Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Gregory Manchess

We’re coming up on fifty years of space program accomplishments. I was a kid when we were reaching for the moon. What many people seem to forget is the reality of the situation. We were not sure we were going to make it happen.

It’s taken for granted so much today, but back then, it was a gigantic risk. NASA made it look almost easy, going from one successful launch to another and making great strides toward success. I didn’t get to see all the footage of the launch failures leading up to those milestones until decades later. Tragically, we lost some explorers along the way, and it was always a hard reminder that, indeed, there was no guarantee.

As a kid, I followed the program as much as I could. My daydreams were full of spacemen bouncing across moonscapes. (The coolest thing in my short life then was watching the LEM blast-off from the moon’s surface, bound for home.)

Sure, I was interested in other things besides astronauts. Spies. Fighter pilots. Code-breakers. Scientists. Artists were powerful heroes because they could give all of those subjects the impact to make you feel their struggles in your gut. I suppose the artists made me realize that I could dream all sorts of things with a brush, without having to risk life and limb. That and motion sickness put me behind the easel and not the cockpit.

I’ve started a new series of paintings, just for me. Astronauts, past, present, or future, doesn’t matter. I was intrigued by Scott Carpenter’s face looking out from behind bright reflections bouncing off his face mask. And below, a shuttle crewman stares with that timeless look.

As a kid, I was always looking skyward, staring out into interstellar space from behind the atmospheric face mask of Earth. I feel a kinship with these explorers. Perhaps it’s the promise of all that discovery.

There’s just something so fascinating about people in space suits.


  1. Love your style, these paintings are so powerful and so vivid. I also think that art (when it aims at reflecting the world, not the abstract art) is alwasy connected to science, I wish to believe that we r somehow part scientists and explorers ourselves, even adventurers. When I started drawing I also changed my whole view about the world around, one doesnt just pass by things anymore, they also seek their true nature, their meaning and the way they work.Being able to get fascinated by nature in all its forms- from the smallest insect to the highest peaks is a gift imo.I think that if there were more people like the artists, more romantic explorers we would have been a better race- not the selfish parazites we r today :S

  2. "Deep space is my dwelling place, the stars my destination."

  3. Wow, these are absolutely amazing! My paintings are always so tight, it's inspiring to see these traditionally detailed subjects painted so loosely. Great colors, great vignetting & composition from which to learn. Thank you for posting these.

    Now, if you can only add this kind of work to your "Above the Timberline" video offerings, that would be even cooler.

  4. These are gorgeous. Love the confident curved strokes and lively shapes. Really engaging.

  5. These are fantastic, Greg! I love your paint handling.

  6. In my opinion, a master is the one who can, by it's language make thing's interesting, thanks greg, for yet another gorgeous post!

  7. Excellent work as always, Greg. I've been an admirer of your work for a long time.

    Many of your paintings are large, and you often paint them unmounted, just linen or canvas tacked to a wall or, as in your "Above the Timberline" video, draped over a drawing table. In last year's IMC you mentioned that you prefer to paint this way because the end product is easier to store and ship. How do you ship them? Dried oil cracks if you roll the painting, so I'm assuming that you ship them flat? Or do you use a medium that keeps the paint flexible after drying? I'm assuming that stretching and framing the art after it is dried doesn't lead the cracks as well.

  8. I very much second what Andrew suggested. I'll happily give you money in exchange for more videos.

  9. Hi Greg, I'm right there with you. I've been working/researching and slowly trying to figure out how to deal with understanding how to show a persons expression behind the reflection of a space suit helmet[and other space stuff]. I've been on this space paintng/sketch/concepting focus since August 2011 [...when time permits...] and it's just for me also.

    It was a real disappointment when they cancelled the shuttle, but the NASA COTS program, Orion, JPL successes, NASA Desert RATS, Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites have me all goose bumpy, giddy, and excited at where things could go. It makes me think of the 20th century Barn stormers and those magnificent men and their flying machines will soon be flying the "skies" of our Solar sytem.

    Boy this is great to find your Astronaut paintings on Muddycolors today... what a pick up and boost to keep working on my own paintings. I'm all excited... now I just gotta get through a full day at the day job without exploding in my seat from thinking about all this cool stuff.

    Will you be bringing these paintings to the IMC? I won't be going to the IMC as a student, but hope to stop by on the Friday afternoon open house.

    :) NASA, Space exploration and Art - super cool, exciting, neato stuff!

    OK, I need to get back to the day job....Thanks so much for showing your Astronaut paintings, I really enjoyed seeing them!


    Mike Perusse

    1. If I've come across a little to excited... I work in aerospace.
      My job deals with mil specs and peice part drawings, etc. Not much room for creativity/artistry. Trust me when I tell you the creative side of my brain is beyond starving.

