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#MeetTheResident – Gemma O’Neill

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Gemma O’Neill is an Illustrator and Author based in Belfast and Blick Resident of Hill Street Studios.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your business?

My name is Gemma O’Neill and I’m an Illustrator/Author. I graduated from Falmouth University back in 2011 with a BA (Hons) Degree in Illustration and my first authored and illustrated children’s picture book deal after visiting the Bologna Children’s Book Fair during my final year of study.

I gave up my day job around a year and half ago to work completely freelance. It was a great decision. It gave me the opportunity to broaden my portfolio and take on a wider range of projects alongside working in children’s publishing. I also have my own print business now too.

 Any projects you’re currently working on?

I’m currently developing a children’s alphabet board book, counting board book, two new picture books and a potential series of information children’s books. I’m also working on an ongoing project, Houses of Hillsborough for an exhibition with In Klöver sometime after the summer.

Another ongoing project is my print business, which started online with prints and greetings cards. I’m hoping to build on the range of products soon, as well as grow my number of stockists.

What was the biggest hurdle for you starting out and how did you overcome it?

My biggest hurdle starting out was becoming homeless in between working on my first and second picture book. What should have been a wonderful, exciting time, was probably one of the most stressful experiences I’ve ever had and it took a long time to recover from. However, I remained creative throughout the time, which was comforting. Making it through something like that can really cement your dreams further and make you even more determined to succeed. It really drives my work and overall approach to life now.

How do you stay creative/inspired?

I find it useful to have several projects on the go at one time. It takes the pressure of each individual project and alternating between projects keeps the work fresh too. I also find it great to separate work from the hobby, by working on personal projects. It’s still important to draw, colour and write just for the joy of it. It’s the love for these individual things that made me choose my particular career path to begin with! I find location drawing very useful too. It’s great to get away from the desk and I work quite freely when I’m outside or under pressure with people around me. This freeness usually feeds through to whatever I’m working on in the studio.

It’s great to be creative in other ways too. I’ve always loved photography, perhaps because of the link to storytelling and composition or perhaps because it’s another visual language.

It’s good to just detach from creativity too. One of my greatest sources of inspiration is nature and the great outdoors. I love hiking and always go back to my desk feeling very refreshed afterwards. Travelling has the same effect too. It’s great to see different places and experience different cultures.

Who is your creative hero?

I have a few! But my top three are Roald Dahl, Quentin Blake and JK Rowling. Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake brought about my love for books from a young age. Roald Dahl is the ultimate children’s storyteller to me, an absolute original, who will never be replaced. I still read all of his books over and over again today. I think Quentin Blake is the ultimate illustrator too. I doubt there’s anything he can’t illustrate and the joy for what he does just shines through in his illustrations. They’re so freeing to look at. I think JK Rowling is a bit of a genius too. The Harry Potter series is timeless. All ages can relate to the stories. She’s also just a very strong, inspirational lady!

 What piece of software/ tool/ equipment would you struggle to run your business without?

There are so many things I couldn’t run my business without. It all begins with getting an idea down on a page, either in illustration format or written format. So a pencil, a pen and a sketchbook are absolutely essential. Materials such as gouache, watercolours, ink, crayons and colouring pencils are necessary for generating artwork too. Then beyond the traditional side of working as an illustrator… a scanner, computer, Photoshop and InDesign are essential for bringing illustrations up to print or website standard.

What’s your top tip/piece of advice for anyone wanting to start their own creative business?

Surround yourself with positive people, people who believe in you and people who inspire you… the right people, basically. Time is incredibly valuable and the wrong people are a waste of your time. The right environment can definitely influence the people you have around you too. I moved to just outside Belfast about a year and a half ago. There are greater opportunities here and I’ve been lucky to meet lots of like-minded people too, which always has a positive impact on creativity. The move has really normalised my career choice as well and being around so many inspiring creative people makes anything feel possible.

