Artist Spotlight: George Bletsis
George Bletsis is a versatile, multi-faceted illustrator of children's books, posters, and art for film, TV, and videogames. Living and working in Southern England, George illustrated the beloved Hazy Dell Press board book, I Believe in You, as well as the covers for the Hazyscapes middle-grade books Bigfoot vs. Aliens and The Mirror People. George recently took the time to speak with Hazy Dell Press about manifesting the Loch Ness Monster, making characters "act", and his childhood love of Goosebumps, Animorphs, and all things horror and sci-fi.
What is your favorite part of the illustration process?
This is a really hard one, because I love all of the stages but for different reasons! If I had to pick a favorite though, I think it would have to be the very beginning where I’m designing the characters and figuring out the compositions of each illustration. This is the stage where it feels like anything is possible, where you are free to explore with different shapes and colors, and this is when the world you are creating for the book begins to form itself inside your imagination. It almost feels like magic! Drawings are loose and full of energy at this stage, and I spend the rest of the illustration process trying to make sure that I retain as much of that as I can, and not let the image become stilted the more I work on it.
I Believe in You is one of Hazy Dell Press’s best-selling and most beloved board books, for very good reason. What was your favorite part about giving life to the world’s most famous cryptid, the Loch Ness Monster?
My favorite part about drawing Nessie was that it doesn’t have a definitive appearance. When you draw a fox for example, there’s a lot less scope for interpretation and adding your own personal touch—if you stray too far, you run the risk of it not being recognizable as a fox anymore. With Nessie, however, you only have these very broad descriptions of a long neck, ridged back, and long tail, so you can really let your imagination run wild and start adding all of these fun things to invent your own creature!
My favorite spread is definitely the one where Nessie and baby are hiding under the pier from all of the Nessie nay-sayers and the two hunters. The illustration has so many things that I find fun: loads of perspective drawing on the pier, interesting lighting, and a bunch of funny characters. I also really like when I have to make my characters “act” on the page, so I had a blast drawing Nessie and baby huddled together looking a mixture of amused and a little concerned by the people above.
Besides illustration, do you have other creative outlets that you enjoy?
I love collecting rare plants and arranging them into terrariums to make miniature rainforest scenes, sculpting traditionally and digitally, photography, writing my own books, building robot model kits—I’ll give most creative things a shot! The great thing about doing lots of different creative things is that they all inform each other, and things I learn from my other outlets can open up a lot more avenues in my illustration work.
Your incredible work illustrating the covers of the Hazyscapes middle-grade series is such a fun departure from your work on I Believe in You. What appeals to you the most about illustrating the covers for this series, and how did you develop such a unique and striking style?
As a kid, I was an absolute bookworm. I used to speed my way through Goosebumps, Animorphs, and any other horror and sci-fi for kids I could get my hands on. Aside from reading the stories, seeing the new covers (and studying them meticulously when I got them home) was my favorite. I used to wish that I could draw covers for those books, and I’d often make up titles for my favorite series of books and assign myself the task of drawing the cover illustration. That’s why I was over the moon to be asked to illustrate the covers of Hazyscapes, because it was basically a childhood dream come true!
A lot of my non-book work is illustrating collectible posters for cult movies, so I used the style I developed over the years trying to make my posters as eye-catching as possible to hopefully make book covers that were also eye-catching and intriguing.
If you could give one piece of advice to a young, aspiring illustrator, what would it be?
The only advice I would give a young aspiring illustrator would be: never stop making things you enjoy and sharing them with people. Everyone is so worried about things like developing and forcing a specific style or coming up with your own style, where to go to school, what to practice, how much to practice, but really all of that stuff got in the way for me, and ultimately stopped me being as productive and creative as I could have been.
Enthusiasm is contagious, so if you are enthusiastic about what and how you draw, it will be visible in your work and it will naturally draw a crowd of likeminded people when you share your work online.