When you’re feeling your worst, whether it’s because your brain has turned against you or yet another jerk commented on your looks, sometimes all you want is a few comforting words. Other times, a friendly face or cute animal does the trick. Luckily, Kate Allan’s affirmation-based artwork offers both.
Allan has shared her inspiring drawings and messages on her Tumblr, The Latest Kate, since late 2013. Her work tackles some of the most difficult subjects — anxiety, depression, suicidal feelings, body image, abusive parents — with gentleness, compassion and optimism. If her words make it sound like she’s been there, it’s because she has.
“I started drawing affirmation-inspired art when I was bogged down by a depressive episode in my early twenties. I’d struggled to keep up in college and had subsequently (and to my view, shamefully) dropped out, I’d had a bad breakup with one of my closest friends, and my parents’ marriage was falling apart,” she says. “Drawing cute, colorful animals with therapeutic messages helped me cope.”
Allan grew up in Spokane, Washington. She began drawing as a child, and says she started out by drawing many of the same things she draws today. More specifically, she drew a lot of things she wished she could bring into her life, including glittery creatures, rainbow bunnies, treehouses and all kinds of brightly colored things. Those are the images that make her happiest, she says.
They also helped her cope when she was struggling, Allan says. Inspired by Emm Roy’s Positive Doodles blog, Allan started creating inspirational artwork just to get herself through difficult times. Once she started The Latest Kate, Allan soon discovered that her work resonated with others. In particular, her readers seem to love the sparkly affirmation animals and the cats, she says.
“I’m really surprised about and grateful for [that],” she says. “When you’re coping with depression or anxiety, you can feel very isolated, so seeing that other people understand and identify with my artwork is a really nice thing.”
Allan continues to take inspiration from her own experiences, or will combine her favorite inspirational quotes with her own artwork. When she’s having a bad day, she’ll write long, cathartic messages in a notepad file on her computer, or go into what she calls “therapist mode” and talk herself through problems. Often, a line or two from those notes wind up being central to her artwork, she says.
“So, if I’m having a day where I doubt myself, the line comes out to, ‘You can do the thing!’ or if it’s a particularly bad depression day, and I feel like I’m falling apart, it’s ‘You will survive this,’” she says. “I’ve had people message me who seem to think I’m a beacon of positivity, but that’s definitely not the case! I draw this stuff because reality can be very unpleasant.”
After launching The Latest Kate, Allan started doing illustrations for Sparknotes about a year ago. She also cross-posts her pieces on Facebook. As her work has gained attention, readers and fans have reached out to thank her for what she’s doing. Some have told her how much they needed to hear what her work has to say, while others have said it moved them to tears.
“It feels good to know that my artwork has been able to help people get through hard times,” Allan says. “I understand it isn’t for everyone, it’s very cute and the captions can come across as somewhat corny. I think, though, sometimes people just need a reminder that they’re doing well and things are going to be fine.”