The absurdity of the everyday: George Manson and his wonderfully odd and bizarrely charming illustrations
Finding enchantment in the mundane and meaningless, George’s illustrations can't help but bring a smile to your face.
- Harry Bennett
- 23 November 2020
“I suppose I drew a lot when I was young and never stopped,” George Manson tells us, “I loved The Beano & The Dandy, Oor Wullie & The Broons and The Simpsons growing up,” the Cardiff-based artist and illustrator remarks. Hailing from the south east of England and moving to Cardiff in 2013, George continued his creative education at Kingston University, telling us “one reason I chose to study Fine Art was that it allowed the students to do anything, within reason”.
Since his experience at Kingston, George has started to make a name for himself, producing a prolific amount of work that, with each piece, is as thoughtful and funny as the next; rife with situational observation and total absurdity. Primarily resulting in comics, or ‘sort-of-comics,’ George thrives in summarising so much in such few words, limited space and simple mark-making. “Mine are often very concise,” he explains, “consisting of a few or even a single panel,” suggesting that, “maybe I don’t have the patience to work for an extended period on the same piece!”
Without getting bogged down in one material or technique, George’s medium refreshingly changes whilst keeping his unmistakably charming, if not guileless, style. “I’ve been using ink washes and watercolours more recently and love them for their immediacy and for my having less control,” George tells us, complementary to his directly accessible and engaging content. To this end, he explains how he is “drawn to [the] accessibility and affordability [of illustration] over other art forms,” attracted to the encouragingly collaborative nature of the discipline. “I love working with or alongside others,” George comments, “and although I’m far more experienced working on my own work as opposed to client work I jump at the chance of collaborating with others.”
GalleryGeorge Manson: The Brawl (Copyright © George Manson, 2020)
A fairly recent example of this was George’s latest collaboration with Luke Humphries in 2019, where the couple made a pair of illustrated short story books titled Summer Book. Using pen and ink washes prior to the final outcome being printed on a Risograph, the content of the book matched the perfectly-imperfect quality of the ink wash as well as the resulting chaos of the stories. “Luke’s stories often end with some form of chaos, which is always a delight to draw,” George explains. The smaller of the two books, titled Summer Pamphlet: Noah Travels By Megabus, follows the journey of protagonist Noah, as you guessed it, on a megabus towards a banal holiday break. “Highlights include giving up caffeine and nicotine and eating 15 slices of complimentary toast,” George summarises.
Part of what makes George’s work wonderful is its relatability, and not the cringey relatability of out-of-touch wannabe comedians, but instead a sincere familiarity that often has a direct line to the funny bone. “Conceptually, I’m drawn to the most mundane topics,” George explains, depicting “the very everyday scenarios,” that can carry monstrously surreal undertones. “Looking through my work there are lots of people sitting at desks, looking through windows, out for a walk,” he remarks, “I think there are subtleties in the way we navigate everyday life that are comforting, but are also very funny.”
Seeming almost diaristic, George draws on scenarios he has himself been in. “I don’t often draw anything purely autobiographical (though there are exceptions),” suggesting that “my own experiences and emotions are absolutely a springboard for what I do end up making.” Recurring objects in George’s illustrations also have a somewhat sentimental underpinning, telling us that items from his childhood are often the substitute to their contemporary counterpart – such as computers and telephones. “I think there’s definitely a comforting nostalgia attached to that,” he explains, “and there is also something perfectly cartoonish about big CRT computers and square hatchbacks, and of people still using them.”
That being said, George is not averse to modern technology, being quite the advocate for an iPad, telling us “the iPad can be so great for spontaneous drawing... and inspiration doesn’t always strike when you’re at your desk in the studio.” This came in handy for a recent two panel comic of George’s, that spontaneously came to mind while he was in bed, which starred someone trying (and failing) to write a diary entry, “embarrassing themselves before even getting to the main text”.
With a new self-improvement themed collaboration with Luke Humphries in the works, George tells us he is also in the process of making an “upscaled comic for a public sector commission,” which he can’t say any more about now, but we look forward to what this mysterious project will look like.
GalleryAll images copyright © George Manson, 2020
George Manson: Overwhelmed (Copyright © George Manson, 2020)
About the Author
After graduating from Winchester School of Art, studying graphic arts, Harry worked as a graphic designer before joining It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in March 2020. He nows works as a freelance writer and designer, and is one half of Studio Ground Floor.