Mari in Nolita

Hi friends! So, I'm super behind on my blogging. Clearly. It's March, and I did this photo shoot in the beginning of December. Whoops! 

Winter is almost behind us (please, God, please). So I figured I'd better catch up on my blogging while I'm still in the slow season. Can't wait for warmth and sunshine and long days so I can be outside behind my camera more!

OK, so back to New York in December, which feels like eons ago. I had the pleasure of spending a couple hours with the fabulous Mari Andrew, who I met in college. Mari and I met up in the cutest little NYC neighborhood, Nolita. We had a glass of wine and caught up since it had been forever since we'd seen each other last, and she shared some of her wisdom with me.

Usually when I share photos on my blog I don't write a whole lot to go along with it, but writing is something I love and something I would like to get back to. I had this idea to do a "women who inspire" series, combining photos with writing, and I thought: what better way to start than with someone who is following her dreams in a creative field and someone who truly inspires me.

If you know Mari, or even if you're an Instagram fan from afar, you know that she is a gem. You may have stumbled across Mari's endearing illustration work on Instagram (@bymariandrew) or maybe you've come across one of the many articles written about her on Buzzfeed, Bored Panda, Business Insider, Bustle, etc. etc. (Why do these all start with B?!) If not, check her out, and follow her Instagram. She's awesome. 

A couple of years ago, Mari found herself dealing with the loss of her father, a difficult breakup, and to top it off -- cancer. A writer by nature, Mari found herself needing something else to help her process her grief. Mari puts it this way, "writing can be so intense, but doodling was fun and light and silly. I decided to put that happiness on the calendar and do one doodle a day."

I've been following Mari's work from the beginning, and it's been so fun to watch her illustrations gain traction and basically go viral. I asked Mari what her "holy shit" moment was, and she said it was when she hit 5,000 followers on Instagram. Now she's got 375,000 (!) followers and, in reading some of the many comments on her posts, it's clear her fans adore her and really connect with her work. 

Mari and I talked a lot about being a woman in a creative field and what it's like to be vulnerable by sharing yourself through your work. Over our glasses of hurriedly-drunk wine (the day was late and light was fading. Photos had to get done, but first - wine. Obviously.) we talked about how frustrating it is that we could get the most lovely praise and kind affirmations from so many people, but then that one disappointed client or Instagram troll can make all of that feel so small. That one comment or email or social media interaction can tower over the good, completely overshadowing it. It can really crush you.

I know I struggle with that. I made the comment that maybe I need thicker skin. And Mari said, "no, I feel like I need my 'thin skin' in order to do what I do. I am a sensitive person." And Mari's work really does radiate that beautiful vulnerability. I think that is why so many people identify with her work. It's why I do. There is a tenderness to it, and it is vulnerable in that it reveals so much about the kind of person Mari is, and the life she leads. She speaks truth through her art. And that is refreshing. There is nothing false or forced about Mari or her work. I love that. 

When asked who inspires her, Mari says the community of illustrators on Instagram. "It's the nicest community of people, and they're so encouraging." Mari is also inspired by "anyone who works really hard. I try to find people who work really hard and I try to emulate them."

And it is hard work, what Mari does; what any creative does. The hard work has paid off for Mari, and I am so excited for her, because she's currently working on a book that combines her illustrations and her first love: writing. Mari says, "I never wanted to be famous or necessarily publish a book. I just wanted to write." 

I asked Mari to give some advice to young women starting out in writing or art, wondering where to to go, and how to get there. (And selfishly I was asking just as much for myself!)

Two things you should know:

1) There's no substitution for hard work. "I got rejected 9,000 times. It feels like 9,000 times. It was four years of rejection. Do the work."

2) "Keep writing. Keep creating. It's an act of self-care. Put the love and the passion first."

When I asked Mari what keeps her going in the face of rejection, she said, "I would rather die than not be a writer." 

I'm so grateful for Mari and others like her that share something of themselves and make this world ever so beautiful. Thank you, Mari, for sharing your story and your truth with me over a glass of wine. And for wandering around Nolita with me. Slightly tipsy, maybe... But it made for some pretty fun photos. ;)

And without further adieu, here is the beautiful Mari Andrew.