Mick Manning has been collaborating with his wife, the illustrator Brita Granstrom, on children’s picture books (mainly non-fiction) since the 1990s. Their first book together, The World Is Full Of Babies, won the Smarties Silver Prize in 1996. A later book—How Did I Begin?—caused some discussion because of its frank explanation of conception.
Recent publications include The Story of Music featuring musicians from Bach to Beyonce:
and The Wordsworths (published last year):
Coming in 2022:
- A limited edition of Near the Bear North, an ABC of Northern fauna and flora, newly published by Design for Today
- Women Who Showed the Way with Mick Manning. Otter Barry Books. Publishing on International Women’s Day 2022
As a child, what were the first illustrations you remember admiring?
Aged about 7, at primary school in Haworth, I painted a harvest mouse with blue clouds. I was pleased with it but was shocked to get hauled out of my seat by my hair by my class teacher. She then proceeded to beat me chanting, ‘Clouds aren’t blue, clouds are white and flooofy…’
At that time, around 1967, various teachers were over-due for retirement, teachers who had begun as ink monitors forty years earlier. That year in her class was a living history lesson in Edwardian schooling. But I knew clouds could be blue as I had seen them up on the moor.
Who/what inspired you when you were young?
Tunnicliffe’s tea-card albums to start with, and his Ladybird books, and later his measured drawings, encouraged me to draw from life with mixed-media. Later as a teenager the album sleeves of designer Barney Bubbles and, later, book illustrations by Rojankovsky encouraged me to explore the possibilities of stencil printing to imitate (in my home studio) the technique stone lithography.
Who inspires you today?
As to influences on my own work, I would say Tunnicliffe still rings true, also artists such as Sheila Robinson, Rojankovsky and the natural history prints of 18th century artists such as Peter Mazell and Thomas Bewick. I would also say I am inspired (as opposed to influenced) by the hard work of colleagues such as Christopher Brown and Jonny Hannah, but also by the determination of so many talented new illustrators who have such an uphill struggle these days as the market seems to be flooded. I admire the O’Hara sisters and am proud of my daughter, Charlotte Manning who graduated from Cambridge School of Art last year and has just been offered a contract for her first book by Hachette.
Did you study art/illustration?
I went to Bradford College of Art and Newcastle’s University of Northumbria, then a scholarship for an MA in Illustration from the Royal College of Art (in the days when it was situated at Kensington Gore). At the RCA my tutors included John Norris Wood, Quentin Blake, Sheila Robinson, Linda Kitson, Anne Howeson and Sue Huntley who all helped me in different ways. I also studied for 6 months in the Animations department with Bob Godfrey and Dick Taylor and made a short film that was screened at the BFI. Later, I did some teaching myself, as the Illustration Course Leader at Glasgow School of Art. I stopped all teaching in 1998.
What is your favourite artist tool/product?
Mixed-media: watercolour, pencil, different paper surfaces, acrylic and stipple.
Where do you buy your art supplies?
Jackson’s, usually — but also DIY shops for fat brushes.
What software/apps do you use?
Don’t use any.
What was your first commission?
A tiny line artwork of a mouse for an OUP school anthology.
What are you working on at the moment?
Just finishing a book about strong women publishing on International Women’s Day 2022. I am working on various un-contracted in-development projects together with my wife Brita Granström. Our latest published book is called The Wordsworths with Watts / Hachette and this picture book biography is a follow-up to our book about the life of the Brontes. It starts with a true story: me ‘meeting’ the ghost of Charlotte Bronte (I had dozed off) while waiting on-set to be filmed as the haunted shepherd boy in the closing scene of the 1968 BBC production of Wuthering Heights by Peter Sasdy. This book, about Haworth, is very close to my heart so please go and read it!
Twitter or Instagram? Insta
Coffee or tea? Tea
Dog or cat? Lurchers and ferrets
Grape or grain? Grape
Sunrise or sunset? Sunrise — I’m a morning person
Where can we follow you on social media?
This is a regular weekend feature, publishing every Saturday.