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Interviews and Articles | IN THE FLESH (tattoo/piercing magazine) Interview - 1996 - questions by Amy Becker

Artist, illustrator, animator, Michael Manning has been opening eyes and creating waves with his erotic black and white illustrations. He is the author of The Spider Garden, with a sequel soon to follow. His artwork has been featured in a diverse array of publications and exhibits around the country and beyond, His visions of sensuality and sexuality are reaching out and grabbing people where it counts!

Why did you choose the subject matter that you do? Is it to get a reaction or because it turns you on?

I'd say more because it turns me on... I want to tell stories, whether it's from a single image or from a whole graphic narrative. People of all types have different reactions to my work. They're very intrigued and interested, and at best excited. However, I'm not so much concerned about people's reactions. I think people are curious to see who it is that's doing work like this. And they usually want to pick my brain a little bit.

Do you ever find that people confide in you after they've seen your work?

All the time! It's usually fun, sometimes people get obnoxious about it. They just sort of unload it on me. Other times, they feel like I've seen or done things that make me a kindred spirit, so they're usually pretty eager to confide in me. This is actually one of the reasons that it's fun to do what I do because everybody has erotic ideas and fantasies. This is my way of sharing it. It's a pretty basic way of communicating with people.

How do you create your characters?

They're all very real in their own way, in my mind. They incorporate elements of me and people I know and of random things that pop into my head. I usually try to refine my work to the point where a viewer will look at it and be carried along and project their own feelings into it; be turned on, intrigued, whatever... There's definitely a lot of emotion behind it.

What are the pro's and con's of your particular career as an artist?

It's what I want to do and what I feel strongly about, which are the good aspects. I really want to put myself out there as an artist and make beautiful work that people can communicate with emotionally. The bad part is that there's a real stigma with the porn industry in general. I am a pornographer and people sometimes have certain perceptions that go along with that. There's sort of an aesthetic with pornography that you don't need to care. It's JUST pornography - something to jerk off to and then throw in the trash. There are not a lot of people who are putting much love into what they're doing and really trying to refine it, do different things, or make it an interesting medium. That can be kind of depressing sometimes. It's not easy to make a living in that genre, that's for sure. It's kind of a crappy set up as far as an industry goes. Anything that's an industry, whatever it's music, computers, whatever... there's always going to be a downside to it.

Do you have or practice any of the body modifications that you depict?

I have no piercings. I do have tattoos on the insides of my forearms that I designed. They're kind of based on scorpion patterns and eyes. My tattoos have a lot of personal symbology in them. I could dissect all of the lines and tell you all the meanings that went into them. I actually traded a couple of illustrations in exchange for the work. I'm also involved in doing B&D. I don't do things like play piercing or bloodletting but I do enjoy the temporary aspects of body modification.

I read that people approach you to design tattoos. Do you get a lot of these requests?

Yes, actually I do. When my self-published book Spiral was out, people would contact me at various points to tell me that they or someone that they knew were using my work as reference material for tattoos. Supposedly there are a few back pieces floating around out there. Since I've come out to San Francisco, I've been getting a lot of requests for tattoo designs. One of the most recent pieces I did for somebody is a full sleeve of these two characters from The Spider Garden and it's sequel Hydrophidian. I'm still waiting to see how it came out.

Do you find it rewarding to know that someone will be wearing your work forever?

It's still kind of an unusual idea to me that somebody would like my work so much that they'd have it incised into their skin. It's also very flattering at the same time. Tattoos seem to be having a real renaissance right now in terms of their variety and availability and it seems like my work is popular in that respect. It works well as images on skin.

Did you ever think about getting into tattooing?

Both of the guys who tattooed me have offered to teach me. I'm still a little bit hesitant to get involved in it because I know that it's an incredible amount of work. I see the hours that they keep and the amount of work that goes into the pieces that they do. I know that I could probably do it, but it's a whole other world.. I'm so entrenched in doing comics and illustration work right now that it would be difficult for me to find the time to do it well. It's a possibility though. I think I have a clear avenue into doing it if I want to. It's just a matter of committing myself to it.

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