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Q&A with Gemma Correll

Illustrator and cartoonist

Hello! I'm Gemma Correll. I'm an illustrator and cartoonist. (Sometimes I write things, too.)

How did you get started in illustration, what is your background?

I started working as a freelance illustrator after I left art school, although I worked part time in other jobs for about 4 years after school until I was able to make a living working full time as an illustrator.

Where did you study? Looking back, would you recommend your path for beginners in design/illustration?

I studied at the Norwich School of Art and Design (now called NUCA) in the UK. To be very honest, I ended up there because I couldn't make my mind up about what I wanted to study. I changed my mind many times between studying English, sociology and art, and I made my decision at the very last minute. I'm glad I chose to study there.

The first year, we studied a range of design subjects - graphic design, photography, illustration and animation. It was great to be able to try all of those things, and I was able to spend the year making my final decision about what I wanted to study - I was deciding between animation and illustration. Can you tell that I'm very indecisive? I was also worried about career opportunities and that I would never "make it" as an illustrator... But I did!

So my message for beginners would be, don't worry if you're not completely certain about what you want to do, or unsure if you can do it. Just try your best, try different things, work hard and eventually you'll get there!

What is a turning point in your professional career?

I think the biggest turning point was when I was able to leave my part time jobs and start working full time as an illustrator. It was scary, and it wasn't always easy to start with, financially. Maybe the real turning point was when my Pugs Not Drugs design was printed on a tee shirt - that's when I really felt like I had "made it".

What is your ideal work environment? Do you prefer to work in your studio all day long or mix a few activities?

At the moment, I work in my studio all day. I share it with my husband Anthony, who is also an illustrator. And my pugs, Mr pickles and Bella, of course! I always go out in the mornings for a walk with the pugs and for a coffee. And if it's nice weather, I try to go for a walk during the day too. It really depends on how work is going. If I'm having a good day, I might sit at my desk from 9am until midnight. If it's not going so well, I might go to a cafe and draw in my sketchbook or answer emails. I'm very lucky to be able to be flexible with my work hours.

Where are your favorite places in your city or outside?

I currently live in Norwich, in England. But I am moving to Oakland, California in about a month. I do like Norwich a lot, and I have some favourite places there - the Little Red Roaster coffee shop, where the staff are like best friends to Anthony and I, the nearby beaches of Cromer and Sheringham, and the amazing Castle and museum. Outside of Norwich, I like the east end of London, Edinburgh, New York, Portland, Oregon, and of course, Oakland and San Francisco. I love to travel.

Who are the designers and illustrators, colleagues you admire most?

Well, first of all, my husband, Anthony Zinonos.

There are so many amazing artists that it's difficult to name all of them, but a few of my favourite are Lynda Barry, Tuesday Bassen, Adam J Kurtz, Kate Beaton, Vanessa Davis and Lauren Weinstein.