The people have spoken!

Friday, 9 June 2017

People's choice winners Rhiannon Mowat (l) and Serena Geddes (r)

By Kath Dolan

Paper + Pixel exhibition award winners Serena Geddes and Rhiannon Mowat are floored by their recent success and have canny advice for IA members reluctant to exhibit their work.

Children’s book illustrator Serena Geddes was stunned to win the Speaker’s Award on opening night of IA’s Paper + Pixel exhibition at Collingwood Gallery in May. Her amusing ink cartoon The Illustrator was submitted at the 11th hour from an Instagram series created recently purely for fun.

You can imagine her shock when she discovered last week that The Freelancer had also scooped The People’s Choice Award, along with freelancer illustrator Rhiannon Mowat’s lush coloured-pencil-on-paper piece Overwhelmed.

“I was completely gobsmacked because I helped set up … so I saw the calibre of work I was mounting on these boards and it was just amazing,” Serena says. Although she has assisted on IA committees and events over several years, Serena had never exhibited in an IA show before. “To be honest I think I was a bit nervous about putting anything in,” she concedes.

Serena’s publishing work has been going gangbusters for some time. She created a “crazy” nine books last year and is currently collaborating on a bunch more, including a new series with local writer-illustrator Adam Wallace and her first as author-illustrator, with Simon & Schuster in the US. Two months ago, she realised back-to-back client work was leaving no time for the personal projects so crucial in staying fresh creatively.

'The Freelancer' by Serena Geddes

At a friend’s suggestion Serena began devoting between 10 and 60 minutes each day to drawing for fun with no expectations. Her joy returned and The Freelancer was born. And though her new series is winning awards and building social media followers, its purpose remains pure play. “I’m learning that that feels really good, so of course the work after that’s going to feel pretty good,” she says.

Serena’s co-winner in the People’s Choice Award, Rhiannon Mowat, has been exhibiting for more than a decade, and freelancing for clients like Koko Black and Scholastic. But it’s only now that she feels like she has really hit her stride and found her voice. “Communicating emotions is a big thing in my personal work,” she says. “It’s hard to explain to someone at times how you feel, and I guess (I’m) trying to put that in an image.”

'Overwhelmed' by Rhiannon Mowat

So the recognition of Overwhelmed at Paper + Pixel was deeply gratifying. “You pour so much into (your work) and hope that people get what you’re trying to put across,” Rhiannon says. “And then when they do, it’s just the best.”  

Both artists are excited and nervous about their People’s Choice Award prize: in-depth folio feedback from creative agency Jacky Winter. They urge any IA members reluctant to exhibit their work to give it a try. “The great thing about an exhibition is there’s a lot of different things everyone can get from it,” Rhiannon says. “There’s awards but also there’s sales, you can get new fans for your work, new followers on your social media, you can get attention from industry people.”

Serena advises viewing IA’s depth of talent as inspiration, not competition. “We always compare ourselves to each other and we should stop doing that because we’ve all got a different voice,” she says. “There’s a market, there’s a need … for everything that we can create.”

Did you land some useful work, contacts or opportunities exhibiting at Paper + PIxel? We’d love to hear your feedback on the show:

Check out the continuing hilarious 'Freelancer' saga here!:


'The Freelancer' by Serena Geddes