Author & Artist Corner: Artist

Maurie Manning

Maurie Manning at age 4

Except for a short time when I considered becoming a doctor—actually, it was my pediatrician who prodded me to think about medical school, I just wanted to draw bones and muscles—I've planned to be a children's book illustrator since I was four years old. This is me at four (with the bangs) next to my brother, John, who is also an artist and my sister, Laura, who is a banker.

Maurie's mom's first drawing lessonMy mother has always encouraged me. In fact, she told me the blank end pages on my set of Collier's The Young Folks' Shelf of Books were for me to draw on.

She also taught me how to make a girl's face from a cracked egg, a princess gown from a triangle, and the side of a man's face out of capital "L"s.



Lemonade Stand Drawing

My mother's first drawing lessons helped me see the spacial relationships between seemingly unrelated objects. I believe this helped me years later when I started drawing Hidden Pictures.



Carolyn HaywoodThen, in the first grade I discovered Carolyn Haywood had both drawn and written B is for Betsy.

Permanently inspired, I realized if I learned enough about writing and drawing stories, I might also be lucky enough to be allowed to do both jobs someday.

As a teen I spent much of my time in the self-imposed study of anatomy. I had the ridiculous idea that Norman Rockwell "drew from his head," and my goal was to draw people as well as he did. I poured over anatomy textbooks, drawing bones and muscle groups.

I have to admit my eventual disappointment in finding out that Rockwell used a projector and traced photographs onto his canvas. (I have since gotten over my prejudice, but had been scarred by years of elementary school friends falsely accusing me of "tracing.") I began to develop a less realistic style anyway, much thanks to my artistic mother whose constant critique that my figures were "too stiff" helped me move out of simple representational drawing and into a unique personal style.

In the early 1990s, when computers were just becoming popular, I got a job illustrating educational software for Jostens Learning Corporation. Our group of young illustrators were among the first to use the computer as a tool for drawing. Now I use a Wacom stylus that looks and acts exactly like a pen, but in those days we sketched with a mouse and only had 16 colors to choose from.

After working full-time as an illustrator and art director at various educational software companies, a book packager, and a computer game company, I took the freelance plunge, supplementing my meager trade book income with textbook and children's magazine work for clients such as PEARSON, STECK-VAUGHN, HEINMANN, OUP, MACMILLAN, HARCOURT, CARUS, HIGHLIGHTS, GIRL SCOUTS OF AMERICA and many others.

The word "Tradigital" was probably coined in the mid 1990s by animated filmmakers to describe the emerging techniques as traditional illustrators got hold of computers. The idea of using a computer as a pencil is still not well understood by most people, even other traditional illustrators.

Maurie ManningNow I live in California with my teenaged daughter, two noisy African grey parrots, and an unruly border collie named Kip.

You're a great artist!

I can see that you like animals too! My little brother is *obsessed* with them, so we have a zoo going on in our house!

How old is your daughter?

And you're pretty!


submitted by Vida
(June 27, 2012 - 4:04 pm)

HI Vida!!  Thank you so much!  Yes, I am a big animal lover -- but when I was a kid, I was the only girl in my class who couldn't draw a horse!  I'm a little better at them now, but it took a lot of practice.  People are still my favorite subject to draw -- especially old people and young people.  I think "middle aged" people are usually pretty boring to draw which is why I especially loved illustrating Nadine Odour's wonderful story about Kincade and her Grandma Talley in the July/August issue of Cricket :)


PS My daughter Dani is 20 now and just out on her own! 

submitted by Maurie M, Berkeley
(June 28, 2012 - 5:39 pm)

Wow Mo a brilliant article, and I love the idea of your mum (Ginger) encouraging you to use the back of your books, not sure my mum would have allowed me to do that, though I did colour in some of my fairy books. Your images are just fabulous to use for papercrafting and we are so grateful to you for letting us do that. hugs Shirleyxxxxx

submitted by Shirley Chalmers, age 50+, Gloucestershire, UK
(June 29, 2012 - 3:19 am)

Hi Maurie!

I LOVE drawing! Like you, my fave thing to draw is people. I haven`t drawn adults nor kids over 10... I haven`t even drawn a baby!!! I think that wrinkles and muscles are the hardest to drawFrown. but on the bright side, my mom`s amazing at sketches so she is a big help.

If you haven`t noticed yet, I love art unlike most kids (you proboably also noted that I am a blabbermouth).

I adore artists like you and want to be an artist/illustrator when I`m old enough.

Smile Lizzie

submitted by Eliz. F., age 10, Raleigh, NC
(August 4, 2012 - 11:09 am)


Maurie, thank you so very much for your comments regarding the story I wrote for Cricket.  When I saw your artwork, I was so amazed at how you captured the emotion for the scenes in the story.  You're very gifted and talented and I'm so honored that you were the artist to do the illustrations for my story.  Thank you so much.   Nadine Oduor




submitted by Nadine O, Texas
(March 3, 2015 - 2:09 am)

Great job on the pictures!


I just wanted to ask you what your favorite inanimate object to draw is. 

submitted by Melody, age 13, Just being awesome
(July 19, 2012 - 4:30 pm)

Hi Melody!  Thank you!!! I love drawing all sort of inanimate objects -- because it's fun to add history and "life" to them until they're not quite so inanimate.  For instance, when I draw a wooden chair I think about the types of people who have sat on it and left their mark.  Is the painted seat worn and polished from the backsides of many people resting there?  Are the rungs worn from children resting their feet?  Is it small and delicate and fit for a tea party, or is it a sturdy stool by the door where people sit to pull off their snowboots?  (Or maybe it's small, delicate and listing to one side because big old Uncle Angus tried to sit there.)

I try to think of inanimate objects as characters in their own right.

If I had to pick my favorite, I would say "a building", because there are so many different parts of a building you can add character to.  If you look in the libarary for my latest book (LAUNDRY DAY, which is set in New York City around the year 1900), you will see just how much fun I had drawing the buildings for that :)


submitted by Maurie M, Berkeley
(July 23, 2012 - 12:42 pm)

Beautiful story of encouragment from your mother. When I was young, no one knew of my potential, Frown though I drew, cut out paper dolls, wrote poems, and had a piece of art placed on the front cover of the school journal. Surprised

I had no encouragement, Cry that is until I became an adult and painted a small painting that struck everyone's interest, heart. In 1996 I began to paint and have learned a lot and I'm still learning.


My heart loves your work Smile and the support you received from your talented mother. Kiss

Thank you.  


submitted by Connie Koehler, age 54, Vero Beach, Florida
(May 7, 2013 - 9:42 am)