George Goodwin – Illustrating A Point
Written by Joff Alexander-Frye
Photography by Nick Hook
In my opinion, one of the most enjoyable experiences as an adult is meeting new people who you just know you would’ve been friends with when you were younger, had you known each other. I recently had just that experience when I met Exeter-raised illustrator George Goodwin, for a chat over coffee at The Exploding Bakery on Queen Street. Whether he felt the same or not is another thing altogether, come to think of it…
Anyway, George illustrates under the moniker omgidrawedit and has just released his first book, Don’t Shoot the Long-Tailed Tiger, for sale on his bigcartel shop. It is a wonderful book, aimed equally at children as it is adults. With playful humour, high-quality illustration and a strong anti-hunting backbone to the narrative, the book follows the central character, ‘The Hunter’, as he pursues the Long-Tailed Tiger who has escaped the zoo to return to the jungle.
With a playful, almost ‘Where’s Wally-esque’ feel to the book, I became engrossed and immersed in the world that George had created through his illustrations as I searched for items, tried to spot hidden jokes (or ‘Easter eggs’) and wondered how such a challenging subject matter was going to be tackled in such a playfully composed book. With flavours of ‘Adventure Time’ and some of the 1990’s Cartoon Network shows in his animation, the book is vibrant, engaging and striking in its design.
I was interested to hear about George’s method and creative approach. He explained,
“Being an artist is like being a sponge. You absorb all of the things you are inspired by; going to shows, gigs, exhibitions. You take it all in. For me, I then start sketching objects, ideas or shapes that I’ve absorbed, sit with them for a while and then see which ideas naturally develop. With objects, I try to draw from memory, then revisit the object and draw it again having refreshed my memory. A week later, I’ll draw it from memory once more and that is usually the version that I move forwards with.”
After a childhood full of sketching, doodling and drawing, George never really got on with the education system or felt like he was good enough to become a professional illustrator. It was a faint pipedream for him but was never ‘Plan A’. That was until three and a half years ago, when he visited the Illustration Degree Show at Plymouth College of Art and was immediately impressed by the lecturers, students and facilities. In what turned out to be a pivotal step for George, he decided to be brave and go for it, quickly muddling together a portfolio from scratch in just a couple of months and submitting it. He was delighted to get a place on the course and he hasn’t looked back since.
Through his connections at Plymouth College of Art, he started networking and getting his first commissions, which gave George a sense of justification and confidence that he had made the right choice to pursue his dream job. This has developed to the point that he now illustrates full-time and it is his sole source of income, working with both corporate and private clients.
George described how drawing has a meditative effect on him, giving him a level of focus and peace that he struggles to find elsewhere in life. Although our art forms are very different, I am also creative and can confirm that this is true for me too. Getting lost in the creative process is truly one of the most satisfying and transcendent experiences for someone who is creatively-wired. Time stands still. You forget about food and drink. You are away in another world.
At this point in our conversation, we went down a conversational rabbit-hole talking about bands, comics, movies, cartoons and video games that we both liked growing up. As I mentioned before, if we had grown up in the same town or city, I’m certain we would’ve bumped into each other and been in the same sub-cultural groups.
Conversation took another natural turn towards the ethical backdrop of George’s work, including Don’t Shoot the Long-Tailed Tiger. Having chosen a vegan lifestyle several years ago, he shared with refreshing balance and level-headedness his opinion that
“ramming your views down someone’s throat isn’t going to get you anywhere”. He added, “My approach is to try and present ideas and stimulate thinking around ethical issues, to awake in people questions and thinking which leads to change. I don’t hate people who aren’t vegans and I’d prefer to see someone genuinely thinking for themselves around ethical issues than feeling preached at and closing down completely.”
In terms of the future, George is currently curating a monthly independent artist showcase at his partner Rebecca’s café, No1 Polsloe. This gives artists the chance to exhibit their work at no cost and have the opportunity to sell it and engage with fans and customers. He is also working on a treasure hunt-style Art Drop in Exeter, placing independent artwork in independent shops and creating a treasure hunt which will encourage people to support both local art and local retail. A genius idea if you ask me!
With a glint in his eyes, behind which lies a sharp and intelligent mind, George produces work that is funny, poignant and of the highest quality. With the strength of his portfolio to date and lots of exciting projects on the horizon, he is surely one to watch for the future, both in Exeter and beyond.
Follow George @omgidrawedit on Instagram and other social media platforms.