Image by Robin Eisenberg

Entertainment

The 13 Badass Illustrators You Should Be Following On Instagram

Documenting girlhood, post by post

Instagram-obsessives can find an account for virtually anything these days, whether it’s international fruit stickers or Meryl Streep Photoshopped onto food (yes, really). But lately, we’ve noticed a new tribe of Instagrammers having a moment we can definitely get behind: female illustrators.

A growing number of women doodlers, painters, and graphic designers are taking their talents to Instagram, flipping the script on the app that often gets a bad rap for picture-perfect brunch setups and overly edited selfies. Instead, these illustrated and brutally honest depictions of life make us laugh until we cry (and cry until we laugh) thanks to spot-on portrayals of things like the intricacies of peeing in a jumpsuit or the guilty pleasure of downing a slice of pizza in the tub.

But it's not only the quirkier of life's perils that can be found in these artists' streams; these women tackle tough subjects, too, from anxiety and depression to female sexuality, feminism, and imposter syndrome. The illustrated approach to these issues allows the topics to be seen and talked about from different angles, and we're ready to join the conversation.

Click through the slideshow for the handles that should be on your radar, plus Q&A sessions with the artists themselves. Follow, refresh, and repeat.

Image by Frances Cannon

Frances Cannon (@frances_cannon)

Age: 24

Location: Melbourne, Australia

Medium of choice: Ink and gouache on thick paper

You seem to use the same female figure in many of your drawings. Can you tell us about her?

She is me. She is the embodiment of my joy and my pain, my moments of complete happiness and contentment, and my moments of utter despair.

Why do you think viewers resonate with your work?

I think it's because I'm completely honest. I discuss emotions and experiences that are so human that so many other people have experienced them as well.

What do you want people to feel from your illustrations?

I want them to acknowledge their humanity. To know that it's okay to look the way they look and feel the way they feel. I want people to see the joy in being alive and the importance of taking care of one another and themselves.

What’s the last thing you drew?

A woman in a box.

Image by Mari Andrew

Mari Andrew (@bymariandrew)

Age: 30

Location: Washington, D.C.

Medium of choice: Cheap Sharpie pen, cheap watercolor set

How did you get into illustrating?

I've always enjoyed doodling, but I didn't get interested in illustrating until I went through a difficult time and realized that I needed to put my energy toward creativity, positivity, and self-expression. On my 29th birthday, I made the decision to post a drawing a day on Instagram even though I've never considered drawing a real hobby of mine. It quickly turned from a new experiment to a hobby, and now a career.

What’s your favorite thing to draw?

Pie charts and Venn diagrams because it's really calming and satisfying to paint in the lines. I guess that's the impetus behind the adult coloring book trend.

Any advice for artists who are just beginning?

I'm an artist who's just beginning! But my advice to myself, and to others, is to make art very personal. Your own style, your own taste, your own opinions. Sincerity is obvious, as is insincerity.

Image by Polly Nor

Polly Nor (@pollynor)

Age: 27

Location: London

Medium of choice: Pen, digital color.

What’s the last thing you drew?

A group of women and demons bathing in a lagoon. It was just after Trump won the election and I was feeling stressed out about the world. I had to draw something lighthearted and relaxing for my own sanity.

Your work deals so much with raw honesty, yet accounts on Instagram are often so contrived. Why do you choose Instagram?

I like to take a satirical look at the way we behave online. By using alternative screen names and displaying a very selective narrative of our lives through filtered photographs and online updates, we present a carefully contrived, parallel identity of ourselves. I like the idea of releasing these weird uncomfortable-looking images into the sea of perfectly posed selfies and sepia-toned avocado brunch pics.

Can you tell us about your new animation for Chelou’s track “Halfway to Nowhere?”

Andy Baker and I first met earlier this year on a 30-second animated advert for Dr. Martens. I really enjoyed working with him and loved his style of animation, so when Chelou first asked me about doing the video to this track I was really keen to get Andy on board. It was really amazing collaborating with him on this and seeing all my characters come to life properly for the first time.

Read more about Polly Nor in her NYLON interview.

Image by Robin Eisenberg

Robin Eisenberg (@robineisenberg)

Age: 33

Location: Los Angeles

Medium of choice: Pen/marker for physical pieces, Wacom pen in Photoshop for digital pieces.

What draws you to outer space and extraterrestrial themes?

I’ve always been obsessed with outer space, aliens, starry skies, etcetera. I grew up loving Star Trek in all its forms and reading tons of sci-fi and fantasy books, so that was definitely a big influence. I think my artwork is me trying to be a tiny bit closer to all of the things I may never get to fully understand or experience.

Your work often depicts women unapologetic about their sexuality—is there a message you want to get out here?

