Posted by: Kathy Temean | June 21, 2014

Illustrator Saturday – Mary Manning

marymanningpiccroppedMary Manning is an Illustrator/ editor who specializes in the children’s market creating fun, whimsical characters with a wide range of personalities.
She works in watercolors, pen and ink, and digitally, and often use a combination of all three. If you have a project that needs to be illustrated in a professional manner, please feel free to contact her.

Client list includes: Time Inc., Red Line Editorial, Outskirts Press, Flowerpot Press, The Educational Company of Ireland, Capstone Productions, LLC, Cricket Magazine, Pearson Education, Double D Ranch.

Published Books :

Jack and the Beanstalk by Ann Malaspina
I Wish I Was A Little by Melissa Everett
When… by Frank Boylan
Hey Diddle Diddle by Melissa Everett
If… by Frank Boylan
Ten Fractured Fairy Tales by Mary Lou Williams
The Polar Bear Tanguista by Cheryl Bowdre
Maggie’s Neighborhood by Carolyn E. Grant
Christmas In Maggie’s Neighborhood by Carolyn E. Grant
Keoni’s Big Question by Patti B. Ogden
I Am Truly Loved by Cheryl Lashmit
Dubious Jack the Pumpkin King by Christopher Esing

Here is Mary Explaining her process:

I always start with a sketch, and once it’s approved, including any changes, I then transfer it to watercolor paper.

After I finish with the painting process, I then scan it, and load it into photoshop, where I finish it off digitally.  That also means cleaning it up, and making any corrections I need.  I need to be sure the resolution and sizing is correct, and also to convert the image to CMYK if needed.

marycover copy copy copy

Jack and the Beanstalk by Ann Malaspina


How long have you been interested in art?

I knew what I wanted to do before I was even able to read, really…when I was growing up, we had some books that we called “the green books”, and in them they had the work of all the “Golden Age” illustrators like Rackham, Dulac, Robinson…anyway, I would pour through them each day just to look at the illustrations, and even learned to read very early because of them.


Did you study art in college? If so, what college did you attend and what did you study?

Sadly, no…but I really wish now that I had. I try to compensate for that in any way I can, by learning as much as I can.

What was the first painting or illustration that you did for money?

Hmm…hard to remember. I think it was for a children’s magazine, and only a spot or two.


What type of job did you do right after you graduated?

I was a visual merchandise manager for many years, and my art really came into play with that kind of work, and I absolutely loved that.


Do you feel that living in the middle of the country has made it harder for you to make contacts and promote your art?

In a sense, yes, because you’re not exactly in the middle of all the action, but as long as you have internet, you can pretty much make up for that.


You mention that you are an illustrator/editor. Do you work for a book publisher?

I work for several publishers, but for now, only do some editing when I have a self-publisher who asks me to do it…and just manuscripts.


What was your first big success in illustrating?

Oh gosh…I don’t remember…I think when I got my first book out there, it was a big deal to me, and as any illustrator will tell you, it makes you feel like you finally got somewhere.

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for the children’s market?

That’s something I’ve always known 😉


Once you decided that you wanted to illustrate a picture book, how long did it take you to get your first contract?

Again, that’s hard to say. I didn’t really concentrate on it full time like I wanted, so I’m sure it took a while.


Who was the publisher and how did the two of you connect?

I don’t remember the publishers name…it was some time ago…but I think she contacted me via email after seeing my work on one of the sites I use.


What do you think influenced your artistic style?

It was all the great “Golden Age” illustrators, as I mentioned above. Their work is magnificent…I thought so then, and I think so now, and they had a huge impact on my own style.


I see that you did three picture books for Flowerpot Press in 2013 and you had another come out in April with them. Did those four books take most of you time in 2013?

Hmm, I don’t know, but I’m almost sure I had other projects going on at the same time, and most likely worrying how I’d get them all done on time.


How did you get your first book with them?

I don’t remember when or how that came about…I think they might have contacted me first, but I’m not sure, and if they did, then it’s probably from seeing some of my work on one of the sites.


I am not familiar with Flowerpot Press. Can you tell us a little bit about the company?

They’re a great little publishing company, and you couldn’t ask for better people to work with! I adore working with them on projects, and because they are exceptional, I’m always very pleased with the final result. I usually work very closely with Stephanie, the art director, and she’s great.


