Gemma O'Brien, Artist & Designer

Gemma O'Brien is prolific, hard-working and wildly talented. We've admired the beauty and epic scale of her work for some time, and are stoked to have an insight to her practice. And don't stop here - Gemma's keynote at Adobe MAX is the bomb!  

What do you do?

I am an artist and designer specialising in lettering, typography, illustration and murals.

Do you have a maxim that you live and work by?

Take your work seriously, not yourself.

What are the three milestones that have led you to where you stand?

(1) Quitting Law School

(2) Speaking at TypoBerlin when I was 21 and

(3) Painting my first large scale installation in 2012.


What projects do you have in the pipeline?

Right now, I’m working on a solo show at China Heights which will open in April 2017 and a handful of commercial jobs.

What is your dream project?

Buying some land in the bush and creating a little gallery building that I continually paint and repaint with various murals and installations over time.

What’s something surprising about you, that we might not know?

I make a mean vegetarian lasagne and I’m really, really messy.

If you could choose to hear from any female contemporary at a Make Nice event, who would it be and why?

Frankie Ratford – she is really the best example I can think of who has put her career, dreams and vision into action with a lot of hard work.

What is the best advice you’ve been given, or wish you had been told sooner?

Be strategic about the commercial work you choose to do as it plays a part in shaping how people categorise your work.

Do you have a supportive female network in your field? Was it always this way?

I have many female friends in my network – creatives, illustrators and entrepreneurs – who all support each other online and in real life. Luckily, I do feel like there has always been a strong network of supporters throughout my career, both male and female.

Can you share a creative experience that you have found defining?

I’ll always remember walking into my first Yayoi Kusama installation at MCA gallery. It was the first time I remember thinking that I wanted to create artwork that was physically immersive and had a grand sense of scale.

What are you listening to, reading, watching of late, that is inspiring or entertaining you?

I am listening to Anderson Paak while I run, reading Esther Perel “Mating in Captivity”, watching Homeland on Netflix and being inspired by NASA’s space image archives.

What is one facet of your field that you want to see change?

I think in the wake of Instagram there has been a strong shift towards the power of one image. It would be great to find a way to add more depth, research and story to the ideas we present on social media and for the audience to expect that as well.

How can we find our more about your work? 

@mrseaves101 on Instagram; for portfolio links and to contact me for commissions.

Who would you most like to answer these questions next?

Perhaps too ambitious… Jenny Holzer!