Illustrator Mary Purdie’s Instagram account is a place we want to hang out all the time. And her definition of feminism is one we can seriously get behind. That’s why this week, we chatted with Mary about her art, and what it does for her sense of self and other women’s.
Introduce yourself! Tell us who you are and what you do.
Hello! I’m Mary, an illustrator based in Los Angeles, having recently relocated from Brooklyn, NY. Though I graduated from design school over 10 years ago, it is only in the last 4 years that I found my way back to my creative roots.
Like many fresh young graduates, I fully expected my career to manifest itself after college because I had a design degree from a reputable art school. Spoiler alert, that didn’t happen. The competition was fierce and I mostly exhausted myself interviewing for positions and getting rejected. I settled for “design adjacent” roles, hoping to show my creative skills and charm my way into the art department. Hello, dead ends and a damaged ego.
I eventually accepted that my story was not going to be “girl graduates from art school and climbs corporate design ladder to wild success.” Admittedly, I probably spent too much time feeling sorry for myself and resenting the people who wouldn’t give me a chance. It wasn’t until 2012 when I started to pick myself up, with a tough love push from my partner, and really consider what I wanted to do with my talents that I was wasting by not using them.
If someone was not going to give me the space to showcase my art, I was going to create it for myself.
I started to draw ideas for greeting cards, a project I had been wanting to develop for awhile. I opened my first Etsy shop in early 2013 called butteredpaper where I conceptualized, wrote, and designed a line of unique greeting cards. Customers started asking me if I would do custom cards, paintings, and prints. I began drawing more every day and posting my drawings on social media. In 2015, the newfound confidence I had developed in my work and the responses I was getting inspired me to open my current Etsy shop, drawnbymary, where I sell mini prints and do custom illustrations. I wanted to offer more products but running a business is hard when you aren’t sure which inventory is going to sell. For that reason I opened a Society6 shop which has been fantastic for applying my artwork to a number of awesome products!
I spend all of my free time coming up with ideas and drawing. I pay attention to current events, pop culture moments, and how I am personally feeling, and I sort of mix and match these ideas and let them naturally evolve from there. I crave creating, and it’s a really amazingly fun process to see what I come up with and how I can use my art to relate to my audience. It’s so special to me to be able connect to people in that way.
How do you define feminism and how does that play a part in the work you do?
For me, feminism is commanding respect as women, having the freedom to be vulnerable or vicious (or both!), reinforcing community and acknowledging intersectionality in feminism for the greater good. I realize that there are so many factors that affect our experiences as women of all identities existing in this world, and it’s important to me that I educate myself on all of these different experiences to be mindful and inclusive with my personal feminism.
Someone recently told me that my art makes her feel proud to be a woman and when I heard that, I realized that has always been my goal, I just never vocalized it in that way. I’m a human woman with layers and my art has to reflect that, otherwise I would be betraying myself. There are days that I feel like a nail painting emoji hair flipping bad bitch, and some days I’m so down and so vulnerable I don’t want to get out of bed, or I’m angry as hell at the world. I’ve shared deeply personal experiences, and then there are times that I just feel like creating delightful visual commentary on everyday events, or fangirling out on women who I adore. The experiences I have as a woman fuel my creativity and drive my inspiration a lot of the time, and it is important to me that I express that through art and share it, especially as a way to connect and relate to other women.
How did you develop your distinct style?
It’s a funny thing, because when I started illustrating regularly again after so many years, I was obsessed with the idea that I needed to have a very specific style. I even Googled more than once, “Do illustrators need to have a style?” Haha! I was getting ahead of myself. Everyone’s style develops naturally and it just took patience and constant flexing of my creative muscles to get there. My process dictates my style. Though most of my artwork is ultimately completed digitally, I start everything on paper because I am so much more comfortable drawing with my hands. I love the vibrance and saturation of digitally colored images, though, so that’s why I started scanning my drawings. This way I am able to keep the integrity of my hand drawings, so they still look handmade and imperfect, while getting the look of digital colorization. Plus I have the freedom of not committing to one color palette. There is a lot of room for experimenting, which I love.
If you could give one piece of advice to other women artists, what would it be?
Stay open to inspiration all day every day. Never stop thinking about the work and the messages you want to share, let inspiration consume you. I don’t always have time to sit down and draw for hours, but everything I see, every person I talk to, is an opportunity to be inspired. I am constantly whipping out my phone to take notes about anything that I can potentially apply to my art or my message. When I do have the time to sit down and create, I open my photos, which are full of screenshots, and my notepad app and I have all these random and thought provoking messages to myself. It keeps the creative blocks away and the creative juices flowing constantly. And to piggyback off that advice, follow other women artists on social media! They are a great source of inspiration and community.
How can our readers follow and support your work?
Follow me on Instagram and say hi! My username is @drawnbymary. I regularly post new drawings, and any exciting updates like new products or specials going on in my Etsy or Society6 shops, which are both linked in my Instagram profile. I am planning so many new things for 2017, including expanding my product line, so there will be a lot of exciting updates to tune into!