FIVE MINUTES WITH ILLUSTRATOR GEMMA CORRELL

by: Catalog

FIVE MINUTES WITH ILLUSTRATOR GEMMA CORRELL

Hi Gemma, welcome to Singapore! Did you have any expectations of the country before coming over?
I didn’t know a great deal about Singapore before I visited, besides some recommendations from friends who are originally from here and a little Wikipedia history! I knew that it would be warm and probably rainy!

Aside from attending the Singapore Writer’s Festival (SWF), what else is on your to-do list? Eat some durian perhaps?
Yes, eating durian is definitely on my to-do list as I have never tried it before! On Friday, I am visiting the National Museum and also my friends at The Little Dröm Store — I have sold some products in that store for a few years, so I am looking forward to meeting the owners, Stanley and Antoinette. I also hope to visit Gardens by the Bay.

During the SWF, we’re pretty sure that fans of your work will be looking forward to spending time with you and finding more about your creative process. What do you hope to bring to the table?
I hope that I can reveal a little more about my process and where my ideas come from. So much of what I do starts in a sketchbook — so I want to show that aspect of my work, which is rarely seen, but so important to me.

FIVE MINUTES WITH ILLUSTRATOR GEMMA CORRELL

Who are some illustrators/writers that you look up to and why? How have they influenced your work?
I adore Lynda Barry and Matt Groening — they both combine words and images in really unusual and clever ways. I admire any artist who is able to work in a sequential arts format with humour and intelligence. It is difficult to do that! Artists like Tom Gauld, Simone Lia and Ronald Searle showed me that there was more to illustration than simply making pretty pictures and that the kind of work I preferred to do (like my comics and daily diaries) could be a valid method of image making.

What’s a typical day for your like and do you have a particular work ritual that you follow?
I wish I was more organised — I have tried to stick to a routine, but I’m not very good at it. Every morning begins with a pug walk and a coffee, but besides that I just go with the flow. If I have a big deadline, I might start working at 9am and continue until midnight. Other days, I take lots of breaks for yoga, or walks, or library visits.

FIVE MINUTES WITH ILLUSTRATOR GEMMA CORRELL

Talk to us about your pugs, who are pretty much the most recognizable characters in your illustrations. What are some of their quirks that you love? And if they were to be voiced by celebrities, who would it be? 
I adore my pugs. Mr Pickles is nearly 7 now — we got him when he was a puppy so he has been a big part of my life for some time. Bella is nearly 9 — we rescued her when she was 4. They make me laugh every day. The way that they sit in ridiculous positions, the silly noises that they make, their funny wobbly walks, their incessant licking, their clinginess and endless reserves of love. They really are little clowns!

I think that Mr Pickles would be voiced by Fred Armisen and Bella by Kristen Wiig.

I once saw your “Pugs Not Drugs” T-shirt at a street market in Thailand. Would you take that as a sign of international success (hehe)?
Hmm, I suppose so! “Pugs Not Drugs” was one of the major highpoints of my illustration career. It was just a little doodle that I made and I never expected it to become so popular!

But on a more serious note, at what point did you realize that you could make a full-time career out of this?
To be honest, it just happened. I was never convinced that I’d be able to make a career out of Illustration. I had no confidence in my abilities, even when I did well at college. Every illustration job that I was offered came as a surprise to me (although, looking back, I see that I worked very hard and did deserve those jobs) — indeed, I am still surprised when I am asked to work on a prestigious project — or invited to an international writers’ festival in Singapore!

FIVE MINUTES WITH ILLUSTRATOR GEMMA CORRELL

There are a lot of young artists out there looking to make a career out of their passion. What would you tell them that you wish someone told you when you were starting out?
To be patient. It really does take time to make Illustration a career — it won’t happen magically overnight. I had to work other full-time jobs (I was a teaching assistant and I worked in stores) for five years before I was able to start illustrating full time. Even if you do “make it”, you probably won’t really feel like you have. Even when I work for a big client, or have a new book published, I feel like I could do more and be better. Also, my mantra is “Just Do it” (sorry, Nike). I often feel unconfident in my work and unsatisfied with things I create, but I publish it anyway, because it seems that the things I dislike the most are the things that everybody else likes! It is difficult to be objective about your own work.

Any new projects that you’re working on? What can we look forward to in the next couple of months?
I am working on a new book. A graphic novel in the style of my daily diaries which will be memoiry (I’m aware that “memoiry” is not a word and am prepared to be banished from the writers festival for that transgression!) and centred around my struggles with anxiety and phobias, which I have already explored quite frequently in my work.



Make sure to check out Gemma Correll at the Illustrator's Battle with Stephanie Wong at the Singapore Writer's Festival on Sunday, 6 November. For more information, click here.

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