The InstaList: Five female illustrators easing your adulthood woes with their comics

Mari Andrew first started to draw after going through a bad break up and losing her father in the same year. Mari Andrew / Instagram

Adult life can be overwhelming. If you’re part of the generation where frequent Instagram visits are common, what starts off as a casual browse through your timeline can quickly turn into a parade of friends trying to prove that they’ve successfully transitioned into adulthood. Buried beneath what can sometimes feel like an endless sea of graduation selfies, baby announcements and engagement photos are five female illustrators who are instead choosing to make light of growing pains in the form of comics.

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WHO: Lianna Finck @lianafinck

WHY: Lianna Finck’s quick-witted comics provide an honest critique of modern day life and relationships. Apathy, love, miscommunication, status anxiety, and co-dependency are just a few on the list of themes that her work focuses on. She describes her comics as a kind of speech. “I don’t understand why people draw for reasons other than to communicate,” she tells Global News. “The Instagram drawings are a part of who I am — I think my real self has other facets.”

Read more: New ‘Adulting school’ teaches Millenials life skills

For Finck, being an adult has its set definitions; which she describes as being allowed to make and spend money, drive a car, cut things with a knife, use a stove, travel, and make decisions. But there’s more to it, she explains.

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“I’m still afraid to walk in the dark, or on empty streets like I was as a kid. So many people have to be wary of so many things. And no one is really, completely a grown-up.”

Her expectations on who she is and who she thought she would be in her adult life have also changed. “I thought I was the only person alive, besides my mom, who liked to draw. I thought all the artists were dead. I thought I’d grow up and be the next living artist. Instead, I grew up and am one artist of many. It’s a lot less pressure, this way, and a little more confusing than expected.”

But Finck’s drawings have allowed her to deal with the many frustrations in her daily life. “I stop and draw an Instagram cartoon whenever I feel paralyzed by something. I wish there were a way I could draw more about real relationships, without betraying the trust of the people I love. I almost never draw about my family or friends, and don’t draw as much as I’d like to about men I’m dating (as opposed to breaking up with, or sitting next to on the subway). I keep a private diary for that, but it’s not the same,” she says.

Finck has published two graphic novels: a Bintel Brief: Love and Longing in New York and revelations & the stupid creatures. Finck is currently a regular contributor to New York Times Magazine.

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WHO: Mari Andrew  @bymariandrew

WHY:  Mari Andrew’s comics feel like a pep talk. Their ability to articulate some of our deepest insecurities while also giving us words of encouragement remind us that growing up can be painful but rewarding.

Andrew, a 30-year-old D.C transplant, describes her comics as deeply personal. She first started to draw after going through a bad break up and losing her father in the same year. In an attempt to recover, she took up drawing classes. “I think I really became an adult when my father died,” Andrew tells Global News. “It was pretty disorienting, so I had to force myself to take control over my own life and my own happiness. Drawing was a big part of that.”

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What started off as a daily challenge to draw and upload her illustrations to Instagram has turned into a steady fan base of 40,000 followers. This has been a major surprise for Andrew, but she isn’t shocked that people related to things she had to say. “I think we’re all just way more alike than we think we are. When other artists or writers honestly talk about their own specific experiences, a good amount of people relate to them too,” she says.

For Andrew, adulthood is more about focusing on her character and her experiences rather than what she does for a living.

“The best part is all the choices you get to make! Ice cream whenever you want it? Sure! Saying no to people who drain you? Definitely! The worst part is also the freedom to make choices, and really having to own those. As an adult, you can’t blame your bad decisions on anyone else,” she adds.

For Andrew, this is all part of the game of life.”You can make choices to become the person you’ve always wanted to be (“I wish I could be a person who posts illustrations on Instagram” is well within your control),” but we are all just stumbling in the dark trying to make sense of our place in the world,” she says.


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WHO: BIG SIS @bigsis666

WHY: The 27-year-old Toronto artist, who prefers to go by her alias, lends a feminist critique to sex, intimacy, and gender norms in her comics. It’s what BIG SIS also describes as “crudely drawn and born of a desire to be open, vulnerable, and expressive.”

Although BIG SIS has no set definition of adulthood, she says she’s comfortable calling herself an adult and can handle the accountability that comes with that label. It’s about seeking internal validation rather than seeking it from other people or material objects.

“I used to be so focused on proving myself to others (the “right” school/job/party/apartment), and those pressures still weigh on me heavily, but more and more I’m looking for my own approval. What do I stand for, what do I really need?” says BIG SIS.

Read more: Comic book fan shines light on the power of female superheroes

BIG SIS’s drawings have also allowed her to address feelings she has around issues of sexism, lack of empathy in her relationships with lovers and friends. “Writing out an idea for a comic, drafting it, editing it — every step helps me get closer to the sentiment I’m trying to express, so that’s a way for me to independently work through what I’m feeling. Also, being able to read comments or chat with people on Instagram is another way to get perspective after I’ve put something out there,” says BIG SIS.

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BIG SIS still hasn’t figured out why people are able to relate to her comics but considers honesty to be a large part of it. “Having a place to put my thoughts is so rewarding for me. I used to just numb-out and watch tv, window shop, or party, but drawing has allowed me to actually engage with my thoughts. It’s one of the few things I can sit down and get completely absorbed by. I love the satisfaction I get from taking aggression or hurt and figuring out the exact right words to express it,” she says.


WHO: Sarah Andersen @SarahAndersencomics

WHY:  Sarah Andersen’s comics encourage us to laugh at our own shadows by exposing them. Often described as autobiographical, Anderson’s illustrations focus on social anxiety and the insecurities that come along with simply not having it together. Anderson first started releasing her comics via Tumblr in 2011. Her web comics Sarah’s Scribbles were initially published on her Tumblr page in 2011. Soon after they started going viral, growing her fan base to over 1 million followers on Instagram. Her first book Adulthood is a Myth was published in 2016 and won an award for best Comic and Graphic Novel.


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WHO: Gemma Correll @gemmacorrell

WHY: This self-proclaimed anti-socialite and pug enthusiast focuses largely on mental health and wellness in her comics. Her cute illustrations tackle anxiety, depression, and the perils of being an introvert. In previous interviews, Correll has mentioned that she got her start as a little girl and quickly turned her passion into a career after attending art school. Gemma has published several comics books. Her most recent books include The Worrier’s Guide to Life and The Feminist Activity Book. Her illustrations can be found printed on mugs, phone cases, and greeting cards just to name a few. They are a sold online and in stores all over the world.


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