George Wylesol is an illustrator/designer/writer in Baltimore who creates unusual graphic novels. Curses, a collection of short stories, uses surreal and avant garde techniques to show the horrors in everything from a hospital to the wilderness to hell itself. Wylesol spoke to Cemetery Dance about how he worked on this book, his background, and what he’d like readers to take away from Curses.
(Interview conducted by Danica Davidson)
CEMETERY DANCE: How did you get into graphic novels? What is your background in art?
GEORGE WYLESOL: I went to school for illustration, with a minor in creative writing. I was never really that interested in graphic novels, thinking they were all superhero stories. It wasn’t until way later that I realized I could combine writing and drawing into a comic, and that a comic could be anything I wanted.
Why did you want to do a book about curses? What are the inspirations for the different subjects?
These pieces were done separately between about 2016-2023. They were originally just experiments that I only posted to Instagram. They didn’t seem to have any connection linking them at first, which would have been fine anyway. But in every story, something disastrous happens, either very explicitly or implied. So as a thematic link, I thought curses could work – there’s some otherworldly hex on each character in the collection.
As far as inspiration goes, with most of these stories I’m actually starting with the drawing technique first. So in “Castle Builder,” for example, I wanted to experiment with using big, textured pixels to draw, a la Minecraft, and the story just evolved out of that experiment. In “The Quub Loser,” I wanted to switch things up from my normal drawing technique, and use big bold geometric shapes to make the art. I’m glad we found a home for all these experiments in Curses.
You’re mixing some scary, claustrophobic stories with clean, vibrant artwork, which is an unusual take. What do you think it is about this unusual take that makes Curses work?
Thanks. This is what my whole art practice in general is based on. I’ve always been a fan of horror, but don’t particularly like drawing the tropes – vampires and zombies drawn with ink and watercolor. As I developed my process, I found I really like drawing with Adobe Illustrator; it has a cleanness and precision that just really clicks with me. So combining that drawing technique with unsettling imagery gives a really unexpected final product.
What would you like readers to take away from Curses?
With this book and all my others, I’m really hoping to inspire artists who want to explore graphic storytelling, but aren’t interested in making a “traditional” comic. There’s so many different directions a graphic novel can go in; I’m trying to loosen up and experiment with the medium as much as I can.
Where can people learn more about you and your work?