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  • Half-a-Man

Gemma O’Callaghan

As a child

I spent the early part of my childhood living in Germany as my dad was in the armed forces. I went to Kindergarten and apparently spoke German, but sadly I can’t remember much of the language now! We moved back and forth between Germany and the UK until I was 11, when we finally settled in Nottingham.

As an adult

On leaving school I attended Art College in Nottingham, and then went on to study a BA in Animation at Solent University in Southampton. After graduating with a first class honours degree in 2003 I moved to London and worked as a freelance animator for nearly 8 years. I didn’t feel fulfilled in my creative path so I decided to take a break from it to build up my illustration portfolio. I applied for the Masters course in Children’s Book Illustration at Anglia Ruskin Cambridge School of Art, and after nearly a decade of living in London I moved to the small market town of Hitchin in Hertfordshire, so I could easily commute to university. Hitchin became a great source of inspiration to me, especially in my first semester as I had to draw from life (something I hadn’t done for a long time) and I found the surrounding countryside very appealing. During my Masters I was able to broaden my ideas, focusing my interests in historical subject matter and explore new methods of creating images. I became increasingly interested in printmaking, mainly screen printing, as I found this process suited my way of working. I enjoy the planning and thought that goes into each aspect of building up an image layer by layer, I also like the constraints of using a limited colour palette. Comics too have influenced me greatly and it’s a medium I wish to explore further in my work. My final project on the Masters course combined my love of history and comics creating images through simplified wordless narratives.

As an artist

Since completing my Masters I have worked on a number of exciting projects, the biggest one being Half a Man for Walker Books written by Michael Morpurgo. It has been a wonderful and humbling experience to work on this fantastic project. I work from home in a mini screen printing studio I set up in my house. I am currently living back in Nottingham with my husband Paul.

Things you didn’t know about Gemma O’Callaghan

  1. I have two rabbits called Buddy and Bruce (Bruce is a girl)
  2. I love marzipan
  3. I used to work at a dog groomers
  4. As a child I collected hedgehogs (not real ones)
  5. I love vintage ladybird books and old matchbox labels
  6. My favourite book is ‘In the Heart of the Sea’ by Nathaniel Philbrick
  7. I have two sisters (I am the middle child)
  8. As a child I wanted to become a marine biologist and study sharks
  9. I was living in Berlin when the Berlin Wall came down
  10. I won a Royal Television Society award for my degree animation film

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