Session 5: Gemma Correll

Gemma drawing for her exhibition mural at Chapter, Cardiff.

Happy December all you drömmers! We’re sure Gemma Correll is no stranger to many of you, you might have already stumbled upon her works on magazines such as Frankie and Anorak. We all know her illustrations never ever fail to put smiles on faces, they could possibly chase all your Monday blues away too. Occasionally, we’ve even had customers giggling to themselves quietly at a corner while browsing Gemma’s products over at our store.

And so, especially to all you pug lovers out there, this month we speak to UK illustrator Gemma Correll!!

Hello there Gemma! We’d like to know how did illustration became a part of who you are, what started your passion?

As a child, the things I loved to do most were read books and draw pictures. My parents had some cartoon books, like The Far Side and annuals by the British cartoonist Giles and I’d spend hours reading those. Even though I didn’t completely understand them, I loved the combination of text and image with humour. I’d collect old notepads and make my own “books” and I wrote and illustrated a page in my church newsletter every month for nearly 10 years. At school, I used any project as an excuse to draw cartoons and I entered lots of competitions, too. I knew very early in my life that I wanted to draw and write for a living.

Cartoons for Emirates Airlines In-Flight magazine 2

Seeing that you always draw up something daily, we’d imagine you’d have heaps of sketch books/pads by now, how do you decide/choose which illustrations get to see the light of day? What inspires you to illustrate the way do?

Yes, I have lots of sketchbooks. I love them. I think they’re the things I would save first (apart from the Pugs and Anthony, obviously) if my house was on fire. I keep the ideas until they fit a particular project, or sometimes if I really like an idea and I have a bit of spare time, I’ll draw it up ‘properly’. My style is very quick and intuitive, I like to get my ideas down onto paper in the simplest way possible.

What are some of your favorite tool/object from our studio, things that you love very much?

My favourite things are really just the simple necessities- my sketchbooks, paper, pens and pencils and inks. My chair is pretty comfy, too.

pictured above are snippets of Gemma’s studio

Do you have an all time favorite Gemma Correll illustration/project piece/product?

I guess it would have to be my “Pugs Not Drugs” illustration. Even though I am kind of sick of it now, it is my most popular image and it’s really helped my work get noticed, especially since it’s been printed on various different products, including T-shirts and tote bags. It’s a couple of years old now (I drew it in 2009) but it’s still popular and it reminds me of Mr Pickles, because sales of the tote bag helped me raise the money I needed to buy a pug puppy!

Gemma & Mr Norman Pickles

What are some of the things you do to cheer yourself up, or to relieve you from any ideas block? Any favorite places you’d visit or some of your all time comfort food that do the trick?

We have a local café that I love to visit, we are friends with the staff and they always cheer me up while also providing me with much-needed caffeine. I also like to go for a walk- if it’s not raining- with the pugs or have a look in some secondhand “charity” shops in the neighbourhood. If I’m having an ideas block, I often read some magazines or the newspaper, somewhere comfy, with my sketchbook next to me. That usually helps!

A snippet from Gemma’s What I Wore Today collection

Your husband, Anthony Zinonos, is also an illustrator, how do you both inspire and encourage each other? It’s always heartening to know that your partner is also in the same industry, that way, both are able to better understand and share each other’s woes and joys as artists. (Our puggiest congrats on your recent wedding too btw!!)

We both work in the same studio, so it’s nice working together in a comfortable silence or with some nice music and being able to bounce ideas off each other. Our illustration styles are very different- mine is cartoon-y and he does collage – but we share a similar sense of humour which comes across in our work in different ways. It’s great to be able to help each other with the less-fun bits of being freelance, like accounts and admin, and we both understand that freelance hours are not the standard 9-5 but encourage each other not to overwork and to take breaks and eat proper meals!

Screenshot of Anthony’s Website

Anthony’s “15 slides’ zine”, available in his online store here.

What are both of your biggest aspiration as illustrators, do you & Anthony have any future plans to collaborate or perhaps even set up a design/illustration studio?

We are always talking about collaborating, but we never have time. I guess we’ll do it one day. We would both love to live in America somewhere and have a big open plan studio but I don’t know if that will even happen, realistically.

Your super adorable pugs, Mr Norman Pickles & Bella must be such bundles of joy to have around your studio! Do they bug you at all while you are working, secretly hoping for some treats and walkies? How are you able to resist their adorable silly faces? We know we can’t with our pugs around, we’re often very easily distracted by their subtle acts of emotional bribery. What are some of their quirks that often amuses both you and Anthony?

Usually, when we’re in the studio, the pugs will sleep in their baskets. Mr Pickles sometimes wants to play and it’s hard to say no when he looks so cute. He also likes to jump up on my lap while I’m working which is lovely but it’s not very easy to draw with him there! They are both so entertaining though, I love having them in the studio. They’re always making funny little noises. They have a basket each but Bella will often go and sit on top of poor Mr Pickles in his basket.


Mr Norman Pickles

Visit Mr Pickles & Bella’s blog here! Or add them as your facebook friends if you’d like.

Do you travel overseas frequently? Would you by any chance, ever pop by to our little sunny island, Singapore?

I do travel quite a lot. I’m very lucky. I’ve never been to Asia though (or anywhere further east than Cyprus, in fact) and I would absolutely love to visit Singapore. It looks beautiful.

Exhibition at Small Stuff 4 at Bird Gallery, Launderhill (Florida)

INKYGOODNESS exhibition at Custard Factory (Birmingham)

Lastly, is there anything that you can say to advise or encourage all new/aspiring illustrators out there?

I always encourage aspiring illustrators to work hard and persevere, even though it can seem like an uphill struggle at times. You really have to love what you do. As they say, genius is one percent inspiration and ninety nine percent perspiration.

Mural for Comma exhibition (Oxford) with Mr Pickles basking in the sunlight!

If you’d like to bring a piece of Gemma Correll’s awesomeness home, hop on over to our store! We’ve got a couple of Gemma’s products stocked at the little dröm store.

For your (almost) daily dose of Gemma’s wit, visit her blog here!