Gabrielle McClure is a freelance illustrator working out of her home in Richmond, Virginia. After attending VCU for fashion design, she began her career as an illustrator for machine embroidery where she developed her unique artistic style. Now designing for print, her work is often playful yet nostalgic, subtle while inviting, and always paying close attention to the balance of color and detail. Here’s what she had to say to us:
BBP: Describe your style in 5 words or less!
Gabrielle: Playful, harmonious, nostalgic and lighthearted
BBP: What is your creative process like?
Gabrielle: It usually starts with an idea that’ll hit me while observing things around me, whether it’s while going on a walk or something happening in my life that inspires me. Sometimes I’ll spend an entire day walking through an antique mall and just lose myself in inspiration. From there, I’ll brainstorm and make lists, gather images for reference and let the designing begin.
BBP: Do you always work from the same spot- a studio, a particular desk, etc.- or do you move around?
Gabrielle: When I’m designing I always work from my desk in our home office. It’s amazing what you can do in one spot with a computer. One day I would really love to have more space with my own studio so I can experiment with more traditional methods like screen-printing.
BBP: How has your style changed over the years?
Gabrielle: I’d say it’s definitely gotten more focused and thoughtful. It’s always interesting to look back at work I’ve done in the past and see how much I’ve evolved. My past work feels a little more cluttered than the work I do now. I think my color story has gotten a lot stronger lately too, and I’ve discovered that I really like simplicity in my designs.
Gabrielle: Color is so important to me. I am notorious for using softer colors and earth tones, even in the way I dress. I’ve always had a hard time with really bold colors, but sometimes I’ll challenge myself and throw some in there. I recently went on a primary color binge and really loved it because it was so different from what I usually do. I love collecting photographs of color combinations or patterns that catch my eye, and am often inspired by vintage objects because they so resonate with my personal creative style.
BBP: Did you always know that you wanted to design for kids and families?
Gabrielle: It really wasn’t until about a year ago that I realized how much I love designing for kids. It helps that my particular style is very kid friendly as well, which is probably why it developed the way it did. Nothing makes me happier than thinking an image I’m creating might bring joy to a child out there. Children are so aware of their environments and the thought of one of my designs making a lasting impression is fantastic.
BBP: Do you think art is important for kids? Why?
Gabrielle: Art is extremely important for kids. I think all children have an inherent need to be creative, and it is so crucial for them to be able to express themselves at a young age. As we grow older, we get so weighed down with the burdens of life that we forget about that creative spark within. We can understand so much about ourselves by expression through art. We should encourage children to let their minds be free and open to that creativity so as they grow older they can be more in tune with themselves, and each other.
BBP: Tell us about your favorite one of your designs on the site: Which one is it? Why? What inspired it?
Gabrielle: I think my favorite design right now is the Scandinavian Toy Horses. As I was pushing myself to expand my color palette I came across some vintage Scandinavian folk art and was instantly drawn into the brightly decorated aesthetic. It incorporates the simplicity I am drawn to while adding texture with the floral elements. It always taps into my inner kid self when I look at it for some reason.
BBP: Do you have kids?
Gabrielle: My husband and I would love nothing more than to have little ones of our own! When we were married a little over two years ago we knew we wanted to start a family, and thus began the planning process. We are still on our journey to becoming parents but remain hopeful that we will be someday soon!
Gabrielle: Yes! My tabby cat and constant companion, Leelou, keeps me company while I work and provides me background noise with her snoring.
BBP: Where did you grow up?
Gabrielle: I grew up just outside of Richmond, Virginia in Mechanicsville. It was a great place to grow up and I made many lifelong friendships there. My mother is an artist as well, and my father is a counselor and clinical hypnotherapist so my brother and I had a pretty unique upbringing. From the very beginning they cultivated our creativity and I am so grateful for that.
BBP: What was your most prized possession as a kid? Tell us about it!
Gabrielle: The one item I cherished the most was this beautiful porcelain music box that played “Singing in the Rain”. It had a boy and girl huddled under an umbrella and I remember looking at it and playing it often. I actually did a design inspired by it recently and loved reminiscing about it!
BBP: What did your room look like growing up?
Gabrielle: It was pretty eclectic from what I remember, and not nearly as well planned out as kid’s rooms you see today. Paintings by my mom, drawings by me, posters of pop singers and lots of ceramic cat figurines! I also distinctly remember a set of sheets by Marimekko with lots of solid colored animals on wheels. Go figure!
Gabrielle: My favorite midnight snack hands down is popcorn. If I even think about it, I have to have it. Hi my name is Gabrielle, and I have a popcorn problem.
BBP: Are you usually late, early, or right on time?
Gabrielle: Right on time. I am very punctual and hate being late. I also hate being early because it can be awkward. For everyone.
BBP: Do you have a favorite quote or saying? What is it and why?
Gabrielle: My latest favorite quote by Elbert Hubbard speaks to my anxieties about putting myself out there: “To escape criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.” It can be so intimidating to show your work to the world, especially these days with social media, that it can threaten to stifle your creativity altogether. There is so much talent out there, and we have so much immediate access to it, that it can start to make you question your abilities and over think other peoples perceptions of your work. If you let what others MIGHT think get to you, you end up not being true to your craft and therefore not happy with your work. There will always be people there to criticize, but it’s better to put it out there and be true to yourself, knowing someone will appreciate it, than to do nothing at all.
BBP: Beach or mountains?
Gabrielle: Mountains. There is something incredibly cleansing about stepping out into nature and smelling the dirt.
BBP: Tell us a fun fact about yourself!
Gabrielle: I have dual citizenship with the U.S. and Canada. My mother is from Quebec originally, which allowed me to be able to apply for Canadian citizenship. It eventually led me to live in Vancouver for a while a few years ago. It was one of the most memorable times in my life!