Amazingly Talented Illustrator Interview: Gaia Cornwall

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by Jessika Hepburn, Editor

You know those moments when you see a piece of art or illustration and instantly connect with the picture? I have those every time I see a piece of art by illustrator Gaia Cornwall. Her custom  portraits of children are a real showcase of her skill. They capture the essence of each child, you can almost see the skinned knees & dirty hands, you want to hug them and feed them cookies-or tell them to go clean their mess up! To me that is one of the qualities of a truly amazing illustrator, the ability to make you connect with the image rather then just seeing a pretty picture. So I jumped on the chance to interview Gaia for Oh My! Handmade and share her wonderfulness with you all.

gaia cornwall, modern childrens portraits, custom illustrated portraits, childrens illustrator

1. Hi Gaia! I am really excited to get the chance to share your art & gorgeous children’s portraits on Oh My! Handmade. How did you get your start in art and illustration?

Thanks so much Jessika.  And hi everybody!  I’m so happy to be here on Oh My! Handmade– Thanks for having me.
Well, I was definitely one of those kids who grew up in a creative household and was pretty much drawing before I could talk and have basically continued to do so every since.  For college, I went to Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and studied animation and film.  Afterwards, I did a bunch of different jobs: video editor, animator, film festival producer… but eventually I found my way back to illustration which really was my first love. A few years ago, I realized that kids and anything child related was my favorite thing to draw, so I’ve been focusing more on the children’s market.
gaia cornwall, modern childrens portraits, custom illustrated portraits, childrens illustrator
2. Your new line of custom children’s portraits is so unique and beautiful, you really manage to capture the personality of the child! What inspired you to start offering a portrait service?
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Thanks so much!  That’s always the goal, so I’m happy that comes through.  Offering portraits was something I should have done a long time ago– especially as I do a lot of “grown up” portrait work for magazines and products.  I think it clicked for me after working on a project where I drew a bunch of kids making silly faces.  I had so much fun, a little light bulb went off in my head.  That’s when I started researching it and seeing what other people were doing and if it was actually feasible.  Happily, it seems to be taking off!
gaia cornwall, modern childrens portraits, custom illustrated portraits, childrens illustrator
3. You have illustrated for a number of magazines, businesses & publications, what has your favorite project been so far?

Oh gosh.  Well, one of my last projects was with the (wonderful!) online children’s magazine LMNOP.  They threw a holiday contest, and parents submitted their kid’s letters to Santa along with a photo.  Then I got to do portraits of the five winners based on the really fun and silly pictures they sent in.  My only regret was that I didn’t get to illustrate their lists as well. Unfortunately, we ran out of time. Ponies, imaginary owl pets, robot-stegasaurses(!)– Such a bummer.   I also just finished up a small editorial illustration about what to feed babies.  –Kids and food, two of my favorite things!  I’m realizing now that a cookbook for children would a dream job.
gaia cornwall, modern childrens portraits, custom illustrated portraits, childrens illustrator
4. Are you a full time artist or do you juggle another job too?

Right now, I’m a full time illustrator– doing portraits, editorial and product work.  I also do logos– mostly for small creative businesses– which I really enjoy as well.  I live in Providence, RI and frankly the low rent/overhead definitely plays a large part in making this possible.  We lived in Brooklyn for over a decade, and I watched kids, as well as illustrated.  It was really the perfect job and I miss them every day!  But being able to focus on just my work, without a “day job” is such a gift and I’m grateful.
gaia cornwall, modern childrens portraits, custom illustrated portraits, childrens illustrator
5. This month we are talking about business & internet ethics on OMHG, as an artist/illustrator have you had any personal experience with issues like plagiarism and copyright? How do you protect your work (if at all)?

Thankfully, not so much with plagiarism.  I keep hearing of these awful stories–most recently the Gap and Gemma Correll— and my heart just aches.  But more on the copyright end of things, yeah I deal with those a lot.  When you illustrate something for a client, generally you don’t sell the client the work itself, you sell part of the rights to it.  Ie you can use this image on your t shirt, and on your website.  But you can’t give it to a friend to use, or say, start putting it on mugs and hats or something, without buying additional rights.  In my experience, this has come up more with smaller clients who certainly aren’t trying to be malicious, they just aren’t aware of how it works.  I’ve learned the hard way that contracts for most jobs are necessary and if I get the sense that they’re new to this I try and explain how things work a bit.  On the other hand, I try not to go too crazy worrying about it all.  Not in a naive way necessarily, more just a sad acknowledgement that if you’re in the business of making images, someone is going to copy you, and I feel like it’s more important to pick my battles and spend my time wisely.  And to just keep creating and moving forward.
gaia cornwall, modern childrens portraits, custom illustrated portraits, childrens illustrator
Thank you so much for visiting with us Gaia~ I have a custom portrait for my girls on my Christmas wish list now!
Be sure to check out Gaia’s website & portfolio full of incredible art + consider her if you are looking for a beautiful custom illustrated logo (psst she also illustrates for Aeolidia which is how I found her!). You can also find Gaia on Twitter and Facebook.
  • http://aeolidia.com/ Arianne

    Yay, Gaia! I love the portraits. I can also vouch for Gaia’s great attitude and professionalism when working with clients.

  • Stephanie Douglas

    This is a great interview! I like how you pose the questions and how it encourages good, well thought out answers. I think that Gaia’s work is truly fun and beatiful and would love to have both my granddaughter’s captured by her art.
    I also really like her comments on how she deals with small companies and copywrite issues. All together and well crafted interview and a good read.

  • http://gaiacornwall.com/ Gaia

    Thanks so much for the interview Jessika!

    And thanks for your very sweet comments ladies.
    I just love working with Aeolidia clients!

    And Stephanie, I’d love to work with you to create portraits of your granddaughters:)