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  • Tara Crutchfield

Harlow Manning: Cute Creatures and Broadway Dreams

Fourteen-year-old Harlow Manning is a freshman at Harrison School for the Arts. The young Winter Haven native was bound to be creative, surrounded by art since birth. Her father, Trent Manning, is an internationally renowned mixed media artist who describes his work as a reflection of his personality, “a somewhat disillusioned cynic, with an odd sense of humor who still clings tightly to his inner child.” Mother Daphne Manning is a painter and the executive director of the Ridge Art Association.

“I’ve always been around art from an early age because my dad is an artist. He really inspired me. Growing up around creative people and art inspired me a lot,” said Harlow Manning. “I’ve been drawing since I can remember.”

In a 2019 Haven Magazine interview with Harlow and Trent, she noted that she’d been sketching since age three. Her dad remembered being called into her class by her teacher when he picked her up one day. The teacher asked if he could pick out Harlow’s self-portrait from the collection on the wall. He said, “Yes, that one’s Harlow’s.” Her teacher explained that the project was to do a self-portrait. Harlow’s self-portrait stood out because of the big rainbow. When the teacher told her that wasn’t part of the project, Harlow retorted, “But that’s my rainbow.” When her teacher told her she didn’t have a rainbow, Harlow said, “Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.”

At age seven, Manning first displayed her work in a joint show with her dad at Outer Space Art Gallery called “Inspired.” When she was ten, she collaborated with Trent again for a show at the Punk Rock Flea Market, where they debuted their business, Cerk Fillet. “All of the sculptures I did were based on her sketches for our first show. All the paintings originated from her sketchbook,” Trent said in the 2019 interview. “This time, it’s going to be a little bit more me and a little bit more her, and then we’re also going to collaborate.”

“I think that’s what was fun about when we first collaborated,” Harlow said. “Our styles are so different, but we made them work together.”

Since then, Manning has shown and sold her art at Art Crawl, the Punk Rock Flea, Mayfaire by-the-Lake, and the Central Park Art Festival, where she’ll return this month.

“My style is very bubbly and happy and very colorful,” Manning said. She’s currently inspired by the many colors in nature. Her medium is acrylic paint and Posca paint markers.

A mural featuring a series of cute, colorful creatures graces the wall behind The Lodge in downtown Winter Haven. These “blob animals” blossomed directly from Manning’s imagination. She described her process: “I start with random shapes and layer it with a Gelli plate. I layer the acrylic which I like because it makes a nice texture. Once I have my base of layered colors, I go in with the Posca markers and make the details of the creatures themselves.” After sketching the animals with chalk, the mural took only four days to complete.

She also did a live mural at Swan Brewing for the Punk Rock Flea in 2023.

Manning has plans for more mini murals throughout downtown Winter Haven that are hidden, making for a happy surprise when you come across one.

“I’ve loved art for so long that it’s a big part of my life now,” Manning noted. “I do it for fun.” Her friends think it’s cool that she’s an artist and support her endeavors. “Since I go to an arts high school, there’s a lot of creative people there. It’s nice to have so many other creative people who go to school with me to encourage me.”

Aside from her colorful paintings and murals, Manning enjoys theatre. She volunteers at Theatre Winter Haven and focuses on technical theatre in high school. “I like setwork, design, and lighting,” she said. Manning has worked on the set for “Moana Jr.” and has worked on lighting for five other shows at the community theatre.

“I think it would be really cool to do some setwork for Broadway. It’s a good mix of theatre, which I love, and the painting aspect and working on building sets.”

To see Harlow’s work and what shows she plans to attend, follow her Instagram @harlowmanningstudio.

Manning will sell pieces at the 46th Annual Victor Smith Law Group Central Park Art Festival in downtown Winter Haven. The festival, presented by Ridge Art Association, is a premier fine arts festival with established artists and rising stars alike. The festival will be held in Central Park on March 9 and 10, 2024. Manning will have large-scale versions of her canvas pieces and smaller framed works.


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