I first discovered the Brett Manning’s art via an Instagram reference from Mab Graves (another amazingly lovely artist whose work you should familiarize yourself with NOW if you aren’t familiar already; she’s @mabgraves on the ‘gram) and immediately fell in love with her fantastically weird (and right up my alley) sense of humor and her fantastically fantastical art. I took a chance and reached out to Brett, just hoping she wouldn’t mind if I used some of her images to write a blog post about how much I loved her art. Well, Brett, being a super awesomely supportive artist, did me one better and actually offered to take part in a little Q&A. She gave me some wonderfully thoughtful insights into her art and process, and, of course, “Twin Peaks.” So, without further ado, here’s our conversation:
Q: I love that you use a relatively limited palette in your work. You employ a technique of, for lack of a better word, magical swirliness that calls to mind both Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” and a certain sort of airbrushed 90’s unicorn poster. Was this a consciously developed style, or something that just naturally evolved?
Brett: That is totally just something that came about organically. I’m really into patterns and textures, and soft, but vibrant pastel colors. I call them saturated pastels… and i think when visible brush strokes are paired with other softer forms like people, animals, and plants, it does evoke a sort of van gogh meets 90’s school folder art! haha! But I’m not sure WHY i am so find of these colors and textures. my work is all created with a sort of manic or spur of the moment mind set, it’s a very autonomous process… almost like if I stew on an idea for too long it just becomes irrelevant to me and I have to move on to the next idea. I like things fresh and meaningful.
Q: I’m totally obsessed with your “Magical Girls” series; they’re the sort of thing my weirdo 14-year-old self would’ve just lost it over and wanted to plaster all over my locker. There’s something so encouraging about their diversity of appearance and their straight magical sense of quiet confidence. What started you on them?
Brett: I happen to personally know sooo many amazing women, others I only know via social media or am just their dorky fangirl, so I just had to create a series dedicated to some of them. This series could go on and on, but I chose to draw or paint girls I see or hear from everyday or check out online like the enthusiastic creepster I am, haha! they all have something about them I admire, many being artists, musicians, or just creatives in general. They are also all very unique and independent people!
Symbolism plays a soft and subtle role in my Magical Girls collection too… I’ve been using things like butterflies, bumblebees, foliage, stairwells, quilts, and other patterned blankets. To me, stairs represent the elevation of ones self to a higher plane of thinking, the blankets and quilts are almost like a cozy reminder and comfort that everything is okay. The butterflies represent the ability to change, and bees and foliage remind me of constant growth and the need to care for or nurture yourself.
With this collection, i really just hope to inspire and encourage girls to be themselves, as cheesy and cliche as that sounds, but it’s so important and can lead to inner happiness and a sense of fulfillment in life. Because honestly, who cares what people say or think about you?! It doesn’t matter! Just be you! You are the only you that there ever was or will ever be. Why not embrace that?
So the reason I titled it Magical Girls is because I’m a huge sailor moon fan. I love that squad of girls, they are all so supportive and kind to each other, but also have the strength and wisdom to know when to fight. The girls I’ve painted and drawn have been elevated to magic wielding super humans! They might be awkward, eat all the cupcakes, drink too much coffee, have crooked smiles, be shy to a fault, or trip over their own feet, but they still all harbor something powerful and otherworldly within…
Q: It’s obvious from your work that you’re a real lover and uplift-er of the weird girl in us all. What were you like as a teenager?
Brett: All I cared about was art. In high school they actually created a new art class just for me during my junior year because I had literally taken EVERY art class offered, even the senior classes! I even received an award my senior year for having only gotten A’s ever in art during high school. I was a huge art nerd. I was very quiet. i colored all over my clothes or sewed thingies on them. My friday nights consisted of me alone in my room painting and listening to Bob Dylan or Beck. I was very bad at making friends, and always felt bad about myself for that, but at the same time deep down I didn’t care at all.
Q: As a fellow lover of all things spooky, magical, and mysterious, what do you think is so alluring about these themes as an artist?
Brett: Well, i am a firm believer that we are not alone. However you want to interpret that. And it’s important to be okay with that–at peace with the natural world. I used to feel very anxious about spooky things when I was little, but also always super intrigued and needed to know more, so I watched unsolved mysteries and bigfoot shows (before they got REALLY dumb)…
The way I see it we are only able to know so much, to the extent of our own abilities to perceive things, and I am not okay with throwing out the possibility that we, human beings, are the ONLY ‘intelligent’ life forms out there, anywhere, even right here. that’s such an arrogant mindset.
I’ve also experienced strange things in my short life: 2 ghostly encounters, I’ve seen crazy lights in the sky which I guess would technically be called UFOs, and several stranger, more celestial, metaphysical experiences. And i’ve taken only positive things from these events. They’ve opened my mind and heart, have humbled me, and to this day keep me hopeful. My art acts as a way to make my experiences accessible to others in a sort of visual storytelling way, but I also hope that it inspires others to have an open mind.
Q: You’ve got a sci-fi themed show up right now, featuring lots of pieces inspired by all sorts of nerd culture classics like “Star Wars” and “Blade Runner”. Do you feel like, beyond being dreamy to look at, your paintings, with their soft technique and pastel colors, traditionally tied to being “girly”, are a way to reclaim nerd culture that’s often seen as being the domain of boys?
Brett: Yes! I couldn’t have said it better myself. sci-fi movies traditionally seem to have a hyper masculine quality to them, like white guy saves cute waif from horrible alien creature! Boom! Explode! Huge fire IN SPACE! blah blah blah… I mean, not all are like that of course, but the more mainstream ones seem to come off like that. My favorites are sci-fi movies with amazing female characters like “Alien”, “Ghost in the Shell”, the new Star Wars movie,”Ex Machina”, and lots of Luc Besson movies. And the show that you mentioned was titled Space World! A silly play on worlds of Spice World, the Spice Girls movie! my intentions were to create the ultimate fan art show with a teen magazine feeling; a little obsessive, but totally dedicated and sincere. And lots of girl power!
Q: Beyond movies and television, I suspect that you might be a fellow fantasy/sci-fi book lover. Any favorite books, or ones that particularly inspire/d you?
Brett: I’m horrible. I don’t read as much as I’d like because I’d rather be painting, but some of my favorite reads are “Ghost in the Shell”, “Alice in Wonderland”, David Lynch’s “Catching the Big Fish”, and the “Meat Cake” collection by Dame Darcy.
Q: A very important final question: which “Twin Peaks” character do you think is your Black Lodge doppelganger? (I like to imagine I’m an Audrey, but I am most definitely a Log Lady).
Brett: GORDON COLE!
Visit Brett on her fun and cozy Instagram @brettmanningart, and check her website Brettisagirl.com and her amazing Etsy shop at https://www.etsy.com/shop/Brettisagirl