I think we can all agree that social media can be a real shitshow.
Here is a cycle I find myself in often: Because I tend to get my information about the world by following people and publications with voices I respect, my feed is invariably flooded with the day’s horrible events and everyone else’s loud opinions about them. When all of the noise starts to stress me out, I decide to switch gears and check out some of the frivolous fashion, lifestyle, and food accounts I follow, but then those accounts start to fill me either with FOMO or a general sense of inferiority. Stop looking at this stuff, I tell myself! It doesn’t matter anyway, the world is literally on fire! Read some news!!!
Switching back and forth between these two extremes is how I end up lying awake far past my bedtime, searching for some note of satisfaction to end the day on, and never, ever finding it. So far, there are only two corners of Instagram that really break the cycle for me: kittens and fun art.
I’m sure I’ll get to kittens eventually, but today I’m highlighting some of my favorite illustrative artists on Instagram. Follow them to inject a little bit of joy into that endless scroll.
Heather Mahler — @heathermahler88
If you’re looking for illustrations that will make you happy, Heather Mahler’s Instagram is basically a one-stop shop. Mahler has the type of artist Instagram that I love the most — a combination of samples from bigger projects, as well as fun sketches, comics, and doodles that she does in her spare time (like her ongoing series of cute-as-fuck Pokémon drawings). I’m particularly fond of the short comic strips she draws of herself and her boyfriend as a cat and an alligator.
On her website, Mahler writes, “My style centers around what I love most… animals, plants, and 90’s anime to name a few things. I especially am inspired by badass women, and I like to bring those personalities out in the pieces I create. I also love to create anything that portrays joy. I learned a long time ago that if I think something’s funny and draw it, that’s all that really matters. If I draw a fat cat sleeping on someone’s head, it’s because I think it’s hilarious.”
Hiller Goodspeed — @hillergoodspeed
Hiller Goodspeed’s illustrations are deceptively simple. The childlike characters he creates are so cute that if you scrolled past them without looking more closely, you wouldn’t realize how deeply strange they are. Many of his drawings feature captions, but they’re not always comics — they express a single moment or feeling rather than telling a story. His Instagram feed toes the line between cynicism and encouragement, and no matter what message he’s selling, his posts almost always make me laugh (on the inside, because I’m not one of those weird assholes who laughs at their phone in public).
Kristen Liu-Wong — @kliuwong
I know what you’re thinking: Kelli, there aren’t enough naked chicks on this list. Well, don’t worry - LA-based illustrator Kristen Liu-Wong has us covered. Or, you know, not covered. Okay, I’m sorry, I’ll stop joking about nudity. But seriously, if you’re into illustration that is risque, bizarre, and violently colorful, I highly recommend giving Liu-Wong a follow. Her Instagram is an explosion of neon joy, and while she primarily posts her illustrations, she features some of her sculpture work and crafts there as well.
Liu-Wong’s artwork is a celebration of female sexuality and the mythological beauty of human bodies. Her characters all seem to exist on the same plane, in some nightmarish paradise that I’m desperate to visit every time I look through her feed.
Kaye Blegvad — @kayeblegvad
This next artist also features nudity in her work, but it’s of a much more modest variety. Kaye Blegvad, a Londoner based in Brooklyn, describes herself as a “maker” in her bio, and with watercolor illustrations, wall sculptures, tapestries, jewelry, and vases among her repertoire, the word seems like an understatement. No matter the medium, all of her work possesses the same simple sweetness, making her feed a minimalist’s dream.
Blegvad’s work is very female-focused, often deconstructing the body into simple forms or even individual elements: breasts, hands, faces, eyes. I am especially enamoured with her jewelry, which she sells under the name Datter Industries — and as a bonus, I recommend the account @cat.en.count.ers, which is Blegvad’s attempt to document every cat she meets.
Jillian Tamaki — @jilliantamaki
Some of you might already be familiar with the work of Jillian Tamaki — not too long ago, Emily and Mary wrote about This One Summer, the graphic novel Tamaki co-created with her cousin, Mariko Tamaki. Jillian Tamaki’s illustrations were a high-point of their review, and if you like her work in comics, her instagram does not disappoint. It's an eclectic sampling of finished work, doodles, sketches, and mini comics about her day-to-day life, and it offers a view into her truly delightful mind. Unlike many artists who stick to one particular beat, Tamaki experiments with a lot of different illustration styles, and it's always fun to see what she'll come up with next.
Manuja Waldia — @manujawaldia
Manuja Waldia’s artwork is a perfect marriage of the traditional and the contemporary. Her paintings feature elegant figures - often women - sometimes pensive, sometimes engaged in group ritual, whether that means sharing fruit, applying face masks, or having a party. There is something very soothing about scrolling through her feed, with its bright earthy colors and graceful, long-necked women. She also posts images that serve as inspiration, like stills from Indian films, and photos of herself sporting some very excellent outfits.
In an interview with It’s Nice That (which is an excellent resource for discovering contemporary artists and designers, btw), Waldia says of her work, “I hope my illustrations feel representational of women of colour like me who are underrepresented in both popular culture and illustration. The women in my work relish their existence. They are not just surviving but also supporting one another through whatever may come their way while still having a self-assured good time.”
Wawe Studio — @wawestudio
This might be my current favorite artist Instagram, and also happens to be the most difficult to find information about. After some light stalking, I can confirm that Wawe is a woman originally from Hawaii inspired by vintage Americana and Asian kitsch… and that's about it. I don't even know her name!
What I do know is that Wawe Studio is making some of the CUTEST SHIT ON THE INTERNET. Teletubbies, cupie dolls, felt plushies, and pastel cotton fluff are the current focus of Wawe’s insta feed, but scroll on for endless cuteness. I am shamelessly obsessed.
Inés Estrada — @inechi__
I first discovered this artist when a friend sent me a link to one of her tote bags, which I immediately bought. I've been following @inechi ever since, and I'm always thrilled when her work pops up on my feed. Based out of Mexico, Inés Estrada makes work reminiscent of your favorite childhood cartoons (if those cartoons were like, high af). Her illustrations are incredibly intricate with lines that seem to vibrate, bright, psychedelic color schemes, and surreal imagery, both human and animal. She also has an online store with tons of cool merch, which I highly recommend checking out — it’s a 90s-themed paradise.
Shantell Martin — @shantell_martin
Shantell Martin is an artist I discovered because there’s a restaurant near me in Brooklyn that she drew all over. That’s kind of the thing with Shantell Martin: she draws all over stuff. Her work is all done in her beautifully distinctive style, thick black line drawings that swirl and curve around each other ad infinitum. On her website, Martin’s work is described like this: “With a meditative process defined by an uninhibited flow, her compositions embody her internal state and the impermanence of the world around her. Exploring themes such as intersectionality, identity and play, Martin is a cultural facilitator, forging new connections between fine art, education, design, philosophy and technology.”
Of all the artists listed here, Martin has probably achieved the most commercial success, and her instagram reflects this — her feed is flooded with images not just of her art, but of the artist herself, standing in front of her pieces with well-deserved pride. I like looking at her page not just because I appreciate her work, but because sometimes it’s nice to see an artist getting recognized and praised for being exactly who she is.
All images used in this post are from Instagram. Click through each photo to follow the artist!