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The Pug-alicious World of Gemma Correll

We first encountered Gemma Correll's work via random sightings of her infamous Pugs Not Drugs tote bags worn by young East London types. As self-confessed pug lovers, it was safe to say that it was love at first sight, and we've been following her work and blog since. Often drawing inspiration from the woes of working as an illustrator, and her pug Mr Pickles, Gemma's work is peppered with David Shrigley-esque remarks and comments to annotate her cute illustrations. We spoke to Gemma at last year's Bust Craftacular fair in Bethnal Green.

How long have you been working as a professional illustrator?

I've been illustrating professionally since I left college which was in 2006, so for five years now. But obviously when I was a kid I was always drawing and always knew I wanted to be an illustrator or a cartoonist or something, so I guess I've drawn my whole life.

Where did you study?

In the Norwich School of Art, I studied Graphic Design and I specialised in Illustration.

What kind of work did you go onto do once you graduated?

While I was in my 3rd year at college, I found my style and subsequently what I wanted to do, so I built my website and started contacting clients. When I left I did a few editorial pieces for Virgin Holidays, Orange the mobile phone company. I also displayed my work at the D&AD show so I got quite a bit of work from that. Then i started doing T-shirt designs and making stuff for myself and doing lots of craft fairs. But I only worked part time as an illustrator for the first three or four years.

What were you doing on the side?

I was a teacher's assistant in a school, so I was working with children with special needs.

What made you want to pursue illustration as a full time job?

It is what I wanted to do to anyway, but I wasn't getting enough work for it be my full time job. At the time I was doing one-on-one work with a little boy, and the next year I had another little boy to look after so the contract came to an end naturally. I was at the point where I could either try and find a new job or do illustration full time, so I decided to do the latter.

Tell us about your move to Berlin? Was it work related?

It was just for a change of scenery, because my fiance (who's also an illustrator) and I, we both lived in Norwich, and we both went to Norwich art school and we both stayed there. He's from Cyprus so he's lived in other countries but I've never lived anywhere else apart from England and i just wanted a change of scene. I'd heard Berlin was a good place for art and illustration, and we didn't have a lot of stuff, and it's cheap so we thought, we may as well just go and see what it's like. We went in the beginning of 2011 and we stayed for a couple of months, we also stayed in Belgium for a little while as well.

How did you find the creative scene in Berlin?

It's got a really good art scene but it wasn't necessarily for me. There are lots of people making comics and things which is really good.

Is that how you got into making comics and zines?

I've always made those, and it's what I enjoy doing the most, but there's not much paid work doing that, and so I have to balance making my own zines with editorial jobs. I really like Berlin, it's a great city, we had a lot of fun there, but we just decided it wasn't for us and various reasons such as Mr Pickles (Gemma's brown pug dog) kept getting attacked by other dogs because in Berlin, dogs aren't on leads. Also there's glass all over the ground and he kept getting it in his paws, so he was really unhappy.

How long have you had Mr Pickles?

We've had Mr Pickles for nearly two years now. We have him and we have another pug now called Bella, who we've had for a week.

How have you found working full time as an illustrator? Are you with an agency?

I do have an agency, I have one in London, and another one based in Canada who look after Canada and America. Not everybody likes having an agent but I really like it because I don't enjoy the business side of illustration. I don't like negotiating budgets and contracts, so they do all that for me, and I just do the illustration itself.

What projects are you working on right now that are really exciting you?

The things that I'm most excited about are usually personal projects. I have my sketchbook with me all the time, which is full of ideas that I haven't had time to put down onto paper yet. I've set myself a deadline, by the end of the year to make at least one comic/zine from my sketchbook.

Gemma Correll is currently based in London and Norwich and is represented by NB Illustration Agency and Anna Goodson Management.

Louisa Lau
17:51 - 05/01/12