Bestselling author and illustrator Kate Allan put out the perfect book for 2020. Titled You’re Strong, Smart and You Got This: Drawings, Affirmations, and Comfort to Help with Anxiety and Depression, the work blends sunshine drawings and powerful words. The book not only provides a supportive voice for readers when they’re overwhelmed, it is also a gentle reminder we should treat ourselves with more kindness.
Allan began creating to cope with her own depression and anxiety. As her work grew, she started posting drawings on Tumblr. People took notice, a community was born, and today Allan’s social handle, The Latest Kate, reaches more than 100,000 people. Allan corresponded with Girls That Create via email.
Q&A With Kate Allan
As a young girl, did you see yourself becoming an illustrator one day? Were you always pulled towards drawing or is it something you found later in life?
I’ve always loved to draw, but because I had very low self-esteem growing up, I never thought I’d be a creative professional in any form. So now that I have published work, patrons, and people following my art from week-to-week, the whole thing can still feel unreal. It’s like a good dream I don’t want to wake up from.
Did you have a favorite picture book growing up? Animated film?
Oh, absolutely! I loved fairy tales– my favorite picture book was Snow White and Rose Red, illustrated by Sheilah Beckett. She had this, like, art nouveau style crossed with a bright 70’s technicolor design. It’s so pretty! My favorite animated film as a child was BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, of course.
Was there someone in your childhood who encouraged your art?
To be perfectly candid, not really! I wouldn’t say I was discouraged, though, which is the important thing.
Was there a painting or other piece of art that made a strong impact during your younger years?
I really hit this golden age of anime and American cartoons when I was around ten years old. The colors and art styles of Sailor Moon, Pokemon, Powerpuff Girls, and Dexter’s Laboratory inspired me and made me excited to create.
What artists inspire your work?
I love comic artists. The creator of Calvin and Hobbes, Bill Watterson, is a huge inspiration to me. Contemporarily, I love the works of rubyetc and Allie Brosh. And my favorite illustrator on the internet right now is loish – her work is just soft and colorful and overall gorgeous.
In many ways I feel you’re making books you wished had existed when you have struggled with depression. Why do you think art and words reminding us to be kind to ourselves is so powerful?
Hmm, that is a good question. I think people with depression have a really distorted view of themselves. We can often see the outside world in a sensical way, but then we feel like we are burdensome, incapable of handling life, or overall, just a bad person. I try to write affirmations as a counter to those warped judgements/feelings.
Journaling helped you and in turn you’ve put out It’s Your Weirdness That Makes You Wonderful. Why should people really consider journaling, especially when they’re feeling overwhelmed?
I find journaling to be a hugely beneficial activity over time, because it helps me to recognize patterns with my ill mental health. For example, I personally obsess over being a disappointment to others. When I write out all my stresses and worries over the course of weeks, I can see that, “I’m worried I’m going to disappoint everyone,” repeats often. That helps me mentally take a step back from it, so I can recognize it’s just a weird brain thing rather than something I need to actually be concerned about. And then there’s also the helpful journaling activity of arguing those worries down, i.e. “So what if you disappoint people? Their expectations are THEIR thing, you don’t have to take that on.”
Do you write to your younger self often when you journal? Is that important?
Writing towards my younger self is interesting because it helps me remember how far I’ve come. I wish I could go back in time and hand myself everything I’ve created because dealing with these issues first-hand is rough. I do not often journal towards my younger self, however.
Why do you think so many people are drawn to animals (in addition to the cute factor)?
I think animals are simple in a nice way. We don’t see them as having nefarious intentions like humans sometimes do.
Do you have a spirit animal or if you drew yourself as an animal, what would it be?
I love rabbits! They’re just so cute.
What advice do you have for girls who are aspiring to become illustrators?
Draw what you like! Many illustrators nowadays get work from drawing fan art of shows they love and then posting that art to twitter and Instagram. Experimenting is also helpful– learning how to draw in other peoples’ styles can help you figure out what you like about their artwork.
What are your future plans?
Next spring, I have a children’s board book coming out called I Like You, which is very exciting! It’s a sweet little affirming book parents can read to their kids at night to show their acceptance and love. I’m also doing my best to level up my illustration skills, so hopefully you’ll be seeing more detailed backgrounds in my drawings as time goes on.
As mentioned, You’ve Got This is pretty much the perfect book for 2020. I’m so glad it’s out there in the world. Any tips for coping with these times?
Thank you! I am so glad people are finding it helpful. I think a big part of dealing with anxiety is just allowing it to exist. Sometimes life is going to be uncomfortable. You don’t have to like it, but you don’t need to shame yourself for feeling that way, either. Another helpful thing to note is that many people are feeling the same way you do. You’re not alien in your experiences. So, though you may be going through hell, you’re never truly going through it alone.