      A couple minutes down the hallway from my desk are the following -real- space suits on display:

      -1969 Apollo Advance Prototype
      -1964 Chimp Suit
      -1964 MOL Space Suit -[Manned orbital Laboratory]
      -The Apollo EMU suit - the one designed for use on the moon
      -Shuttle EMU Prototype
      -Current Shuttle/ISS EMU -there's three on diplay througout the
      campus - pretty cool when you stop and realize they are
      basically spaceships.
      -Mars Concept suit and FIDOE-a robotic support rover

      I've never worked for the NASA side. Tried back around 1990, but work politics got in the way. Its also a hard place to work in that -as NASA's funding goes- so does the funding for the businesses that support NASA. So I've seen a few ramp ups in employees and a few purges/exoduses.

      My Dad did some work on the Apollo stuff back in the early 70's. Not sure on what - I'd have to get out the weegie board if you really wanted to know. The seeds of looking up at the moon started with Pops and my neighbor - both who worked here. I can remember being 6 and looking for the Apollo 16 CM and LM with a 2 inch telescope in 1972... "what do you mean you can't see it - it's right there..."

      Anyway - look on the bright side to this ramble... I'm not a very good artist because I've always put my day job first, which in some very very very small peice part way has helped support any of the artists who fly in most any modern airplane/helicopter today. I didn't invent the internet, but I may have created a piece part drawing that helps the parts that get you where you are going.

      Happy flying. :)


  10. My father worked in the space program, starting in the 40s. Believe me, they had their doubts too. And I remember how sad he was when the Russians made it happen first, but he said "We'll get there." The pressure and stress, as you can well imagine, was intense.

    Love your paintings! Keep showing them, please!

  11. Beauties Greg! the first image. Keep the series going, and keep sharing please.

  12. This is great! Looking forward to seeing the series as it progresses

  13. Greg, thank you for sharing your thoughts and the powerful images you've posted here. This new direction you're taking with your art is beautiful! These paintings of yours have the feel of something that came from the soul. True Art.

    If anyone wants to read a fantastic book about the space program from it's very beginning, try 'Failure Is Not An Option' by Gene Kranz. He was made famous in the movie Apollo 13 as the Flight Controller played by Ed Harris. He was there at NASA's birth and wrote the Flight Director rules that lasted beyond the moon missions. Everyone hears the stories about the astronauts, but this book tells the heroic stories of the guys behind the consoles.

    Thanks again, Greg.

    1. On the film side of book reading - "From the Earth to the Moon" and "For all Mankind" are excellent for experiencing a fraction of what the astronauts did in the Apollo program.



  14. Greg,
    I can only reiterate everything everyone said re: the vivid,painterly,and masterful paintings in this group.
    Even more importantly, they perfectly express the vigor,courage and boldness of these brave adventurers-literaly star voyagers.I had the unique honor of meeting the Apollo 11 crew and John Glenn when they received their Congressional Gold Medal which I was very proud to have designed.Your paintings evoke all of these inspirational endeavors!
    All the best,

  15. Wonderful paintings, a true homage to the space program. I'm sure any past or future astronaut would love to see these. Those brush strokes are to die for!

  16. Beautiful paintings! I would have to agree with everyone else...The brush strokes are loose and lively!

  17. you capture amazing humanity in the face of the astronaut in the lower image.

  18. Hi Mr. Manchess!

    So excited about this series.. I think it's a fabulous idea. Do you think you might be able to bring one or two to show at IMC??
    Good Luck!

  19. Thanks so much for all the kind and interesting replies, you guys! I'm glad that the response is so positive. It has taken many years of experience and training myself to return to the confidence of accepting what I've learned, what I know. It's an odd sensation, and mostly frustrating, but it is worth it.

    It always feels as if I should've painted something like this many years earlier.

    MIKE: Thank you SO very much for sharing your thoughts about that time, your work, the space program, etc. Please...babble on. I love it! It's a pleasure to hear your perspective. in Iskowitz? meet those guys, AND John Glenn. That's amazing. I would love that. And then you did the Congressional Gold Medal, too? Sheesh...incredible. Congratulations!

    Yes, if you guys like these paintings, I will share more as I hope to keep this going. I also plan on bringing some to Spectrum LIVE! Stop by and say hi...


  20. Hey Lester, I forgot to answer you here....sorry for the delay!

    I roll the paintings and ship in tubes. I use a double acrylic primed linen, so it stays flexible. The paint film will be flexible for ages. It's really never that dry. I've spoken to museum folks about this. Many of the paintings we suspect are too fragile and dry to roll are actually rolled all the time and stored that way sometimes. I find that amazing.

    But always roll the painting image side out. Better for the paint.

    And don't worry so much. In the not-so-far future, they'll be able to fix all those problems, like cracking, that happens to our yet-to-be-hung-in-museums artwork.


  21. As a side bar -- really nice Patron Bottle illustration for Cramer Krasselt.
    Here is a link discussing the work:


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