How Mari Andrew Became Instagram's Favorite Illustrator
When you hear the words "Instagram-famous," you probably picture girls with flawlessly contoured cheeks, perfected pointed manicures, and a boyfriend who could be the heartthrob of a teen drama on MTV. That's what makes Mari Andrew so rad. Although her blue eyeliner is on point, this illustrator has attracted hundreds of thousands of followers not for her idealized life but for her deeply relatable doodles about life. Find out how she got there below—and if you don't already, follow her.
What were you like as a teen, and what do you wish you could tell your teenage self?
I was an overly serious loner with an uncharacteristically weird fashion sense! I was very studious and ambitious and never wanted to mess up, but I always loved playing around with my hair and style. I think I always needed some way of expressing myself, even if my personality was reserved.
I would tell myself to LOOSEN UP and just enjoy my life instead of taking it all so seriously. It's hard to have perspective when you're young; you have no idea what your life will look like so it's hard to know how to do the "right thing." But if you're making time for yourself, enjoying the company of good friends, and always striving to be more confident and creative, then you're definitely doing the right thing.
How exactly did you get to where you are now, professionally?
I'm 30 now, and I started my art career at age 29! I've always really liked to draw, but I didn't really allow myself to pursue a creative career because I didn't think I was a good artist and I thought it was a lot of competition for not much payoff. (Competition freaks me out!) When I started drawing only for myself I could see other artists as inspiration rather than a threat. I've had just about every job you can name: I've been a dance teacher, barista, boutique manager, legal assistant, journalist, and so many positions at so many nonprofits.
Last year, I decided to start posting one illustration a day on Instagram—no hashtags, no reaching out to influencers, just posting my art consistently. After about a year, I got so many commission requests and collaborations that I was able to quit my nonprofit job. It's an unusual story, but the steps are probably the same for every artist. Don't be afraid to take a day job, make art consistently, and don't be afraid to share because you don't think you're "good enough."
What do you wish you had known then that you know now about having a career?
You don't have a career, you have a life! If you don't like your job, no worries. Find something you do like, and put your energy toward that. It might become a job, and probably sooner than you think. Life is long, and there are so many opportunities you'll have to learn about yourself and what you really love. As a teenager, I would have fainted if you told me I was going to be a professional illustrator. Now, I can't imagine being anything else.
What advice about work do you have for teens or for people just starting out?
Try different things. Take a job that sounds good, even if it doesn't sound perfect. I developed my illustration style when I worked at a bakery at age 23 because I was in charge of writing the chalkboard every day. I didn't like baking, but I did like drawing! Likewise, I learned a lot about writing and creativity while working various 9-5 jobs. It took me 10 years to figure out what I really wanted to do, and all I did was follow my bliss around.
Your career, just like your life, can turn out very differently from what you expected. If you're creative and you love art, go forth and pursue it—but feel free to take a different kind of job or internship that sounds interesting to you too. You'll definitely learn something about yourself in the process.