Zach’s At-Home Studio Keeps Us Guessing: Process and Storytelling

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!

This was originally to show Lucy Tanaka and Jack Brighton cleaning the Chesapeake Bay with their Cosmonia power, but I was talked into changing it to a Pittsburgh lake by our guests.

Zach created “Lucy and Jack Cleaning Up the Allegheny” during on an online workshop with fellow progressive art studio Creative Citizens Studio from Pittsburgh. It features two of Zach’s many recurring characters, Lucy Tanaka and Jack Brighton, from his sci-fi inspired universes created with Marvel-like intricacy.

One of the great things, per Zach, about working from home is the way he can document his creative process along the way, which he thinks to do now more so when he was just creating in the studio environment.

For example, here is a completed piece of Lucy, Jack and their “Team Pet” Zyx:

“Lucy, Jack and Zyx”

And here is a series about Zyx and Lucy on their many adventures in various stages, originally started in 2019 (then updated and shared with Make Studio staff in 2020):

These were drawings I did for Lucy and Zyx back in 2019. I had shared these with a friend that year. In the year 1998, 21-year old Lucy Tanaka was an art student from Earth who was chosen  to be a guardian of galactic peace by an omnipotent race called the Zenith. She lives life on earth and captures wrongdoers with her Cosmo emerald.


The main assistant to the Zenith is a furry Zizzle named “Zyx” (pronounced “zixx”) who is kind of like the Team Pet to Lucy and her superiors. He has been alive for 20,000 years and has fathered 900 offspring with his mate, Luv-y. He visited Earth 15,000 years  ago when it was covered in mammoths and fossils of dead dinosaurs. Zyx’s mental abilities grant him the power to travel instantly through space and create protective domes around him and his passengers. In spite of his high IQ, he still enjoys being petted and likes Lucy like a sister.

“Lucy’s Umbrella Gazebo” is available for sale in our online shop!

Keep an eye out for the next installment of this series, in which Zach shares how he looks to abstraction for inspiration! And in the meantime, check out Zach’s work in this year’s Autism Acceptance Month digital exhibition.

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