‘Self Portrait’ from Portraits by Gemma Duffill. ‘Painted for my end of course showcase for my design diploma. I wanted to paint something that represents my style and my creativity.’ (Painted in Corel Painter and Photoshop. Additional elements in Illustrator) Artwork courtesy of Gemma Duffill.
‘I found there was a magic to animation,
especially traditional animation, in bringing drawings to life. It was captivating. I have never really grown out of cartoons and animated films.’
artist and illustrator Gemma Duffill was born in December 1987 on the Gold Coast, in the state of Queensland, Australia, to an engineer father and a mother who worked as a dental nurse.
‘I grew up in a Queenslander on a quarter-acre block and I loved that house,’ Gemma says. ‘I don’t really know when I started to draw but I remember that my brothers used to draw a lot when I was growing up. They stopped
as they got older, but I never did.
‘The private school I went to on the Gold Coast had a pretty good art curriculum. Both of the art teachers I had while I was there
encouraged my enthusiasm for art, and I always looked forward to reading their comments on my report cards. As well as taking art classes, we went on several excursions to art galleries in Brisbane. One year my artwork was published in one of the end of year
books. That was very exciting for me and my work was also featured in the Energies exhibition at the Gold Coast Performing Arts Centre while I was at school.
was a wide selection of art books in the school library that I used to borrow and read after school, as well as raiding those in the public library. As I was growing up, the Internet was becoming more commonplace in homes and schools, so I was also exposed
to the growing art communities online – such as Elfwood and Deviantart.
‘When I was younger both my parents encouraged me to pursue my passion for art. But, as
I entered senior school and it came time to start thinking about a career, my dad did try to convince me to try and find a ‘sensible’ career. He continued to do this, particularly after I finished my first course and struggled to find work in animation,
and it did sometimes create a bit of tension between us.
‘But I was always drawing. I started out drawing with pencil and paper then moved on to paints. As I grew and
as technology grew, I turned to digital art and was mostly self taught until I went to university and TAFE.
‘I couldn’t bear the thought of not doing art. When
it came time to pick a career path I just knew that I’d be unhappy if I didn’t do something creative with my life. The teachers and my school always told us to pick something we were good at and something we enjoyed. So I did. I enrolled in an
‘I did have a backup plan in mind. Teaching art always appealed to me and at one point I did get to teach students aged from about 8-12 during the
school holidays, at public libraries and at the occasional school. I found it incredibly enjoyable – some of these kids had never had art classes before! Graphic design was also an option and, as it turns out, I did end up going down the graphic design
‘Straight out of school I did my Bachelor of Animation at Griffith University. It was a fantastic course and I met people there who will be my friends for life.
It also rapidly improved my illustration skills in the space of three years. I found there was a magic to animation – especially traditional animation – in bringing drawings to life. It was captivating. I have never really grown out of cartoons
and animated films.
‘There is a common misconception, incidentally, that 3D animation is easier than traditional animation (like the old Disney animation) and it is
far from it. I can’t argue that one is harder than the other; they both have aspects where it’s harder or easier to do things in those mediums. 3D (as in CG Animation) is a comparatively new form of animation – it is dependent on computer
hardware after all.
‘We didn’t have a full feature length CG animated film until Toy Story in 1995. The art form has been improving as fast as computer
technology is growing. 3D animation or CG animation is what dominates theatres now. It features in most movies with special effects and it’s how most animated films are made now. Of course it’s always been a part of computer and video games for
as long as they have existed. It isn’t going away.
‘As the name suggests this form of animation is “computer generated”, but that doesn’t take
away from its artistic merit or from the skill of the animators. Everything in a CG animation has to be made and designed by someone via a computer. The characters still have to be designed, modelled, rigged, skinned, textured, animated and lit by people.
You can think of the computer as just a very high tech brush.’
After all that time, effort, determination and study, how easy was it for you to find work related
to your qualifications and skills?
‘My first ever job was working in administration and as a draftsperson for my dad’s engineering firm while I studied for
my animation degree. I was there for seven years while I studied and looked for work, up until I started my diploma when I worked as a data entry person.
I wasn’t able to get a job in animation and had to keep working for my dad’s engineering firm as a draftsperson and admin assistant. Finding work in creative fields is always difficult. I had dreams of making and working in animated films or TV.
I still do. One day I plan to get back into animating and make a short film.
‘Anyway, while I was still at the firm, I rebranded the company when dad bought out his
partner. I designed the logo that they used for a time, which was similar to the old one in order to create an association, but new enough to show that the firm was under just his management. I also created pull-up banners and print adverts as well as a cartoon
Christmas card for a few years.’