Mari Andrew is a fan of winding and convoluted roads. One of her illustrations, “Procrastination: The Videogame,” portrays the obstacles between ourselves and a productive day a la Snakes and Ladders (e.g. the “FOREST of New Spring Arrivals email”). So it makes sense that her debut book, out March 27, is titled Am I There Yet? The Loop-de-Loop, Zigzagging Journey to Adulthood.
My book finally has a cover (and a birthday)!! It comes out on March 27, but you can ✨PRE-ORDER✨ by tapping the link in bio! Treats forthcoming for my beloved pre-orderers . Stay tuned! • You know me as an illustrator but I know me as a writer so I'm especially looking forward to sharing the essays in this book with you. They are the stories *behind the illustrations* and thoughts on growing up and creating the self you want to be. Plus there are a ton of brand new doodles that I've been dying to show you too! • Thank you for voting, thank you for supporting, thank you for making my wildest dream possible. I hope you like it 🙂
Andrew, who has been writing since high school, started doodling to heal from grief and a broken heart in late 2015, and eventually drew 760,000 Instagram followers with her Peanuts-like style: simple yet vaguely philosophical drawings captioned in a curlicued script.
Her debut book, a combination of essays and illustrations, touches on familiar topics like heartbreak and loss, fighting uncertainty and, of course, love and dating. But it isn’t merely a collection of her Instagram illustrations. The majority of the work is original, and her longtime followers will find a new dimension to her art, with pleasant surprises such as a written and illustrated ode to her old DC neighborhood and several maps of the cities she has visited or lived in. The maps resemble those of Middle Earth or Westeros, with her personal anecdotes in place of Old Norse-sounding city names.
Bedford+Bowery caught up with Andrew ahead of her upcoming appearances at Books Are Magic (March 24) and Strand (April 4).
You post almost daily and you just finished a book of 90-percent new material. How do you keep ideas coming?
I am used to experiencing. I take a lot of risks and I try to fill my life with adventures of all kind, relationships, friendships. I think that, because of that, I feel like things are always happening to me. My way of processing them is through drawing them out or writing them out.
I am not afraid of rejection, and rejection can come in so many different forms. I go on a lot of dates, which is interesting and a great fodder for creativity. I move a lot. I travel by myself. I take myself on a lot of adventures and I am very independent. You know, something might go wrong, or I might get rejected from a job…
In the book, you devote a fair amount of pages to the so-called non-career-defining jobs in your 20s: is it something that people in our generation need to hear and talk about?
At the end of the day, I see jobs as jobs, as a way to make money and sustain your life. I think it can be dangerous for a lot of people to think their jobs have to be so fulfilling on an emotional level, because most jobs aren’t; even as a full-time artist, what I do most of the day is write emails. A very small percentage of what I do is actually fun.
My friend wrote last week's caption for me (shoutout to Kiki) when I thought I'd be able to draw at the hospital, but I've temporarily lost a lot of mobility in my hands. I miss drawing so much, and miss reading your great comments and messages. I will be back to drawing (and dancing) soon! For now, here's an old one because nurses are the MVPs and writers are getting me through these tough days. Lots of love to y'all. I really appreciate your kind words and wishes
You’ve said many times that you started drawing as a reprieve from your daily life. Now that you’re a full-time artist, and now that the late-night, early-morning hobby has become your full-time job, how do you unwind?
I love to take dance classes; I take one almost every day, and that’s a good way to relax and to be something different and creative, but not in a way that I have to be pressured. I am not particularly good, but they’re really nice. I try to be creative in many ways: decorating my apartment, trying different kinds of painting styles and doing some creative stuff that’s just for me, so that there’s no pressure to share it with anyone.
You told me you just moved to the East Village. What do you like about the neighborhood?
It’s such a vibrant neighborhood in so many ways: it’s a lot of interesting characters, it’s a part of New York where people have lived for a very long time, they have so many stories about it. I love all the shops and restaurants. It does not feel like a particularly cool neighborhood. It just has a lot going on and I love that.
Since dating makes up a big part of your drawings, and since you’re relatively new to the city, I’ve got to ask you: how’s dating going?
People in New York say that dating in New York is harder than anywhere else. I don’t think that’s true; I think dating is always hard. It’s hard to put yourself out there, to make a connection and feel misunderstood. The good thing is you tend to meet a lot more interesting people here that you wouldn’t necessarily meet in another city and I do find that I do find a lot more ambitious people here.
Your drawings are often called “relatable.” What’s up with relatability? Is it an albatross?
It’s a tricky place to be. I think people think of my art as relatable. Sometimes, when I post something that’s really specific to me, I get a lot of comments that are like I don’t relate to this, I see it this way. I always think I don’t set out to be relatable. Sometimes on the internet there’s a lot of entitlement to have art be of service, and that’s not always the way that I see it. I certainly do love hearing from people that my art makes them feel less alone. That makes me happy.
This interview has been edited and condensed.