In the aftermath of St. Patrick's Day, Oh Dear Geoffrey author, Gemma O'Neill talks to us about her St. Patrick's Day traditions and how growing up in Ireland has influenced her work
I absolutely love St. Patrick’s Day. It’s one of my favourite days of the year, if not my favourite. It’s right up there with Christmas, Easter and birthdays. Since childhood it has always been an eventful one. I always used to go to Portstewart (my neighbour town) with my family to watch lots of very brave people jump into the sea dressed as leprechauns, shamrocks and all sorts of other wonderful costumes.
As an adult it has always been a whole long day to catch up with my oldest friends at the local pub. It means a lot to me and it’s definitely a lot more special than the average day. It begins with Irish stew, we’re all dressed in green and it’s one of those days you really don’t have to feel guilty about taking a break from work.
Apart from when I studied Illustration in Falmouth I’ve lived on the North Coast of Ireland my entire life. It’s a really beautiful spot and I’ve always spent a lot of time outdoors because of that. If I could live on the beaches I would!
The outdoors and nature have definitely had a really huge influence on my work. Even as a child nothing made me happier than rolling out the blank side of wallpaper the full length of the garden and drawing all day long in the sunshine (if we were lucky enough to have sunshine!) Designing and crafting mini zoos strangely took up a big part of my childhood too.
My art teacher at school must have shared my interests in nature as he set lots of nature based projects. I worked on an African themed project the year before my GCSEs. Then my GCSE projects focused on local harbours and packaging design with a bird theme. Nature also dominated my A-levels and my art and design foundation year focusing on forests and the seaside again.
If I’m outside I’m actually a lot more likely to have a camera in my hand than a pencil. I’d much rather be exploring, but a camera still manages to capture what I see, without losing too much time. I really enjoy taking photographs though. It wasn’t until my degree that I realised all the textures I’ve been focusing in on with my camera all these years are the very textures I use subconsciously in my illustrations!
I recently moved to Portrush, just across the road from one of my favourite beaches, so I don’t see nature taking a back seat with my work anytime soon. Infact, the sea is playing a big part in a current project! I’ve been very lucky to be able to move to one of my favourite places and it’s my first home away from home outside of university too! It’s also the first time I’ve had a proper little illustration studio of my own.
I’m so excited to see the work I produce in such a lovely part of the world over the next year.
Visit Gemma's website or follow her on Twitter @GemsONeill to keep up to date with all her projects