You can learn more about our Hill Street Residents https://www.blickstudios.org/hill-street-residents/

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Instagram post 2152379881164874480_295518986 Have you ever struggled to find clarity on your creative journey?
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If you think this is for you, sign up today! Take that first step in to making a commitment to yourself!THE TIME IS NOW!
Instagram post 2151592073558808379_295518986 Lunch break in the Cathedral Quarter. Love working in this part of our city!
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Instagram post 2150351237198321252_295518986 #thetimeisnow life after university event tonight in Black Box Belfast key takeaways for creative graduates - it's not an easy journey , keep building your creative & technical skills, don't be too hard on yourself, say yes to opportunities, network & just get started
Instagram post 2150225652228757071_295518986 Cathedral Quarter holding the charm... whatever the weather!
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Instagram post 2146534546907388553_295518986 The Time is Now // Life After University
Date : 8th October
Location : The Black Box
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We are excited to introduce our final panellist @niamhxcunn  who is a Belfast based creative.
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Niamh is a Belfast-based Creative who is currently working as a Creative Producer at Mammoth Branding Agency.
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Although she studied Animation at Ulster University, she found herself drawn to working on set whether it was with Fashion or with Film/Television.  This allowed her to make connections and work with brands as a Creative Director, Stylist and Model to create content for social media platforms.
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At the moment, Niamh is searching for her next creative endeavour.
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Get your ticket at https://www.blickstudios.org/events/the-time-is-now-life-after-university/
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#belfast #belfastcreatives #blickstudios #design #paneldiscussion #storytelling #diversity #stories
Instagram post 2146522697562419124_295518986 The Time is Now // Life After University
Date : 8th October
Location : The Black Box
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We are excited to introduce our fourth panellist Alice Kearney who is a graphic designer & illustrator based in Belfast.
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"I’m Alice Kearney, a graphic designer and illustrator living in Belfast. My work is usually a good blend of both crafts. After I graduated from Graphic Design & Illustration in 2017 from Ulster University, Belfast I’ve worked full time in design studios and I also freelance on the side.
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Music is a big inspiration for me as a lot of the work I do is for the NI music scene. I work with a lot of emerging musicians and regularly brand Oh Yeah Music Centre events such as the Northern Ireland Music Prize and the Sound of Belfast festival. I wanted to take part in the discussion as graduate life can be a bit tricky and hopefully, I can help out another creative trying to navigate the world post-uni."
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Book your space today at https://www.blickstudios.org/events/the-time-is-now-life-after-university/
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#paneldiscussion #storytelling
#conversation #belfast #creativeindustries #graphicdesign #creatingaspace
Instagram post 2145969183333296990_295518986 The Time is Now // Life After University
Date : 8th October
Location : Black Box
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We are excited to introduce our third panellist Mark Fenning who is a Lens based artist and Digital Media Assistant.
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A graduate from the Ulster University, he attained a First-Class Honours degree in Fine Art (2013) and a Master with Commendation in Arts Management from Queen’s University Belfast (2017).
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His art making practice explores photographic printmaking techniques, photography, polaroid and alternative photographic processes.
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His artwork is inspired by representations of masculinity in fashion and film.
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His Masters research examined creative employment pathways and he feels this panel will be a great discussion from different perspectives of the creative industries.
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Book your space today at : https://www.blickstudios.org/events/the-time-is-now-life-after-university/
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#paneldiscussion #panel #conversation #storytelling #belfast #creativeindustries
Instagram post 2145106086544697970_295518986 Little stretch of the legs was well timed in between the showers in the Cathedral Quarter today!
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Instagram post 2141572703352869824_295518986 Where are the light nights going already?!
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Instagram post 2141429763846488942_295518986 Join us for our first Share 6 event of 2019 – “POWER” over @belfastdesignwk on the 4th of November from 7:30 - 9PM in our Belfast Design Week Hub.
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We’ll be joined by 6 creative industry speakers who have all stepped outside of the usual patterns in their specialist areas to come up with new and exciting ventures, to think creatively or change paths entirely.
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The theme for this year for @belfastdesignwk is ‘POWER’ and the word has its intricacies have so much sway on our personal and professional lives. Power can be seen as positive or negative.
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Power can be a constant struggle or it can be delicately shared. Power can be a responsibility that some of us wish we had, or a stronghold we wish others didn’t. Its dynamic is an integral part of the design industry today, and it is why we’re excited to be exploring this theme for Belfast Design Week 2019.
