Freelance illustrator and artist Marcel George has a unique style, combining watercolour and hand-cut illustrations. Currently living and working in London, clients include Financial Times, Esquire, Stella Artois, Vanity Fair, and Penguin Random House.
"I spent a lot of time in lockdown working on new styles and directions for my work," says Marcel. "I'd previously been painting many watercolours with a sense of realism. With my new work, I wanted to try something a little more character-driven, with a punchier look. I wanted to try and surprise myself and see if I could add a new dimension to my existing portfolio."
We chatted to Marcel about how he developed his distinctive style and dealt with the lockdown and the influence of Instagram.
Your hand-cut, watercolour illustrations are beautiful! What is it about these techniques that you love so much?
I've been drawn to watercolour since I first tried it at school. I like how delicate and light the medium is and how it feels quite fragile. I also like how there is only one attempt, and if it goes wrong, you have to start again. This means it takes all of your concentration, and you can forget about everything else apart from the painting.
With my hand-cut illustrations, I wanted to find a style where I could express some more cartoonish scenarios, which the watercolours didn't seem quite right for. I felt the colours needed to be bolder and the shapes more blocky. They seem to have a louder and brasher appearance, which is a nice change from my watercolours.
I have cut out the shapes from a single piece of paper and then coloured them digitally. I always try to retain a bit of a handmade quality in my work because I think it can make it feel more human and connect with our emotions.
What have you been working on recently?
I did a board game called 'Endangered Animals Bingo' where I worked with Laurence King Publishing and WWF. I had to illustrate 64 endangered species. It's fascinating to learn about animals that you have never heard of before, and then also sad to think that it's mostly human behaviour that is causing them to become almost extinct.
How did you find the pandemic these last two years?
I did find it hard, as I like to people-watch and go on walks, to get charged up with ideas and inspiration. So when there wasn't much life around, and everything was subdued, it did leave me feeling a bit flat at times. I tried to take the time to experiment with my work a bit more, and there are a few other stylistic approaches that I put on my website. Right now, I'm just feeling a bit more positive, as the world seems to be getting back to normal, to some degree.
You graduated in 2010 – how has your work developed in that time?
When I first graduated, my portfolio was entirely made up of etchings of decrepit interiors that I had done at Brighton University. It took me a few years to really think about what kind of a portfolio I could make, to satisfy my creative side and expression, but also to get commercial work from. I started to work in watercolours and realised that I could bring a creative angle and personal tone to any subject matter. Recently, I've worked on the cut-out illustrations because I wanted to work from my head, without photographic references.
And how has freelancing changed?
The emergence of Instagram has changed things a lot for freelancers. It's made us all realise the massive amount of great work and great illustrators out there. So it can be very off-putting and daunting at times. But then, I think it has made it easier to connect with potential clients and get your work seen.
What has worked for you in getting your name out there?
Sometimes, it has worked to approach individuals in a more personal way, rather than putting out blanket promotional material. My advice to others is: don't be looking at other artists and illustrators on Instagram too much. Try to excite yourself with your own work first of all.