You might have heard of cartoonist Gemma Correll or at least seen her work on Facebook, Twitter, website… ALMOST EVERYWHERE. So when I tried my luck and decided to shoot her an email asking her to be a part of Five Questions, I realized “I had nothing to lose” (a phrase my editor at Deccan Chronicle often repeated when we were intimidated to get larger-than-life interviews). What I got in return, this time around, was a mini-happy panic attack: Hi Anisha, Absolutely, send the questions over whenever you’re ready. Thanks! Gemma
Q1. How and when did you realize that you wanted to be a cartoonist?
I realized at a young age that I wanted to be a cartoonist—or a writer or an illustrator. I loved books and I enjoyed reading my dad’s Far Side anthology and anthologies of the work of the British cartoonist Carl Giles. I just loved the combination of text and image— my two favorite things—with humor.
When other kids did class presentations about soccer players and pop stars, I did mine on Carl Giles, he was my rock star. I was constantly reading, writing and drawing. I’d make books out of old notepads I found at home and comics using the photocopier at school (I was very lucky that my school allowed me to use their facilities to make my comics, which I sold for 20p, with a penny sweet sellotaped to the front).
I went to college to study illustration—I wasn’t very confident in my work by that time and I was unsure whether I could make it as a cartoonist, but I managed to get a few jobs after graduating and the work that I posted online was popular, so I kept working hard and finally went full-time as a freelance illustrator/cartoonist in 2009.
Q2. If you were to describe yourself in five words what would it be?
Introverted, creative, messy, small, alwayscoveredinpughair.
Q3. Why animals in your cartoons?
I love animals. I draw them because they’re more fun to draw than people. I have two pugs named Mr Pickles and Bella. They are hilarious and wonderful and they inspire me every day.
Q4. Criticism of the work that initially shattered you but was a blessing in disguise?
When I was studying at art school, I tried to paint and draw in the way that I thought that I “should”. I didn’t consider the cartoony and simple drawings that I made in my sketchbook to be “real” art. My professor suggested to me that what I was trying to do wasn’t really working, as it didn’t seem authentic. He said that the work in my sketchbooks, the comics, and zines that I made, were much better—initially, I really resisted that. I thought my paintings were good and I wanted to keep working that way. Eventually, I came around to his point of view and I’m glad I did because that’s the way I work now—and my paintings were pretty bad!
Q5. Highlights of 2016 and what are you looking forward to in 2017?
I was invited to go to Singapore for the Singapore writer’s festival in November—that was absolutely amazing and I am so grateful that I was given the opportunity to go. This year, I’m working on a new book and although it’s challenging, I’m excited about it. It’s going to be more of a personal narrative-based book, based on my diary comics.
Born and raised in India, Anisha Dhiman moved to Toronto to study Publishing and then Lifestyle Media at Centennial College. Writer, social media strategist and content creator, Anisha is the founder of Five Question Series, where she profiles people… you guessed it, by asking five questions. In her free time, she enjoys reading and trolling people with puppy GIFs and memes. Her only phobia? Losing her sight, but staring at the screen all day long doesn’t help much.