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Colourful artwork featuring illustrations of a person listening to music on their headphones, the words 'essay due' and various items you might find in a libarary

January 23, 2024

Capturing the library: The story behind the student-designed tote bag

Deakin Library is excited to announce the winner of the library tote bag design competition! Gaby Niemeyer is an accomplished intersex artist and advocate currently pursuing a Master of Teaching with specialisations in visual arts and Japanese. 

Gaby’s artistic prowess spans digital, watercolour and acrylic mediums, all underscored by a keen interest in design. Her winning artwork for the tote bag competition, called Final_final_2.0, is a vibrant testament to her unique perspective, drawn from her personal experiences within the library. 

‘Libraries are where miracles happen,’ shares Gaby. ‘I created an illustration that provides energy, colour and maximalist symbology reminiscent of the library and its connection to study.’

The artwork’s narrative weaves a story of a person navigating the urgency of an assignment submission, a scenario all too familiar to students. ‘I wanted to create a story close to my experience,’ Gaby explains. Her work is an expressive blend of bold colours, linework and backgrounds intentionally crafted to convey movement and vibration within the image.

Colourful artwork featuring illustrations of a person listening to music on their headphones, the words 'essay due' and various items you might find in a libarary

A message for new students at Deakin 

Recognising the pivotal role the library plays for new students, Gaby emphasises its significance as a safe space for learning and a community hub for diverse life experiences. Her hope is that people find a profound connection with her artwork, inspiring them to use the tote bag in various creative ways. 

The tote bags will be given out to new students at the upcoming Trimester 1 Orientation Week. 

Want to know more about this extraordinary artist? Read on to learn about Gaby’s journey, her artistic influences and the inspiration behind the winning tote bag design.  

The story behind the artwork

deakin tote bag

Tell us a bit about yourself: what you study, what year you’re in, which campus you study at, as well as how you stay connected to the library. 

My name is Gaby (she/they), I am an Intersex artist/advocate living, studying and working on Naarm land (Reservoir) with my husband and two young children. I work in traditional mediums (watercolour and acrylic) and digital, with an interest in design. I am currently completing my masters in teaching (primary/secondary), with specialisations in visual art and Japanese language. I study through the online campus, with Burwood being my closest point of contact. Although studying online has its benefits to be flexible with my family life, I find when assignments are due, I am able to focus better when in a space dedicated for study. 

What was your process when making the artwork for this design? 

I decided to create a narrative of a person receiving an alert/reminder from their phone, stating the urgency of an assignment submission. Following the chaos of a dying laptop battery, procrastination, hydrating with coffee and water, the student is able to crush the assignment with a big thumbs up!  
I wanted to create a story close to my experience. The work needed to be expressive and fresh. Using bold colours in the linework and backgrounds, I hoped to express movement and vibration within the image. Through careful curation composition of figures, colour and linework, I wanted to provide harmony and excitement in the aesthetic. 

Reflecting on the competition prompt, what does the library mean to you? 

The library has always been a space for thinking, patience and solace, but also a place for community, collaboration and connection. It’s a place that never holds any judgement for me. I am always surprised by putting myself in this space; I always achieve more than I could, if I were to do the same work at home. 

What inspired the artistic choices made in your artwork? Did you draw influence from any artists or art styles? 

I wanted the artwork to have lots of movement and moving parts – always something new for the eye to see. I love colour and the exaggerated figurative works of artists Gbodi Ahmadu (@krozhatch) and Hiroyuki Imaishi. Drawing from these artists for inspiration, I was able to push my subjects and composition into something different from my regular artwork. 

Why do you think the library is important for students, particularly new students starting in 2024? 

The library is so important for new students, because it provides a safe space to obviously learn but also to seek community with people with different life experiences. The library helps you to discover the joy of independent and collaborative study. Just being present in the library will help you be motivated to continue your study, complete your assignments and understand what career path you wish to take moving forward. 

What do you hope someone will take away from seeing your artwork? 

I hope people can find a connection with the work I have put into this piece that inspires them to use the bag in a variety of ways. I am happy for people to interpret the subject how they wish. I am curious to see whether people pick up on the humour used and the meaning behind the symbology used within the work. 

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