Illustrators on Instagram: meet the kickass women perfectly depicting anxiety

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Sarah Biddlecombe
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No one with an Instagram account is immune to the odd twinge of jealousy when scrolling through images of their friend’s perfectly staged lives.

From a delicious-looking brunch to an envy-inducing holiday, or even just an inexplicably perfect top knot, it's hard not to compare ourselves to what we see on our screens.

And while numerous studies have linked increased social media use with feelings of anxiety and depression, a new piece of research has suggested that users are using the photo-sharing app to build supportive online communities that can actually help ease depressive or anxious thoughts.

With this in mind, spoke to eight illustrators who are using Instagram to share images of their own experiences with mental health, to both show people they are not alone and open up the conversation around this all-too-often-taboo topic.

From humorous depictions of a “not to do list” to a thoughtful project on 100 Days of Overthinking, read below to meet eight champions of the positive nature of Instagram.

Kathrin Honesta

Kathrin Honesta (@kathrinhonestaa), 23 from Jakarta, Indonesia, has an instantly recognisable style, with boldly drawn portraits of women, men, children and nature.

She recently completed a project titled “The Anxiety Portraits” to portray how she feels when she has an occasional “break-down”, which she described as “feeling really anxious over everything and barely able to function at all”.

“When that anxiety hit me again, I decided to make art and share it to get this negative feeling out of my mind,” she said. “Shortly after that, people started to open up with their own story of struggling with anxiety. The comment section became a small community of encouragement and comfort, with people who could relate to the same struggle.”

“I feel that we’re all human, and we’re all a little broken inside,” she added.

“When the brokenness becomes overwhelming, it’s easy for us to feel as if we’re alone and the world is against us. So to see people who are brave enough to share their own struggle with the world, in the form of anything creative, can be really encouraging for those who feel the same. It reminds them that they’re not alone, and opens up new conversations to help us find hope together.”

Gemma Correll

Cartoonist, writer and illustrator Gemma Correll (@gemmacorrell) always seems to hit the nail on the head with her cathartic illustrations of everyday anxieties.

From a “not to do list” to the “train of overthinking”, her Instagram feed reads like a checklist of daily niggles and worries..

“My inspiration comes from my own life,” she said.

“The work that I post on social media is personal work - diaries and comics based on direct experiences, sometimes drawn on the spot when I'm feeling particularly bad. This kind of drawing, even finding humour in the darkest places, has always helped me process my feelings and anxieties (I've been drawing this way since I was a child).”

Ruby etc.

23-year-old Londoner Ruby Elliot (@rubyetc_) portrays mental health with signature dark humour across both her Instagram feed and tumblr account.

Her inspiration comes mainly from her own life, and she says she finds it therapeutic to draw what is going on inside her head. 

“Inspiration is a bit of a funny one, because my art is mainly informed by feeling and going with what ideas that pop into my head,” she said. “Drawing happens as a reflex according to what is going on for me on any given day, which is the therapeutic element.

“That and wanting to make myself and others laugh are my main motivations for illustrating mental health in this way.”

Pranita Kochareka

Pranita Kochareka (@pranitart), an illustrator/artist/graphic designer/typographer/one talented lady, chose to help raise awareness and understanding of anxiety in a light, comical way with a series of sketches called Is That You.

"Most of my personal projects revolve around problems and issues that people are facing,” she said. 

“I'm trying to reach out to these people via my profession. I'm hoping to make a small difference to someone's day!"

100 days of overthinking

Maria Sanoja (@100daysofoverthinking) was overthinking “as usual” when she bumped into a blackboard outside a cafe with a Yoko Ono quote on it: “Put your shadows together until they become one”.

The quote sparked a moment of realisation for the Brooklyn-based designer, who decided to get out of her own head by drawing something around her everyday and pairing it with a thought she was overthinking – and lo, the “100 Days of Overthinking Project” was born.


“I realised that every day, especially when I'm alone, I tug at fresh and old dilemmas, guilts, doubts,” she said. “I also realised that I'm often so absorbed in my own thoughts that I miss the simple, beautiful things that surround me every day – my overthinking keeps me from being present.”

“So each day for 100 days I drew something that I noticed around me and paired it with whatever I was overthinking, in an effort to be more aware and let go. 100 Days of Overthinking is a record of the ramblings of my wandering, restless mind, and my efforts to bring myself into presence through becoming more aware of my immediate, tangible surroundings.”

Liana Finck

Liana Finck (@lianafinck), 31, is a Brooklyn-based artist whose simple – but brilliant – illustrations have appeared in The New Yorker, The Awl and Catapult.

Her Instagram feed is full of witty and relatable sketches of moments that will make you think, such as an image of a woman reading a book titled The Self: A User’s Manual (below), or the three words “remember, misremember, forget” written on top of each other.

“I draw in order to make sense of things that scare me,” she said. “As a sensitive, shy single woman who lives in a big city and spends her days drawing in crowded cafes, there are a lot of things that make me nervous.”

Julie Houts

New York based illustrator Julie Houts (@jooleeloren) captures our imperfect moments perfectly with her sarcasm-laden drawings.

Speaking about the inspiration behind her images, she said, “I'm usually just going about my day and my life and responding to things as I see and feel them.  Often something will upset me and I just work through it through drawing out some exaggerated version of the situation.  I usually feel better afterwards.  A lot of times the feeling is rage.”

And the current state of America under Trump is a particularly relatable issue that Houts finds herself drawing about more and more.

“I think especially now considering our political climate, my general feeling is often just one of extreme anxiety or despair,” she said. 

“Being able to read some horrific piece of news and then sit down and quickly draw out how I feel about it helps me piece together how I actually do feel about it and why.  It helps me get through something more quickly and calmly if I'm thinking about the issue in the abstract.”

Maja Säfström

Stockholm based illustrator Maja Säfström (@majasbok) creates adorable images of (mostly) black and white animals acting just like us humans.

“I love the process of feeling a bit exposed and worried what people will think when I post something,” she said.

“But I find that almost always, when I have an experience that I share, so many people can relate to it. It’s such a beautiful way of sharing our inner struggles with each other! I really love the community of followers, there is so much love and understanding among us.”

Images: Instagram, with artist’s permission