Sugar and Spice: the Illustrations of Heather Mahler
Pastel witches, feminist punks, and curvy queens are all the rage with freelance illustrator Heather Mahler. As a purveyor of pop culture, tattoos, watercolors, and a lover of old cats, her quirks and personality all filter into her dreamy candy-colored paintings, and it’s hard to look away. Tattooed characters with hair in every color of the rainbow show both glorious strength and vulnerability in addition to their “give no fucks” personalities.
These body positive alt babes and witchy women are iconic with their tattoo sleeves and pastel hair, not unlike Heather herself. While she acknowledges that her characters are often reminiscent of her own appearance, they aren’t intended to be self-portraits; rather, she styles herself after her drawings. “A little bit of myself is in each piece which isn’t always flattering, but the awkward truth.”
Heather’s illustrations cover themes such as anxiety, friendship, self-love, and coping with the challenges in life. Her illustration entitled Girl Talk discusses some of her personal struggles with dyslexia:
Anyone who has been following my work long enough will remember the triangle speech bubbles. I drew them to express my dyslexia and anxiety when finding my words.
Not only do her illustrations stand on their own with their gorgeous characters and relatable narratives, but her fanart is equally badass. Are video games or graphic novels your jive? If so, you must see her drawings of spunky Chibiusa, Princess Peach, and Wonder Woman, complete with tattoos to match their backstories.
Heather has a background in printmaking, with a BFA from Utah State University. While her work is primarily a mixture of inked lines and watercolor, she still experiments with her printmaking roots and sequential narratives. She has a long-term ambition to get into comics, but her biggest goal is to create art that makes people feel empowered and included.
As a white person in Utah, I’m always trying to educate myself and listen more to include more diversity in my work. I hope that I’m doing that.
To see more of Heather’s artwork, visit her Instagram or Twitter. Prints and other awesomeness can be purchased on Heather’s Etsy. (She takes on-commission work frequently, so if you want something unique, you should totally hit her up.)
Xavier. “The Mesmerizing Tattooed Watercolor Girls of Heather Mahler.” Tattoodo, 25 Nov. 2016, www.tattoodo.com/a/2016/11/the-mesmerizing-tattooed-watercolor-girls-of-heather-mahler/.
Vermillion, Alex. “Adding Sass to Your Art Collection: Meet Artist Heather Mahler – SLUG Magazine.” SLUG Magazine, 16 Aug. 2017, www.slugmag.com/interviews-features/adding-sass-art-collection-meet-artist-heather-mahler/.
All photos are property of Heather Mahler.