A Conversation With Instagram’s Beloved Illustrator Mari Andrew

I stumbled upon Mari Andrew’s Instagram page just as I was coming out of a difficult time in my life.

As I scrolled through her feed, I thought “wow, she just gets it.” I felt like her art perfectly articulated what I had been thinking and feeling, but hadn’t been able to put into words. Seeing her illustrations reminded me that I wasn’t alone, and inspired me to let myself be vulnerable sometimes. 

Evidently, I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. Mari Andrew’s instagram, @bymariandrew, currently has over 500,000 followers.

(Seriously, if you haven’t seen her feed yet, open a new tab and check it out, she rocks.)

After hardcore swooning over her art for months, I decided to find out more about the woman behind these wise, witty illustrations. Here’s what I learned:

What made you start drawing and posting daily illustrations on Instagram?

I was going through a very rough time, and wanted to create habits that would ultimately lead me to happiness and joy. I liked drawing, so I held myself accountable to the habit of creating art by creating this Instagram account and putting my doodles there. It was a totally fun, personal, silly project. Still is!

What did you plan to do post-college? Did things turn out the way you planned?

Oh heavens, no! I was a Medieval History major (super practical and lucrative) and moved to Chile right after college to teach English for a while. It’s there that I began writing as a hobby, which later (6 years later) evolved into illustration. I was a barista many times, a dance teacher, a legal assistant, an administrative entry-level person, a marketing lady, a boutique manager, with a ton of meaningless jobs mixed in. Since I always loved to write, I figured I’d just take jobs that were easy enough to pay rent and not take much from my creativity so I could work on writing during my evenings and weekends. I could not have predicted where I am now in a million years. My life has completely changed shape since college, though I can see little moments that led me here, in hindsight!

If you could give your former self one piece of advice, what would it be?

This isn’t your whole life, this is a season in your life. There are beautiful parts and there are awful parts, and the beauty and the awfulness will both be over soon. There is no finish line, there is no conclusion; this is just a moment in time and you might want to appreciate it a bit more for all that it is–especially the part where you’re living two blocks from the beach.

If you could give our readers one piece of advice, what would that be?

Your 20s are a marvelous time to explore: explore friendships, romantic relationships, cities, yourself. Give yourself opportunities to try different things. Don’t make it your goal to find your dream job and dream romantic partner at age 23–even your dream city! You have this whole decade to learn about your limits, your desires, your style, your talents. Use it, and enjoy it. There’s no rush.

What has been the most rewarding part of your Instagram success?

By far, the most rewarding thing is hearing from younger women who tell me that my art has been comforting for them in any way. When I was in my early 20s, I was desperate for art or literature that made me feel less alone, and it’s amazing to get to give that feeling to someone else. It’s more than a dream come true; it’s a dream I didn’t even know I was allowed to dream.

On the flip side, what has been most challenging about it?

I wish I could say yes to every invitation; I wish I could hug every person who contacts me. I wish I had unlimited time and emotional capacity. I wish I could say the right thing when someone asks me for advice. It’s incredible to have people reach out to me, and I always feel such an immediate bond with them and a lot of responsibility. I wish I could give them everything they need!

What’s next for you & your Instagram account?

I have a book coming out in March 2018, which will include a few old illustrations but mostly new ones! It has been the biggest project of my life and I’ve worked so hard on it. I set out to write the book that I wish someone had given me for college graduation, so I hope that it resonates with young women! Now that I’m 30 I don’t really know what resonates anymore, but I do know that most of us feel a little lost our whole lives and could probably use someone to tell us “It’s okay to feel lost, and in fact it’s a really healthy part of life!”

Kara Cuzzone

Editorial Contributor, Holy Cross Major: Undecided Her heart belongs to: Her dog Ella, Ashton Kutcher, sundresses, and summertime (yes, in that order) Her guilty pleasures: Country music, drinking far more chai lattes than humanly possible, and cozy little coffee shops

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