Get inspired by the feminine and impactful style of an Annual 2021 Bronze winner | #AnnualSpotlight

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The Annual 2021 winners have been revealed, with some of the most exciting and diverse winners in the history of Creativepool. With the first ever Grand Prix awarded to #Wombstories by Chelsea, this year was also a chance to celebrate equality and inclusion, as we are all going through a number of epochal changes; most of our winners are a testament to just that.

Full time Illustrator and part time Creative Director, Maria Ingram loves creating what she defines "pretty things" for all sorts of clients around the world. A quick look at her work below certainly gives out hints on the big themes she enjoys exploring the most, such as society, femininity, modern life and how all these things affect women.

In this Annual 2021 Spotlight, we are learning more about Maria, Creative Director of her own Brand Rebel Studio, and what made her win a Bronze in The Annual 2021.

View The Annual 2021 Winners!


Maria's award-winning work from The Annual 2021.

Tell us about your winning submissions! What do you think impressed the judges?

My project was a personal one that started back in lockdown 2020. During that time I was starting to explore my thoughts and feelings more through my art, and this project really grew from that experience. I wanted to explore the pressures and expectations that society places onto women and how there are so many complex layers to us all. Plus, I really wanted to look at how we view femininity and really make a move to honour the female form with the lens of the male gaze.

It’s hard to say what impressed the judges, I think they were quite different to the other submissions, so maybe they stood out, I’d like to think it was because they made them stop and think about the women and who they were, what they were thinking…  

What felt unique about taking part in The Annual?

For me, this was my first ever submission to an award, so although in my agency days I have experienced this process as part of a team, every part of this was unique for me personally. It was definitely a good year to take part, there was such a high standard of work involved and it was so interesting to see how the past year has had an affect on so much of our creativity.


If you could name one reason that made you choose to enter this year, what would it be?

Why not? I think that would be it. This year was the first year of trying to take my illustration practice full time, and it felt like the right time to finally get brave and put myself out there. I joined Creativepool last year and managed to hit the top 25 ranking which gave me a free entry into the awards, so the risk became just a personal one, and one that I felt ready to make steps to overcome. 

I love what I do, but as an introverted person I find it hard to put myself forward for things, so this was a huge step outside of my comfort zone, but I’m so glad that I did it!


How do you plan to display your award?

My award is going to have pride of place on my studio wall. I am lucky enough to have my own studio that is nestled in the corner of my garden here in NZ. It’s such a beautiful, tranquil place to work and I can’t wait to see my award up on the wall!

Will you enter again in 2022? If so, what are your hopes?

Wow, that’s a big question. I think that taking part was a huge experience, and I am so honoured to win a Bronze award, I’m not sure how I could top it! But I always have something I want to say through my work, so who knows what the next year will bring… 

What advice would you share with other agencies and individuals looking to grab an award?

Go for it. I have let fear stop me doing so much over the years, but my experience of this Annual award was such a positive one, everyone involved was really supportive and kind. I think that having a clear story to tell around your work helps the judges to really understand the heart of what you were trying to achieve. So don’t skimp on the time you take on talking about your work, honing your story and getting to the heart of what you want you work to really say.


How does winning awards such as The Annual impact your business?

I guess winning awards impacts me in two ways. Firstly, the recognition of your peers is truly awesome for the old confidence, my professional background is in copywriting, so making baby steps into the creative world as an illustrator hasn’t been an easy journey, mentally. I think a lot of women struggle with imposter syndrome and it’s something I have certainly had my fair share of over the past few years. 

Secondly it provides me with a platform to raise my profile, and hopefully gain more creative, interesting projects to work on. I’d love to see my work going out into the world and making an impact for women everywhere. Having the award under your belt gives you (and others) the confidence in your work. 

This year’s winners are a testament to the power of creativity in hardship. How did Covid restrictions influence your winning projects and how did you approach these new challenges?

Covid really was the catalyst for me. Without it I’m not sure I would be here, writing these words today. Overnight I lost all of my usual work, projects were cancelled and the plug was pulled on so much it was scary. Being at home with my young family brought its own challenges too, so for me, my art was a form of escape and a way for me to process how I was feeling about everything that was going on.

I found solace in drawing people, you could say I was drawing my emotions, and it not only resonated with me, but with others too. I realised that these feelings were not something I was having alone, and that these portraits were helping others to realise that they too were not alone at this strange and scary time.

Sharing the portraits online started some powerful discussions and led me to where I am today, trying to help other women to see that they are not alone, they are powerful, beautiful, wonderful humans with value and purpose.

Without Covid, none of this would probably have happened.


What are your hopes for the industry in 2022 and beyond?

These past two years have been tough for the creative industry, a lot of colleagues have lost jobs or had to pivot because the sector hasn’t been as valued as it should. I would love to see the creative industries be recognised for the vital role it has played in this time. Where would we have been without art, music, film, tv…. 

What is your most exciting project in the next year?

I guess my most exciting project is me. It sounds awful, but this past year has given me a glimpse into what I can achieve if I put myself out there, so my aim is to continue on this journey, continue to push myself, and to see where it takes me, and that is pretty bloody exciting to me!


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