

  16. I'm glad I logged on here tonight. Great painting, and I didn't find a copy of the SNL video, but there is a transcript of the script on the internet, and I can picture Kelsey Grammer saying it very clearly, haha.

  17. I just stumbled across here through a Google search but that painting is incredible. I really should have a go at reading the book again some time (I've seen the Disney version so many times I've lost count, but I've never been able to finish the whole book for some reason).

    Maybe this is just a lifelong fascination I've had with the ocean but I love the whole atmosphere of this painting. I love the lighting and the sense of motion. I like how the diving suits have that sort of 20th century-esque vibe but still look advanced enough for Nemo's capabilities.

    I'm sorry if this is confusing at all, I'm more used to discussing film (I even did a piece on the Disney version for my 100th article:, but I just had to say something about this picture.

  18. Please tell me that youre going to keep this up! Its so good and so important. I cant wait to read more from you. I just feel like you know so much and know how to make people listen to what you have to say. This blog is just too cool to be missed. Great stuff, really. Please, PLEASE keep it up!
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