Creative Conversations: Phil Jones + Gemma Correll
This interview, including the worst pun Gemma Correll has ever thought of, was originally published in the YGX Annual.
Phil Jones: It was funny going through some of your pieces and even after I’ve seen them so many times, they still make me laugh. Do you find the same entertainment value out of your own pieces or?
Gemma Correll: No, not at all.
Gemma: Yeah, I’m a really bad judge of what’s funny and what’s not. So, the stuff I find funny, other people usually don’t. And then the stuff like I’m, “Oh, this is really stupid,” everybody goes crazy for.
Phil: So, what got you hooked on pugs and cats in the first place?
Gemma: I was always really obsessed with cats when I was a kid. Like I had a pet cat and all this cat stuff. If it were my birthday, people would give me something with a cat on it, like a mug. And then I saw a couple of Pugs here in England, but they didn’t used to be that popular here.
Phil: Do you have more than one?
Gemma: I’ve got two now, yeah.
Phil: So, the animals are pretty near and dear to my heart. I have two dogs right now at the moment and I just, I would have way more, but I think they call that hoarding.
Gemma: Yeah, crazy dog people.
Phil: Do you have any plans to come here? Or are you always going to stay over in the U.K.?
“The reason why I entered the Young Guns in the first place was because I thought it might help me get a VISA.”
Gemma: I would really, really like to, and the reason why I entered the Young Guns in the first place was because I thought it might help me get a VISA. I didn’t expect to win at all—I was complete shocked. But I just think somebody said it wouldhelp to get a visa if you entered competitions.
Phil: Has it helped?
Gemma: Well, it probably would help, but it’s still really, really difficult to get there because being a freelancer it makes it really tricky. I will try to get one, it’s just time consuming and expensive.
Phil: Where would you live if you could come here?
Gemma: I really like San Francisco and that area. And Austin, Texas. But I haven’t been enough places yet to make a decision. What’s Minneapolis like?
Phil: It’s Portland minus the rain, plus snow and cold. We have an incredible summer and spring and fall is just beautiful.
Gemma: Yeah. Are you from there originally?
Phil: No. I’m actually from the South. Kentucky, in Louisville, Kentucky.
Gemma: Oh, that’s completely different.
Phil: Yeah, complete opposite, but the culture here is amazing. To be honest, it’s helped my career go so much further just in general. It’s just amazing. And you know probably all too well, it’s just being around creative people and that energy.
Gemma: Yeah. It makes a big difference.
Phil: So when they asked me who I wanted to for this I immediately thought of you just because from my perspective I feel like we share so much of the same humor. I feel like I put stuff out there and nobody likes it, but I tend to laugh at my own stuff. So I dabble a lot in puns and I saw that you’ve been dabbling yourself. What’s the worst pun you’ve written down?
Gemma: Well, oh, there’s loads of awful ones.
Phil: Don’t worry, you’re in good company. I like them all.
Gemma: I’ve got a couple of puns with poor poise instead purpose. Everybody has a poor poise. I would say sometimes some of my puns only make sense to English people.
Phil: Oh, yeah. So do you tend to tailor your puns towards the U.S. market?
Gemma: Yeah. Just more international if I can. With the internet, you have to try and be international.
Phil: Is it weird to say that you have fans?
Gemma: Yeah, it’s very weird, because you know I just sit at home and wear my pajamas all day and drink coffee and it just so weird thinking about these people.
Phil: What do your parents do?
Gemma: My mom used to be a nurse, and my dad’s a chiropractor.
Phil: Why didn’t you end up in a medical area?
Gemma: I don’t know. I could have. It was a last minute decision to go to art school.
Phil: How did your parents react?
“I realized that I really did want to do art even if it meant that I would have no money ever and bring shame upon the family.”
Gemma: They weren’t super happy when I said I wanted to go to art school. I originally was going to go and do teacher training. And I actually started that course and then dropped out. So, they weren’t too happy with that, but I was there and I realized that I really did want to do art even if it meant that I would have no money ever and bring shame upon the family.
Phil: So, now what do they think about your career?
Gemma: Now I think they’re really proud of me. I still don’t think they completely understand what I do. Like for them, illustration is just what children do and that’s it. But if my work is on greeting cards they like that because they can see them and it’s physical evidence that I am doing some work.
Phil: Oh, that’s great. So do you find that doing pieces like cards and products has gotten you more visibility or is it just another piece in your book?
Gemma: Yeah, I think it definitely helped. When I first graduated from college, I was making things and making like little comics and things just on the side, just to kind of be doing something. And then it just kind of grew into half of the work I do.
Phil: So after school it was essentially a hobby, when did it become a reality that it could be a career?
Gemma: Well, I was working as a teaching assistant in a school. I was getting more illustration work. It was at the point where I’d get home from work and would have illustration work to do all evening and then on the weekend as well. So, it was getting to the point where it was getting a bit much. And then my contract was ending. So that work kind of naturally ending and I just thought this is the perfect opportunity.