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Our speakers are:
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Lucinda Graham / @lucindaggg_
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Rachel O’Grady /
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Liam O’Neill / @liamonetwo
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Hannah Sharp / @hannahlizsharp
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Melanie Wiggins / @melwiggins
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Jamie Baird / @jamiebeardillustration
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#events #belfastdesignweek #power #creative #empowerment #belfast
Instagram post 2139993802080228401_295518986 Busy day of meetings and errands in the Cathedral Quarter so far. Love this part of our city... even on the greyest of days!
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#walktowork #belfast #lovebelfast #cathedralquarter #CQBelfast #northernireland #explorebelfast #explore #discoverni #trekkingni #niexplorer #travel #graffiti #wallart #art #artist #artwork #painting #design #creative #city #nidesign #cityscape #belfastcreatives #citylife #urban #photography
Instagram post 2139968897393559087_295518986 @womenfolk.co & Blick Shared Studios & @creatingaspace have teamed up to create a unique interactive event with a panel of female design entrepreneurs based in Belfast talking about their experiences as a female entrepreneur , the journey in the design industry and how they have crafted their business up until this point. The panel will be taking place on the 5th November during @belfastdesignwk
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The phrase ‘The Time is Now’ came from noticing a change within Belfast within the creative scene. We love that there is a rush of women in design that are inspired to pursue their creative dreams. .
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There will be a panel of four female designers from different design disciplines and backgrounds discussing their perspective of achieving success within the design industries. We will be asking the panellists to share their story of how they built their businesses and what the realities they have faced in the midst of creating an entrepreneurial lifestyle.
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Book your space at Blickstudios.org
Instagram post 2139201445055334038_295518986 We are delighted once again to be involved with @belfastdesignwk now in its 5th year. Belfast Design Week is a collaborative festival, last year there were more than 100 individuals, small businesses and organisations involved in over 60 events throughout the week. The festival is a great celebration of Belfast as a creative city. There is currently an open call for people/businesses to get involved with this year's festival, if you have an idea for an event, are interested in volunteering or submitting an article you can get all the info here http://belfastdesignweek.com/
Instagram post 2136307233603442912_295518986 What a morning! ☀️ A little detour was called for on the way to our Cathedral Quarter studios
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#walktowork #belfast #lovebelfast #cathedralquarter #CQBelfast #ireland #northernireland #explore #travel #graffiti #wallart #art #artist #artwork #painting #design #creative #city #nidesign #cityscape #belfastcreatives #citylife #urban #autumn
Instagram post 2135677884973868880_295518986 Lovely peaceful Wednesday here in our Hill Street studio
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#cathedralquarter #belfast #northernireland #belfastcreatives #sharedworkspace #sharedstudio #workspace #coworking #creative #creativeindustries #design #nidesign #explorebelfast
Instagram post 2134439374883376928_295518986 -- NEW FREE WORKSHOP-- Pitching with @timtendo. Learn how to communicate your business idea and get people excited about your creative business. Wednesday 23rd October 6.30pm - 8.00pm. Limited places
https://www.blickstudios.org/events/blick-academy-pitching-workshop/
Instagram post 2131336993530373739_295518986 Definitely a day for staying put in the studio!
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#cathedralquarter #belfast #northernireland #belfastcreatives #sharedworkspace #sharedstudio #workspace #coworking #creative #creativeindustries #design #designer #art #artwork #artist #wallart #nidesign #explorebelfast
Instagram post 2130566333094774766_295518986 We recently caught up with Ronan Lunney interviewing him on his time in Blick after being here 5 years!
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He speaks about what he has learnt in business, how the Blick space has been beneficial for his business and top tips for people just starting out! To read the full article visit https://www.blickstudios.org/blog-posts/ronan-lunney-farewell-blog/
-We are also excited that he is facilitating a 4 Week Squarespace course starting tonight! He will be covering the foundation of what you need to create a website on Squarespace! To book your space today, visit https://getinvited.to/blick-shared-studios/blick-academy-squarespace-course/
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.#coworking #workspace #creative #belfast #deskspace #sharedworkspace #creativeindustries #creativeentrepreneur #startup #creativespace
#blickstudios
Instagram post 2130496273772954643_295518986 When you can create in a beautiful environment, inspiration hits and everything clicks.
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Our Malone Road studios always shines light, even on those hard full days.
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Always find your light! Today is one of those beautiful days!
Instagram post 2129828232236000981_295518986 Lovely day for meetings in the Cathedral Quarter
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#art #design #belfast #belfastcity #instabelfast #lovebelfast #northernireland #ireland #discoverni #explorebelfast #visitbelfast #belfastart #city #cathedralquarter #insta_ni_ #architecture #CQBelfast #themac