If you’ve ever been trawling through a style blog or passed a boutique in East London and you’ve come across some little pug dogs staring out from the front of a tote bag or postcard, it’s probably down to Gemma Correll. I’m not a big fan of “cute” so I was surprised that these bright little images appealed to me so much. I think it’s down to the little squashed faces and distorted bodies. I’m not going to launch into a rhetoric on neurotic realism, but Gemma’s work is like Martin Maloney with a Warhol ethic… but cuter. Working out of her Norwich studio, which is covered in 1950s biscuit tins and bold artwork from the “golden age” of American advertisements, Gemma Correll creates snap-shots into a world of talking cats, lamenting dinosaurs and yarn. She also produces awesome zines. We decided to ask her a few questions.
I have always drawn. I drew as a kid because it was fun and because it sometimes got me out of PE lessons at school (I used to design posters for school events etc. which obviously required a couple of hours of work, which would serendipitously coincide with an outdoor swimming lesson or something suchlike). I drew at high school because it was fun and because I was geeky and quiet. And I draw now because it is my job and I make money from it. And because it’s fun.
Surviving as an artist can be pretty hard these days. How important are the commercial aspects of your work?
Since Illustration is my full-time job, I have to think of it as such. I have to make money and therefore the commercial aspects of my work are very important. I’m lucky that I work quite quickly and therefore have a lot of time to work on personal work. Also, a lot of the time, my personal work will become a greetings card, or a tote bag, or some other product… so something that I have drawn for myself, for no particular reason other than I felt like it, can become an opportunity to make money.
There’s a really strong craft movement going on right now. How do you feel your illustrations fit into this scene?
One of the facets of the craft movement is “naive” art and my work certainly fits into this category, although I do hope that it’s a bit more intelligent than the label suggests. Also, obviously, I make my own products which while not necessarily hand-crafted (I don’t have much time these days) they are hand-made to at least a certain extent. ie. I don’t print my cards, but I design them and package them.
You’ve had a lot of exhibitions, both in the UK and the US. Is your work received differently on the other side of the Atlantic?
I’d say that my work is more popular in the US than here. It’s partly just because there’s a bigger market but I think also they’re more into general humour and a “quirkiness” over there, whereas here in the UK illustration seems to be more popular if it adheres to the current trend.
Your illustrations feature a lot of Pugs and lots of cups of coffee. Why?
I tend to draw things from life, things I’ve seen, overheard or remembered. Since I have a pug and drink a lot of coffee (not particularly for the caffeine, although that is sometimes a welcome side-effect, I just really really like coffee), they naturally end up appearing in my work.
The daily diaries on your website are awesome and they seem pretty cathartic. Do you use them as a sort of therapy?
They are cathartic. I’m often so busy that I don’t really notice what happens during a day. If, tomorrow, you asked me to recall today’s events, I’d probably struggle – that’s also partly because I have a terrible memory – but I also have a very visual mind. I don’t really process things properly just by experiencing them. I process them by writing them down and drawing them. Sometimes I use my diaries to vent frustrations but I do try not to be too negative (not sure how successful I am…).
Are there any particular people/places that inspire you to draw?
Places – anywhere new, anywhere with an outside / cafe culture, where I can people watch, places with an interesting history and good architecture. People with interesting accents / dress sense / pets.
What projects have you got planned in the near future?
I’m working with my favourite Indie-publisher on a book at the moment, which will be published sometime next year. Lots of other small projects, some personal commissions and a bit of much-needed time off at Christmas.