Do you have any desire to write and illustrate your own book?

Sure I do, since I also love to write, but it’s difficult to find the extra time for something like that right now. Maybe one day soon though.


Do you have an agent to represent you? If so how did you connect? If not, would you like one?

I used to have an agent, but I think it depends on each person and their needs. I don’t currently have one no, but for some, it might make things a bit easier if you’re not comfortable with things like negotiating, or dealing one on one with clients.


Are you open to illustrating a picture book for a self-published author?

Sure, and in fact, I have worked with many of them.


How many of your picture books have you illustrated?

I would have to go back and try to count…I usually try to keep my sites updated with the latest book that’s out, but I’m afraid I’ve been awful about that. Sometimes it’s just hard to know because it takes a while after the work is done before the book is actually published, and by that time, you’re on another project, so you tend to kind of forget. Usually they send me copies, so that helps! 😉


Have you worked with educational publishers?



Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines?



What types of things do you do to find illustration work?

I just mainly try to keep my portfolio updated on the sites I use. The more you’re out there, the better it is, so you want to try to get yourself as visible as you can.


What is your favorite medium to use?

Watercolors mixed with digital

Has that changed over time?

Yes, somewhat. I used to work in watercolor alone.


Do you have a studio in your house?

Yes, and I spend a good part of my day there! 😉


What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?

I have a paintbrush that I’ve had since forever it seems, and I can’t find another quite like it. I need that silly thing!


Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

I’m always working on it! There aren’t enough hours in the day!


Do you take pictures or do any types of research before you start a project?

No, unless I’m not sure about something, or unless it’s a time period where I need to get the clothes and such right. If I’m not sure about something, then I just scour the internet and get some pictures to give me the help I need.


Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?



Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?

Yes, I do. Not only to combine the two mediums, but I need it to do all my corrections and cleaning and such. At such a high resolution, any junk on your image is going to show, so yes.


Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet in your illustrating?

Always! In fact, I just bought a new one…I wore the last one out. 😉


What do you think is your biggest success so far?

Anytime you get to work with a big publisher, it’s a big deal.


Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

Of course! Don’t we all want to have our own book out there on the bestseller list? 😉


What are you working on now?

Right now I’m actually on 3 books…


Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love –
the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

Just be sure to be wise when you buy. That brush might be horribly expensive, but you’re also going to get better results. When it comes to equipment, don’t skimp.


Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

If you love it, then do everything you can to get there. Period. You need to be the best you can, and don’t ever stop trying to be better. There’s a lot of talent out there, but don’t get discouraged.


Thank you Mary for sharing your process, journey, and expertise with us. I know you will have many more successes in the future and we would love to hear about all of them, so please keep in touch.

To see more of Mary’s illustrations you can visit her at:

Please take a minute to leave a comment for Mary, I know she would love to heard from you and always appreciate it. Thanks!Talk tomorrow,



  1. Everything about Mary’s art is magical!


    • Teresa,

      Thanks for leaving Mary a comment.



    • Thank you Teresa! 🙂


  2. Your work is amazing, and so expressionful!

    I’m a free-lance artist, mostly doing commissioned portraits — but your job is my dream…thanks for the tips on becoming an illustrator!


    • Callie,

      If you would like to get into illustrating children’s books, I hope you are working on developing on a portfolio of kids doing things to show off your talent.



    • Thanks so much Callie! I hope you keep it up! 🙂


  3. How describe the emotion i have each time i look to your illustration


    • Awwwwwwww! :))


  4. I’m so happy to see Mary getting much deserved accolades! I was fortunate to have her illustrate my recently published book, Your Special Star. Her work is truly unique, timeless, and full of whimsy!


    • Thanks so much Jessica! :))


      • It was a joy to do it! But I am always wishing I had done a better job when I’m finished 🙂


  5. No need to give it a second thought – your work is fantastic 🙂


    • Thanks Jessica 🙂
      It’s people like you who make it all worthwhile 🙂


  6. Mary is extraordinary. 🙂


    • *mma*


  7. Mary has a very strong personality.

    The beautiful colors are in harmony with the characters and the stories,
    and the drawings are easily remembered :
    That’s more than drawings, it is poetry, dreams, happiness that enters the eyes of children.



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