Totally. Enjoying yourself and feeling strong and adventurous on your own is really important to me. I sometimes find myself trying to be a version of myself that's filtered through someone else’s preferences. It really frustrates me, and I try my best to be confident in myself and comfortable in my own skin. I like drawing women who I imagine are feeling good on their own, and who aren’t relying on any external validation.

You draw lots of pizza. What’s your favorite one to get?

That’s a tough one. One of my favorite pizza places is Pizza Boy in Glendale [, California]—they do heart-shaped pizzas. Also, as much as I draw pepperoni pizza all the time, I’m weirdly obsessed with cheese and pineapple pizza. 

Image by Liana Finck

Liana Finck (@lianafinck)Age: 30

Location: Brooklyn, New York

Medium of choice: Black Muji .38 gel pen on 28 ln Staples bright white printer paper. I draw on hot press Fabriano studio watercolor paper when I need to draw something fancy.

What’s your creative process like, and what do you do when you get writer’s block?

I think my writer's block really disappeared a couple of years ago when I got truly angry at a boyfriend who treated me badly. I think I'd had writer's block and sadness all those years because I wasn't letting myself feel angry. Now, I draw partly in cafes, partly at home, often on subways and trains. Whenever I feel stuck, I draw something small to figure out what is bothering me, so it doesn't stay inside and paralyze me.

What do you want people to feel from your illustrations?

I don't know what I want people to feel. What does a dog want other dogs to feel when it pees on a tree? "I was here, too. This is a crazy world we live in. You're not alone."

How do you think the illustration industry has changed over your career?

I do think the New Yorker cartoon world has changed since I started. The editors are making a strong effort to bring in more women, for which I am very grateful. I still feel like one of the weirdest cartoonists by far, and I wish the definition of New Yorker cartoons would be a lot broader. I have a feeling that if more "weirdos" were welcomed, there would magically be more black people, queer people, Muslim people, brown people, Asian people, people who didn't go to fancy colleges, etcetera. This criticism is given with love.

Image by Loryn Brantz

Loryn Brantz (@lorynbrantz)

Age: 31

Location: New York City

Medium of choice: Digital drawing, acrylic paint

Your illustrations touch on both serious and non-serious themes. Why do you think both sides are important?

Serious issues are the most important. But, we are alive, and we all have to live, and we can’t be stressed out and upset all the time. The non-serious issues leave breathing room for when you’re ready to deal with the serious issues.

Your “real” Disney princesses series went viral last year. Why do you think those illustrations took off?

Animation is heavily male-dominated, and there’s a lot of sitting around and drawing “sexy ladies” that are completely unrealistic. It could be very frustrating at times and certainly didn’t help with my body issues or dysmorphia at the time. I think it took off because it was something a lot of other women recognized as disturbing on some level and wanted to share.

We have to ask about your upcoming book Feminist Baby. How did that project come about?

I’ve had this intent to tell a story with pictures that would positively influence the world since as long as I can remember. And then one day I was looking for a baby book to buy for a friend’s new baby and I was basically like, “Where are the feminist baby books?” There were none. It felt like a pile of bricks fell on me, and the idea was triggered. I literally ran home to write it. I wanted to write a book that I would want to give to my friends' babies, and to my own possible future babies.

Image by Hallie Bateman

Hallie Bateman (@hallithbates)

Age: 27

Location: Los Angeles

Medium of choice: Digitally, pen, ink, watercolors.

Do you ever find it scary to put your work out into the world?

I didn't go to art school or even have many friends who were artists, so putting work out into the world has always been kind of exciting. Success was getting published, and it's so exciting and empowering. I get a thrill from putting work out that nobody asked for.

What's your creative process like, and what do you do when you get stuck?

I have a real desire to bring projects to their completion and make an idea real. If I have an unfinished project, it really bothers me until I finish it. I think a lot of people tend to give up too soon. They have the inspiration but maybe don't realize how much of art is the gritty, less romantic part: patience. It helps to set a deadline for myself and take it seriously.

What's your favorite thing to draw about?

I like to capture a single moment. Over the summer, I was eating peaches with my family in our yard, the last peaches of the season. And my brother bit into this super ripe peach, and the juice spilled down his face, and he snarled like an animal. I was so obsessed with how funny and beautiful that moment was and I made a huge drawing of it in my sketchbook.

Image by Bianca Xunise

Bianca Xunise (@biancaxunise)

Age: 29

Location: Chicago

Medium of choice: Paper Mate Flair pens

What motivates you to draw?

I draw for myself, but I recently did a doodle of my niece, and she flipped out, so that's been a great motivator because impressing two-year-olds is HARD.

What do you want people to feel from your work?

I want to connect experiences. I want people to see my work coming from a black girl and be like, "I relate to this feeling," or to understand my journey. I'm not terribly good at expressing my feelings vocally, but through my work, I hope I can help people understand cross-culturally or be a voice for the marginalized who often cannot speak up for themselves.

