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Mary Manning, Illustrator and Character Designer New in the Gallery

"Salon" illustration by Mary Manning
Salon by Mary Manning

One of my big frustrations as an amateur doodler is that I so rarely get to see my brushes used to their full potential. That’s why it is such a thrill for me to see them used by talented professionals. When I do, I promptly beg them to let me show their work in the GrutBrushes Gallery. This week I’m happy to be able to add Salon, a wonderful digital painting by Children’s book illustrator Mary Manning.

Customers often ask me questions about pursuing a career in illustration. I’m neither an illustrator nor do I have any answers, but I’m just as curious, so I ask actual professionals any chance I get. Mary was kind enough to answer my questions and I’m happy to share them with you here.

Nicolai: Do you have a background in traditional media, and if so, do you ever mix traditional and digital painting?
Mary: Yes, I used to work in watercolor and finish it off digitally.  I liked the look, but have long since abandoned that since it takes too much time, so I now work digitally only.

Nicolai:  How did you find your first clients?
Mary:  From putting my work out there in as many places as I can.  But make sure your work is good enough before you do.  You’ll be up against a lot of competition and skilled artists who know what’s what, and they can spot an amateur a mile away – and so can everyone else.

"The Strangest Thing" illustration by Mary Manning
The Strangest Thing  by Mary Manning

Nicolai:  How much creative freedom do you have with client work and How specific is the direction you get?
Mary:  That varies widely.  Every client and/or publisher is different, but be prepared for anything.

Nicolai:  How do you stop deadlines from interfering with making great images?
Mary:  That’s a hard one, but you need to remember that as a professional, you have to do the best you can with whatever time limit or project you have.

Nicolai:  What do you do to get ‘un-stuck’ when a project feels uninspiring?
Mary:  I don’t ever really have that problem.  If it’s your own work, then obviously do something else.  If it’s client work, and if you find yourself getting frustrated or can’t seem to “fix” a certain design, then step away for 10 min.  When you come back you should be able to see the solution.  Works for me every time. 😉

The Wild Ride illustration by Mary Manning
The Wild Ride by Mary Manning

Nicolai:  Do ever do any drawing or painting exercises and if so, are there any you feel are particularly useful?
Mary:  I always make sure I’m doing a personal piece on the side no matter what else I’m on.  It helps keep me sane when I can do what I want, especially if you’re on a project that you dislike in some way, and believe me, you’ll get plenty of those.

Nicolai:  What would your ideal project be?
Mary:  To be able to design everything the way I want of course 😉

Mary had some nice words to say about GrutBrushes too…

“I’m really happy I found them!  I use them a lot in my illustrations, and I love the very cool effects I can get from them!”

Thanks Mary!
You can learn much more about Mary Manning and see more of her work here on her website

Then come back and visit the GrutBrushes Gallery to be inspired by what these amazing artists are doing with GrutBrushes.

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Fabio Ramiro Rossin on Digital Painting in the Real World

Digital Painting by Fabio Ramiro Rossin
Digital Painting by Fabio Ramiro Rossin. Painted in Photoshop using GrutBrushes

I met Italian artist Fabio Ramiro Rossin through email correspondence a year or two ago. When I saw this incredible piece he had done using GrutBrushes and found out that it existed in the real world as a 3X3 metre print hanging on the walls of the Museo Diffuso in Italy (and now it’s in the GrutBrushes Digital Art Gallery as well!)  I had to know more, and asked Fabio if he would answer a few questions.

Nicolai: How long have you been working with digital drawing and painting?

Fabio Ramiro Rossin: I studied and began working as a 2d animator for serial productions since 2005, when I was 22; it was the time when 2d animation productions understood how much paper had become expensive.
Animation usually means teamwork, and I’ve always had the loner attitude; the only way to be a loner in the animation industry, is to evolve into a travelling one man band, and paper is a dispersive medium, nonetheless binding to a physical place.
So a couple of years later, I dropped pencil and paper and bought a tablet.

At that time, illustrations and comics were still out of range, for my severe inner jury rated me unable to compete with professionals, as I didn’t attend any official illustration studies.
Then, in 2009, I submitted as an animator on a feature independent movie, and I met LRNZ, who reminded me that, as a kid, Katsuhiro Otomo and Leiji Matsumoto were my heroes, and I dreamt of telling stories, more than just draw; to draw was only the more satisfying way for me to tell stories.
So I told my inner jury to get screwed, and I finally enjoyed telling stories again, while pen tablet and photoshop had already become my mind prothesis.

Nicolai: Can you tell me how your work came to be part of the permanent collection in the Museo Diffuso in Torino?

Fabio Ramiro Rossin: Well, this piece isn’t exactly permanent, or, at least, not yet. Anyhow, the Pole of 900 Foundation, the Department of culture,  and the University of Turin had this project on the table, about melting the Historical and Literature Archives and the Museum of the 20h century, developing a more interactive and playable space for citizens and students to live and learn. So, they have chosen 5 main subjects ( mine being Man and Machines,), and commissioned 5 different authors (one of them being LRNZ, to my final surprise) to create an illustration to print on canvas, 3x3mt size. They (paid us, and) said we could keep the canvas, but I suspect none of the authors will have enough space to hang its own in the living room or store it in the garage. I guess they will place them in the library, after the inaugural exhibition closure. So they will become permanently collected in the Museum. Sort of.

Nicolai: This is a huge print, at 3 X 3 metres. It’s very unusual for a digital painting to be seen this large in the ‘real world’ How well did your digital painting translate into a physical print and were there any special challenges?

Fabio Ramiro Rossin: Strokes came out so vivid that a friend of mine (illustrator), asked me if I had painted it analogically on a separate canvas, and then scanned them.
Mainly, the real credit must go to the scenographers of the Regio Theater of Turin, they have done a fabulous job, but I felt proud as Caravaggio when, somehow, someone, told me I had nailed and scored the result.
I have to admit a thing: being my first digital work on such scale, I spent a month, nights and days trying to manage the brushes and textures 1:1 scale, 300 dpi.
Since the beginning, I thought to treat the whole composition as a theatrical background wing ( the museum environment is very post-industrial: nude red bricks and iron transepts). I imagined physically attaching the posters on the background a second time, after printing the canvas.
This intervention was revealed to be unobtainable, due to the conservation restrictions imposed by the scenographers (lights melt glue), but the projectual settings revealed to be a real deal when I had to face the frequent crashes of my lenovo tablet OS (still a little powerhouse, considering the 2 gigas size of the file ), and allowed me to draw those posters on separate files.

Details from Fabio Ramiro Rossin's intricate digital painting
Details from Fabio Ramiro Rossin’s intricate digital painting

Nicolai: Other than to work at a high resolution, what one piece of advice would you give to people who want to paint digitally for large format printing?

Fabio Ramiro Rossin: Well, my chaotic attitude gives me a randomic approach to everything, so it’s  hard for me to canonise my creative processes.
I just feel to say to favour the message, upon the restitution, and to settle carefully and to cure meticulously the preproduction material, or you will find yourself to trash a lot of work after finalisation.
I speak to you, young painter and neophyte:  Grut’s digital brushes wouldn’t exist if Nicolai hadn’t familiarity and deep knowledge of the classical painting techniques. Some day, apocalypse will come and internet will break, but more easily, you could find yourself next to a deadline with your computer malfunctioning and no money to buy another, or just an electricity breakdown in August and no friends in town, so you better know how to translate your imagination with Crayolas on paper.
Bye bye everyone.
Fabio is currently working on a You can see more of the work of Fabio Ramiro Rossin on the webVimeo, and Facebook