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Meet the Shropshire illustrator bringing joy and colour to the world

By Heather Large | Entertainment | Published:

Gemma Gould loves bringing a splash of colour and a bit of joy to people’s lives with her fun and quirky characters.

Illustrator and designer Gemma Gould

Her eye-catching artwork combines vibrant geometric shapes with textured details and is inspired by traditional printmaking techniques.

She’s been working as an illustrator and designer, based in rural Shropshire since graduating with a degree in visual communication (illustration) in 2014.

“I discovered my style through printmaking at university – I loved the bold colours, shapes and texture you could achieve with lino-printing and spent hours in the print room. However, it’s often quite difficult to cut curved shapes into lino, so I adapted by only using straight lines and that way of drawing stuck,” says Gemma.

She has been drawing for as long as she can remember and believes being creative definitely runs in her family.

“My dad is an automotive designer and my mum has always enjoyed painting. From an early age when I was spending time reading with my nose in a book, I was drawing. I would draw the stuff I had read about in the book and how I imagined the characters to look,” explains the 27-year-old, who lives near Church Stretton.

Gemma, whose colourful designs have featured in a range of materials from children’s books to CD covers, describes her illustrating style as “bold, fun and quirky”.

Gemma creates most of her work digitally

“I like to keep it as simple as possible as it makes it more accessible and I like to make it as colourful and vibrant as possible,” she says.

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“I like to make people smile with my artwork and illustrations and to brighten up their day,” adds Gemma.

When creating new designs, she finds a lot of her inspiration in cartoon television shows, animated films, such as those by Studio Ghibli, video games, especially the low poly 3D aesthetics common in early games, and vintage illustrations like the work created by Alice and Martin Provensen and Charley Harper.

Gemma says she enjoys being able to work with a wide range of clients on so many different kinds of projects.

“Every project is different and I never know what’s going to drop into my email inbox next,” she tells Weekend.

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The Loughborough University graduate also loves the creative process of starting with a sketch or idea and bringing it alive on the page. “I don’t always know what it’s going to turn out like. It’s amazing and surprising for me to see what appears on the page at the end.”

One of her recent projects has been creating an illustrated map of Shropshire depicting many of the county’s landmarks, wildlife, activities and history.

One of Gemma's illustrations

Among the features is a gingerbread man for the town of Market Drayton which has been known for baking the sweet treat since at least 1793, along with historical structures such as Ludlow Castle.

“I grew up in Warwickshire but I moved to Shropshire six years ago. I was sort of challenging myself on how much I had learned about my adoptive county and learning and researching about the county for what I could illustrate for each area. It was really fun,” explains Gemma whose favourite features on the map to draw were the Shropshire Mammoth and Shrewsbury-born Charles Darwin.

She predominantly works digitally with an iPad for everything from the initial drawing through to the finished design but Gemma still picks up her sketch pad from time to time.

“I will usually sketch it first and then start playing with shapes and colours and trying to work out what’s going into the composition,” she tells Weekend.

Nature features frequently in her charming illustrations which have also featured in magazines.

“I draw a lot of outdoor scenes and peaceful scenes. There is also a lot of humour in my artwork, I like to make people smile and I think that comes through,” says Gemma who enjoys sketching in her garden.

One thing that has surprised her since starting out as an illustrator is the vast range of work she is commissioned to create.

Gemma's map of Shropshire

“The work is a lot more varied than I was expecting. I’ve done work for CD covers and that’s something I never expected to do. It’s a voyage of discovery,” says Gemma.

Artist Andy Lowe commissioned the illustrator to create a CD cover illustration for his EP Forest Edge.

His music tells the tale of a boy who has lost his way and finds himself alone in a wintry wilderness and Gemma said she wanted to portray the boy upon his first discovery of the strange forest, with a hint of the mystery that hides inside it by using exaggerated perspective and ambient colours.

She has also worked with Sugarfree Books on its inaugural publication, a children’s picture book titled Gabe Faces Ignorance.

Written by L I Forsete and illustrated by Gemma, it addresses the subject of Islamophobia through the young characters Gabe and Sofia.

Gemma says she finds working on children’s books to be very rewarding and says it’s something she would like to do more of in the future.

“I would love to be able to work on more children’s books, especially fantasy books. I was always a kid who enjoyed myths, legends and fantasy so that would be ideal really,” she added.

See gemmagould.com

Heather Large

By Heather Large
Special projects reporter - @HeatherL_star

Senior reporter and part of the Express & Star special projects team specialising in education and human interest features.

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