In conversation with Baltimore-based illustrator, educator and writer George Wylesol.
Can you talk about your journey into or interest in the arts?
Yeah, I’ve been studying art for a long time. I liked to draw and play music as a kid, and started studying drawing and painting more seriously around high school age. I got a BFA in illustration in 2012. And then after working odd jobs for a few years and not really getting anywhere, I went to Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) for a MFA degree in 2016.
Can you talk about the influences upon your work?
I think my influences come more from everyday life and past experiences, places and people. I look at a lot of work outside my own discipline too, so photography, architecture, video games, books are all important influences as well.
What themes are you exploring through your work? Iconography of the occult seems to be a recurrent theme, but there are also observations of the everyday in your work.
Yeah, I think that’s right. I went to Catholic school for 12 years so a lot of that iconography comes from my upbringing. But I also grew up in a very average, middle-class area of Philadelphia, which is probably where a lot of that banal, everyday life imagery comes from.
Right now I’m making work that’s ‘pointless’. I don’t really have a better word to describe this feeling. Images that have no intentional meaning, purgatorial spaces, preoccupied figures. Not that the work itself is pointless, but is maybe exploring the indifference of the universe. It’s hard to put it into words. I have a bigger project coming out in 2022 that focuses heavily on these topics.
How do you balance commercial and personal work, or are the two inseparable?
No, I think there’s a clear line for me between personal and commercial work. I try to have as much fun with commercial assignments as I can. But at the end of the day, it’s always work for someone else. The subject matter may not necessarily be something I’m interested in, but I always try to make it look good.
I think I do best when I have as much creative freedom as possible, and I’m just left alone to do my own thing. I make a lot of personal work in my free time. I make smaller pieces every day, as well as working on bigger, long-term projects like books.