Do you have a favorite drawing you’ve ever done?

Hands down it would have to be a drawing I did in kindergarten of an all-female firefighting team saving a burning house all while wearing bright red heels. I remember my teacher laughed and told me firefighters are usually men and I told her, "Well in my world the leaders are women," and they hung up my drawing in the hallway.

Read more about Bianca in her NYLON interview.

Image by Sally Nixon

Sally Nixon (@sallustration)

Age: 27

Location: Little Rock, Arkansas

Medium of choice: Pen, marker

Why do you illustrate?

I’ve been drawing my entire life. When I was a kid, I would make drawings to go along with my favorite books or stories I wrote, but I didn’t really know it was a serious career option until I was a junior in college. I took a couple of illustration classes and fell in love.

What do you hope to convey with your work?

I want the viewer to be able to relate to my work and to see a bit of themselves or someone they know in it. I hope it's truthful to everyday life.

What’s the last thing you drew?

A plate of waffles.

Where do you find your inspiration, and how do you stay creative when you’re in a slump?

I like taking something mundane or routine and making it into an interesting image. I’ve found that the best thing to do when I’m in a slump is to get out of my studio for a bit and watch a movie or go out with friends. I also have a Pinterest board of images I like that I’ll scroll through if I need some quick inspiration.

Image by Angelica Hicks

Angelica Hicks (@angelicahicks)

Age: 24

Location: New York City

Medium of choice: Watercolor, ink

How did you get started?

I started illustrating during my last semester at university as an escape from the overwhelming onslaught of academia. I would do a drawing as soon as I woke up in the morning and then again in the evening when I returned home from the library.

What’s your favorite illustration you’ve created?

Probably Karl Lager. I love it because it is the perfect combination of high and low culture.

What’s the last thing you drew?

A telephone saying, “Don’t be a phony.”

A lot of your work draws ironic connections to fashion. How did you settle on this style?

I wanted to highlight that fashion can be funny and not unattainable. I find it funny to provide a fashion commentary that draws from popular culture as a point of reference, often combining high fashion with low-brow humor. We intellectualize too much, so I rather enjoy deconstructing this intellectualization through illustration.

Image by Julie Houts

Julie Houts (@jooleeloren)

Age: 29

Location: New York City

Medium of choice: Pencil, markers

Why do you illustrate?

I illustrate often to work through ideas or feelings. But sometimes it’s more about solving a technical problem and trying to capture the gesture or energy I'm trying to convey, like, "What does your spine do if you're upset?" or, "What do you do with your hands if you're excited?"

Where do you find your inspiration, and how do you stay creative when you’re in a slump?

Most of what I'm drawing is directly informed by what is going on in my life and my friends' lives. I'm trying to just embrace those moments as opposed to forcing thoughts or feelings to come for the sake of a drawing. That said, sometimes I'll look through some books, or go to a museum, or look through my collection of images I've pulled over the years and get excited by the way someone drew a hand or the print on someone's dress.

What’s the last thing you drew?

A little mouse for my boyfriend.

Image by Gemma Correll

Gemma Correll (@gemmacorrell)

Age: 32

Location: Oakland, California

Medium of choice: Fineliner pen, black watercolor ink

What’s your favorite illustration you’ve created?

My "Nope" illustration because it seems to resonate with so many people and it is useful in so many illustrations; I reposted it in the wake of the election.

What’s the last thing you drew?

Some yoga illustrations for the latest book in the 100 Reasons to Panic... series published by Knock Knock which I have been illustrating for a few years now. Oh, and I drew a pug on a napkin at a café because apparently, I can't go anywhere without defacing something.

A lot of your work centers around serious issues, like depression and anxiety. How do you think portraying these issues through illustrations helps us deal?

They help me, personally, process my thoughts and feelings. For other people looking at my work and the work of other people who portray mental health issues, I think it's about relatability and feeling less alone. Objectively, you may know that you're not the only person suffering, but it's comforting to see it right there in front of you, in black and white, or in my case, black, white and red.

What do you want people to feel from your work?

I hope it will make them laugh and maybe think, too. I hope that my work on mental health will also help those who don't suffer from mental illness understand their friends and family who do a little better.

Image by Maria-Ines Gul

Maria-Ines Gul (@mariainesgul)

Age: 26

Location: London

Medium of choice: Gouache, ink, soft-colored pencils

How did you get into illustrating?

When I was six, my parents bought me Kid Pix Studio. It was a very fun Photoshop for kids. I would draw with the mouse, print out the best drawings, and hang them above my bed. 

Why do you illustrate?

Drawing is my mother tongue and a therapy.

What's your favorite thing to draw, and what's the last thing you drew?

Girls with good hair. Girl in a red beret.