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Something I often hear from those who know me, or my lighthearted drawings when they look at my paintings for the first time is “you seem so bright and cheerful, I never knew you had this dark side” The truth is, I have a very black sense of humour and I also enjoy looking at the dark side of things. I am always looking at the world from another viewpoint while others are caught in the middle of it. The first time I heard the term “thinking outside the box” it came from my brother in law. My first thought was, I didn’t even know there was a box…I am an artist with an international exhibition record and freelance graphic designer who has graced (and inflicted on) the world calendars, T-shirts, flyers, fundraising packages, store promotions signage, CD and DVD covers, web banners, and I am more than happy to contribute more images to the world until someone tells me “Gabrielle, please stop it” – at which point I will take myself into a room, lock the door and continue to furtively draw and paint away.

When did you first decide to become a graphic designer/ illustrator? Was there a pivotal moment?

I am primarily an artist, a painter, but I see fine art, graphic design, illustration etc. as a Venn diagram, slipping from one circle into another seems perfectly natural because there is so much that interrelates – as long as you know where the differences lie.

I knew I was going to be an artist in Kindergarten. I showed a friend of my mother’s a painting I had made in school that I was proud of. She told me it was lovely and asked if it was a painting of her cat. Well, it was a painting of my house. You might think that would have turned me off a career in art, but for some reason it did the opposite, maybe it presented a challenge to me, or maybe the fact that it didn’t turn me off means my skin is thick, something that is necessary in any competitive, subjective field. Hmm, thinking about it more, my skin must be thick because I remember thinking to myself “What a silly woman, she doesn’t know a house when she sees one…”

Who or what inspires you?

Forever it seems, I have been inspired by Quentin Blake, William Steig, Edward Hopper, Ralph Steadman, Dr Seuss, Truman Capote, rhythms and patterns in life and nature, laughing and a good book. Currently my inspirations include Joe Sorren, Babette Cole, Damian Michaels, Colleen Coover, Suzanne Baumann for her mini comics, Tony Millionaire, Brian Despain, Keiti Ota, Colette Calascione, Laurie Lipton and many others. I spend a lot of time surfing the net, it has become a godsend for checking out what other artists are up to and for discovering artists I would never see otherwise. I’m hopelessly addicted to (it’s my homepage), cartoons and people watching.

Where does your training come from? Self-taught? College/Art School?
I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Western Ontario and an IT certificate from Fanshawe College, both in London Ontario Canada.

How do you keep "fresh" within your industry?

It's tough when you have to be creative everyday, I often switch over to writing, rather than images. Lately, have been a regular participant in Penelope Dullaghan’s Illustration Friday. It’s a no pressure way to stretch your creative muscles and at times has spring boarded me into fresh ideas that I want to develop.

What are some of your current projects?

I have begun developing a body of miniature paintings that will be a tragedy/black comedy involving a character (M. Betterave) who is thrown into conflict over society’s inconsistencies. It will be interesting to see how this series bridges the gap between my irreverent, silly doodles and the darker, more introspective quality of my fine art.

Which of your projects are you the most proud of? And why?

Up until May, I co-owned a community newspaper, although the hours were grueling – easily 70 hours or more per week and no days off - it was enormously satisfying. The community support was great and it was an amazing experience to have complete creative and editorial control. I was the graphic designer, along with the usual behind the scenes tasks, I also wrote columns and did some reporting. We were the under dog newspaper, we served a community that was also served by a larger, more regional newspaper. It was fun keeping the competitors on their toes! I originally joined the newspaper because of the creative possibilities it presented to me. However, I began to realize that because of the work load, I would probably never have the time to pick up a pencil or paintbrush again. My creativity is the core of who I am and past experience has told me that if I deny that core, my personal happiness suffers. I continue to work on custom design projects for the newspaper, but on a freelance basis. I am also proud to have two paintings included in the Fantastic and Visionary Art Tour, organized by the Orange Regional Gallery in Australia, curated by Damian Michaels and Alan Sisley, which toured 5 museums throughout Australia from September 2003 to January 2005. The quality of the art in the exhibition is phenomenal and it was exciting to have my work included. You can read more about the exhibition here:

Are there any areas, techniques, mediums, projects in your field that you have yet to try?

Although I only took two half courses at university, printmaking has always intrigued me. I like the concept of producing multiple identical images. Marc Snyder and Sue Coe are two of my favourite contemporary printmakers. Sue Coe continues the tradition of printmaking as a vehicle for disseminating information to the masses – in a journalistic vein – and this very much appeals to me because I will always have a bit of the newspaper biz in my blood. For similar reasons, I would love to make a mini comic just for fun and distribute it. I also dream of writing and illustrating my own children’s book someday.

Any advice to the novice designer/ illustrator?

Going to school is the most efficient method of getting a good comprehensive footing. It will also give you more time than you will likely ever have again in your life to develop your skills. Whether school is an option or not, practice, practice, practice. Don’t wait for inspiration to hit, roll up your sleeves and dig in, sometimes the best things happen spontaneously. The more you create the more you develop.Something no school will help you achieve is to find your own voice. Your voice is not just a style you adopt, your voice is what makes whatever you do uniquely your own; it’s a part of your personal development, if you have that you will instinctively know what you do best.

What makes a designed piece or illustration successful?

I think first and foremost, it would be successful if it clearly communicates its intended message.

What do you do to keep yourself motivated and avoid burn-out?

I have to confess, I am guilty of burning out because I don’t know when to slow down. Motivation is never a problem with me; my mind goes a million miles per hour! I get excited, I bounce off the walls! When that happens, I sleep sporadically and there never seems to be enough hours in the day. That’s the “good” burn out. For the “bad” burn-out I slow down, seek solitude and reflect, I get out of the house, sometimes I go for a walk along the beach…Lake Erie is a 5 minute drive from home; it calms and centers me. I also like to write short stories, sometimes it’s nice to shift gears and use words instead of images.

And finally, what is the best thing on prime-time TV right now?

I don’t watch enough TV to comment… because I’m too busy bouncing off the walls (see above question) ….Although occasionally, I will fall asleep in front of it.

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