Zach’s At-Home Studio Keeps Us Guessing: Portraiture and Characters

compiled by Erin Barach

Everyone can agree that working from home has advantages and disadvantages, and the same can certainly be said about at-home art practices.

Zach has mostly been able to find the advantages! Like all of our artists, since the pandemic began, Zach Manuel has been working diligently on his artwork at home, but he has perhaps been making more art than most and in a wider variety of styles and with an expanded range of methods.

Last year at this time, having recently gone into lockdown, as part of Autism Acceptance Month Zach wrote a post about a series he was making at the time. Flash forward, and he has continued work on that series and many more.

During the pandemic he has kept us up-to-date on his many artistic explorations and breakthroughs, zooming into virtual studio sessions, corresponding with staff about his progress by email, and keeping all lines of communication open!

Along with the other styles we’ve discussed this month, Zach’s work also falls into the category of portraiture. Usually centered on fictional characters, these singular scenes depict individuals and small groups at specific moments in their lives, experiencing self-realization and reflection.

The first piece shows a young woman we’ll call ‘Phyllis.’ It was a mild September evening, so she decided to spend the night in a pristine woodland outside her residence. Phyllis awakens the next morning and greets the rosy dawn.

Many of these character studies involve artists pursuing their dreams and honing their crafts in different genres including dance, visual art, and set design.

“Art Student Bella Belissima” (work in progress)

Here is a work-in-progress called “Art Student Bella Belissima”. Bella Bellissima is a New Yorker of Italian descent. She is an art student and model studying at the Podunk School of Art in Podunk, NY, alongside Lucy Tanaka, Jack Brighton and another (student) named Priya Krishna. She also designs her own clothes and often poses so her colleagues can sketch her. In this piece she’s posing for a sketch on her lounge. The wall tiles are multicolored, because Bella painted them that way.

Here is my piece of a ballerina on a psychedelic background. I’ve decided to name this character “Gretel von Zeppelin “.

This piece shows art students Gretchen and her older sister, Hilda, stretching and practicing their dual dance routine along with set pieces they both designed. The sisters’ stage is outside where pine trees are visible

Zach taps a wide variety of sources that inspire his creative process. As of late, he says he’s been “trying to replicate the art of animator Don Bluth (An American Tail, The Land Before Time, etc.)” He also uses “photos of real actors as reference while designing human characters.”

“Diana Enola Abstract” available in our online shop!

As always, you can check out all of Zach’s available framed and unframed works in our online shop.

Thanks for delving into Zach’s creative process with him and us this #AustismAcceptanceMonth!

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