Vibrant. Colorful. Expressive. With strokes of her brush, Traverse City artist Mariah Manning captures the raw emotion of a moment.

Mariah has been creating commissioned work since 1993 including paintings, portraits, murals, caricatures and illustrations. Her artwork is currently being displayed in Great Lakes Bath and Body and has been featured at 2 Lads Winery, The Cooks’ House and in the Downtown Art Walk in Traverse City.

We chatted with Mariah about how she got started and what inspires her work.

All photography provided by Mariah Manning. 

When did you decide you wanted to be an artist?

“Really young. Growing up, I was surrounded by art. My parents are artists and met at Kansas City Art Institute. They are both very creative. My first memory of wanting to be an artist is from first grade. My teacher told us to draw a dinosaur, and all the boys thought mine was really good. I remember feeling pretty cool that day.”

How did you start?

“In high school I obtained a couple of commissions and that really motivated me. In college, I got a degree in psychology, and I painted on the side. I had a show at a local art gallery. After college is when things started to gain momentum. I did a few shows in a friend’s loft and nearly all of my paintings sold each time. I felt encouraged to keep pursuing my passion.”

How would you describe your style?

“Expressive. My children’s pieces are very loose and colorful. I love color, shape and texture. I prefer to work with oil. It’s more forgiving than acrylic because it takes longer to dry.”

You describe the human body as a landscape. How does this translate in a painting?

“I’ve been exploring abstracts, and if you look at the surface and textures of a body, the viewer’s eyes roll across it like a landscape. They might see mountains instead of a hip. It’s amazing, depending on your perspective, a body can look like the ocean, a lake or a mountain. I’m drawn to the way viewers respond to a painting.”

Children are a source of inspiration for you. What are your favorite emotions and scenes to capture?

“There is something pure and raw in their emotions. I like to paint organic moments to try and capture their essence. When I paint children, I work from a photograph. I like to try and find images that capture who they are, which means it may not be one where they’re smiling directly at the camera. They could be laughing and looking left or it could be a pensive moment.”

What else inspires you?

“So many things. My children. Living here in such a beautiful place. The water, the land and nature around us. My inspirations change every day. As an artist, I’m constantly changing and growing, which I think is a good thing.”

View more paintings by Mariah Manning on her website. She can be contacted at 231.944.9349.

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Photo(s) by Mariah Manning