When we were looking for an illustrator to help us come up with a thoughtful, beautiful and show-stopping image that could help us summarize all of the complexity around fertility, we fell hard for Mary Purdie's work. One scan of her instagram account @drawnbymary will leave you feeling supported and empowered by Purdie's seemingly endless compassion and ability to poignancy. We caught up with LA-based artist who shed some light on her process.
1. When did you start illustrating?
Photo via Mary Purdie
2. Your work is so engaging—I feel like it’s speaking right to me. How do you manage to do that? :)
Thank you, that’s the best compliment! I get inspired by everything around me, experiences that I go through, day to day happenings, emotions, the people in my life. So pulling from that, I feel like a lot of my work is naturally going to be relatable because I’m drawing from an emotional place. I put art out that speaks to me, so it is always my hope that it speaks to others in a way that they need in that moment.
3. How would you describe your style?
I like my work to look handmade, and I embrace the hand drawn style and feel. What I learned early on is that I have a shaky hand as opposed to a steady hand, so my lines are always going to reflect that. I used to be critical and try to clean up those qualities about my work, but once I embraced it as my unique style, I created more work that felt authentic to me and my messages. I would also describe my style as warm and feminine, because I love to use pink color palettes. I love bright, rich colors in general, but if you look at my body of work, you’ll notice that I lean heavily towards varying shades of pink.
4. What’s your process like/where do you mine inspiration?
I almost always begin every piece on paper first. Even though the end product is usually digital, I am much more comfortable pencil to paper. I sketch a rough idea of what I envision and then go over it in black ink, which I scan into the computer and edit freely from there. I love using Illustrator because I can preserve my style, my hand drawn lines, but play a lot with colors and patterns until I get to a final version that I love.
5. How is your fertility journey connected to your work?
Part of working through my fertility struggles (I have had 5 miscarriages and zero successful pregnancies) was expressing my pain through art. It took me some time to feel comfortable enough to share that part of myself, but once I opened up about it and shared my grief through my work, it became a powerful healing tool that I lean on time and again. Sharing my grief through art has also attracted a wonderful and supportive community online. And after all that, being diagnosed with breast cancer was the real wrench. I learned that my fertility journey was going to go a very different direction than we ever expected and I may not be able to carry our child(ren) myself. It has been therapeutic to share my emotions about my journey to a wide audience, and people are learning from my experiences and rooting for me, and that feels wonderful.
6. What appealed to you about working on this campaign?
I am all for supporting women going through fertility struggles and unique fertility journeys. I love that Knix is using their platform to speak on this topic that is so often shamed into silence. I will always be eager to contribute to amplifying these voices and stories around fertility and miscarriage.
7. Was this your first time having your illustration turned into a tattoo?
Yes! I have dreamed of seeing one of my illustrations turned into a tattoo so this is exciting!
8. What are your thoughts on the final product?
It came out amazing, I love how it looks when it’s applied! Being able to look at it on my own skin is such a sweet way to memorialize our losses during Miscarriage and Infant Loss Awareness Month.
9. What do you wish more people knew about miscarriage and grief?
Miscarriage is so common, and it’s never our fault. I wish more people knew what to say to someone grieving this type of loss. I got a lot of, “everything happens for a reason” and dismissive remarks, and I wanted everyone to just be quiet and let me feel all the emotions and hold space for that. I wanted to hear, “I’m so sorry, I’m hear to listen and grieve with you.” It’s a death. Just because we didn’t meet the person we are grieving doesn’t mean we didn’t imagine a lifetime of memories ahead of us. That’s what I grieved most, all the experiences I dreamed of while I was pregnant, they were shattered with every loss. Also, grief isn’t linear. It was always awful in the beginning, and then I would feel better for weeks, sometimes months. But it goes up and down. A pregnancy announcement would take me back to that feeling of fresh, deep grief, for example. Or seeing a baby in the grocery store. It can hit you out of nowhere. It doesn’t end, it just comes in waves after a while.
10. Is there anything you would like to add?
It’s important that we support women and men who are grieving miscarriage or struggling with infertility. It is a heavy burden to carry, and because we grow up thinking that procreating is the one thing we are supposed to be able to do effortlessly, there is so much shame when it doesn’t happen that way. I’d love to see more people sharing their stories and their grief around this topic. Let’s lift the stigma and code of silence, and hold space for these conversations so that no one has to suffer in silence, no one has to feel ashamed or unsupported.