For this week’s guest post/interview, I spoke to Norwich-based illustrator and animal lover Gemma Correll about commissions, artist’s block, and being famous on the internet…

I'm cool.
Have you ever been offered a commission that you couldn’t or wouldn’t do?

I have been offered commissions that I didn’t have time to do and had to turn down and a couple where they weren’t offering me enough money. But I try to do as many commissions as possible – it’s all good practice and I need to buy kibble for my pugs!

You thought about being a teacher or a sociologist before going to art college – do you feel that come across in your work?
 
I’m not a terribly social person, being an introvert who works from home, but I enjoy people-watching and the area of social science. My family all work in caring and social professions so it was something that I grew up with. I like anthropology and studying culture – I think this comes across in my work, through quotes that I have borrowed from overheard conversations to references from pop culture and literature. I enjoy working with children and I was a Teaching assistant for a couple of years when I first graduated from art college. The children were very inspirational to me, they were always coming out with funny things. I think my work has a definite childlike vibe which is no doubt influenced by the children I worked with to some extent.
 
I’ve read in interviews with you before you tend to work very long hours – do you still do that? How do you make sure you don’t burn out?
 
Yes, I still do it, but I do try to take a little more time out these days! It’s a bit difficult this month (December) because it’s such a busy time for me, packing and sending shop orders as well as doing commissioned work. If I’m having a really bad day I try and take a little time out to go for a coffee or have a look in some second hand shops. It usually refreshes me and stops me getting burnt out. I think I’m just used to working hard and if I stop, I get bored pretty quickly!

 
hipster batman

Are you interested in digital art, screen printing or other media – or are you happy with pen and paper?
 
I’m quite happy with pen and paper. I do like screen printing but that’s more for prints and products, It’s not practical for individual works. I’ve tried painting with acrylic but it’s too complicated for me, I tend to overwork the paintings whereas I think my work looks best when it’s quick, simple and fairly spontaneous.
 
You are quite famous on the internet; it’s easy to find examples of your work and you do lots of interviews with bloggers – how important is social media to you?  Do you find it takes up a lot of time, or do you have a system for managing it?
 
I think social media’s pretty important, obviously it’s a good way of getting my work seen and therefore (hopefully) getting more commissions and sales. It’s something I do in between things, so while waiting for drawings to scan, or while having a cookie break. I don’t have a system in place to manage it at all, I am not much of a planner. I just try not to get too carried away with it!
 
Do you ever get artist’s block? If so, how do you get through it?
 
I get my sketchbook out and go somewhere to draw. I read a newspaper or a magazine and write lists of “things” from them. I end up with random lists which make no particular sense. An example is yesterday’s list from my sketchbook:

“Barbershop Quartets
Lunchables
Migratory Patterns
Ghost Writer
Amuse Bouche”

It makes no sense. it’s just a random collection of things I read or saw. But ideas will spark from there…

What was it about narrative art that appealed to you? Have you ever wanted to do purely visual art, or were you always more a comic person?
 
I’ve always enjoyed reading and writing. I’ve loved cartoons since I was a child, when I used to read my dad’s Far Side cartoon book every weekend. I’ve always combined text and image, in fact in some ways I think my writing is more central to my work than my drawing. I’ve tried doing purely visual art (mostly when I thought it was what I “should” be doing – at school and to some extent, at college) but my artwork isn’t that strong by itself, I think it really relies on a narrative.
 
Do you read a lot of comics?  Got any recommendations?
 
I don’t really read traditional comics, but I really like Jeffrey Brown (any of his books). Also Esther Pearl Watson‘s “Unlovable”, Simone Lia‘s “Fluffy” and Lizz Lunney‘s brilliant comics. I like my comics hand drawn and funny.
 
What is your career wish list, ie what have you got left that you want to do?

marmadukeThere is still a lot that I’d like to do. I’d like to have a cartoon (or more than one, even…) published in the New Yorker, I’d like to create my own children’s book and a graphic novel.

You can keep up to date with what Gemma is up to on Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, or her own website.

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