Atlanta Based Artist, SOFAHOOD, on the Importance of Creating Dreamy Illustrations with Queer People of Color

by Sanjeda Nayeem

When searching for inspiration to spark some creativity, I find myself going through my social media feed in search of some artwork that I can resonate with. However, after hours and hours of scavenging, I ended up only finding countless artwork of slim white girls that all started to look the same.

But after hearing from our social media manager, Amna Ali, about SOFAHOOD, I was immediately hooked! 

Meet SOFAHOOD, a 22-year-old black Dominican nonbinary artist based in Atlanta. Their artwork is a dreamy playground for their imagination. With fun illustrations of characters with different body types, hair, skin color, sexual orientations, and even gender identities, you can somehow find yourself in their artwork. I chatted with SOFAHOOD to dig deep into their brain and learn more about their creative process behind their work.

 

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breh thanksgiving coming up?????? omg

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1. When and how did you start becoming interested in art?

I’ve been interested in art since before I even started kindergarten. My mom let me skip pre-school, so I got to stay home and just be creative and play. When I finally got into school, my favorite part of the day was anything art-related. When I was little, my favorite part of the week was weekend mornings when I could sit in front of the TV and watch cartoons so I could draw all of the characters I saw. I would draw random people and make up entire profiles and personalities for them. I started taking it really seriously though when my uncle Pablo sat me down and taught me how to draw a cheeseburger and fries and a soda. Something about that moment with him, an adult artist, made me realize drawing meant more to me than I thought it did.

 

2. How would you describe your art? Are there any specific stories you’re trying to convey to your audience?

I would describe my art as story illustrations of unheard moments and portraits of unheard people. I focus all of my work on the experiences of marginalized people, specifically queer people of color. As a queer person of color myself, the stories and the faces of people in my community are extremely important to me. I like drawing us in everyday moments with magical colors. I think it’s revolutionary to decide we’re important and ethereal when the world says otherwise.

 

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3. Has being openly queer and agender affected or influenced your work in any way? 

Oh, my gender and my sexuality absolutely play a role in my work. In fact, I specifically and exclusively draw other queer people because I’m queer. While my sexuality and my gender oppress me in the world, these aspects of my identity give me a community and a family, and I like to find beauty in that. I like to showcase that beauty, too. That’s what my art is all about.

4. Your incredible artwork focuses on a wide range of things from love and relationships to mental health. How do you draw inspiration for your work? 

I draw inspiration from my own love life and my own emotions. My moon is in Cancer, my rising is in Pisces, and my venus is in Libra so I’m constantly in my feelings and in a dream state. A lot of the conversation in my work is things I wish I could’ve said or situations I’ve only dreamt of. It’s all really emotions-based.

 

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5. How did you gain inspiration to choose your style of art? 

You know when you were really little? And you would just smash markers all over the page because you just liked that color? And you would draw random things because you just really liked those things? I’ve tried to keep that energy in my art throughout the years. I use really expressive colors and my favorite color schemes because I just want to see them. I want to see pinks and reds and blues everywhere because they’re pretty to me. I draw people in a very cartoon-y style because that kind of expression is pretty to me too. It just feels good to draw things I want to look at. I’m just really happy and lucky that other people like to look at it too.

 

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6. If you could go back in time and give your younger self some advice, what would it be?

I would tell my younger self the same thing I still tell myself now: self-love is lonely, but the reward is light in abundance. I always felt very outcasted, or included but uncomfortable, as a kid. It was lonely feeling like I just didn’t fit. Especially as a kid, like you’re not worried about self-growth, you just want some nice fucking friends to invite you to their sleepovers. But as an adult now who still feels like I just don’t fit, I’ve been learning how to be my own best friend, my own lover, my own home. And it pays off every time I put myself first. I always end up understanding something new about myself and gaining more love for myself. I wish I could tell Smol Sofa that the road to light is a lonely one, but self-love is the greatest gift.

 

7. What artists/musicians/writers/etc. have you looked up to throughout your life that has influenced your work?

I’ve always looked up to Tyler, The Creator, in all honesty. I’ve been following him and his work for years and it’s almost like we work from the same palette, so I’ve always been drawn to his visuals and, of course, his emotionally vulnerable discography. Along with Tyler, I’m into other visually expressive artists like Rico Nasty, Bbymutha, FKA Twigs, etc. Y’know, the kind of artists who do shoots that are so incredibly beautiful that you have to drop everything to draw it immediately? More recently though, I’ve been diving into Lesbian art and I’ve been drawing from Black Lesbian icons, like Cheryl Dunye, Audre Lorde, and Staceyann Chin.

 

8. Can you tell us more about your zine, Flaming: A Zine By SofaHood. How would you describe it? What was your inspiration behind it? What advice would you give to other artists who would be interested in creating their own zine?

Flaming is an ode to lesbianism and to me. Recently, I’ve been studying LGBTQ+ history and Black lesbianism as my focus in my sociology studies. My studies have been causing these big shifts in my ideologies and my identity. But just because I’m finding myself doesn’t mean the universe cut me some slack and stopped fucking with me. Oh no, I was struggling to define myself while dealing with an immense amount of grief and repeatedly failed attempts at romance as a distraction. I had this new power stemming from what felt like decades of suppressed lesbian rage combined with some of the most intense emotions I had ever faced. I quite literally felt like I was on fire. So, I wrote. And when the moment passed, I realized .. hold up, these notes in my Notes app kinda buss. I got straight to work on Flaming and didn’t rush to release her either. This was by far my favorite zine-making experience because it felt so authentic and freeing. 

For other artists trying to make zines, I suggest taking it step by step, literally. It’s truly an easy, accessible process when it’s taken literally and taken step by step. Write your feelings. Doodle your feelings. Fold a piece of paper and decide where you want to put everything. Work until you’re happy. That’s it. I promise. There’s no zine police, you can literally do this however you want. And you absolutely should. 

 

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10. What advice do you have for other artists that are struggling to find their own unique voice and style?

I would say your artistic voice takes time to develop. I’ve been drawing since before I could spell, and I only found some of the currently defining features of my work towards the end of my high school career. And my style is still constantly going through shifts in aesthetic. Your own style should never be a standard you hold yourself to. Just make art. Your signature will become apparent over time.

Sanjeda Nayeem

Sanjeda Nayeem (she/her) is a 21-year-old Bangladeshi American community organizer from NYC. Her dream is to save the world in any capacity, so she makes sure to dedicate her time to helping her community grow. You can find her at NY Presbyterian Hospital where she works alongside orthopedic surgeons as a medical assistant. Besides medicine, her other passion is to ensure gender equality and women empowerment. She’s a self-defense instructor and community organizer at Malikah, a non profit organization that teaches women self-defense, healing justice, financial literacy, and an event coordinator for Bangladeshi Mental Health, an organization dedicated to uplifting Bengali voices, and reshaping the way mental health is discussed in the community, and MSA Showdown, a non profit talent tournament for Muslim college students. Sanjeda is also conducting research on Kurdish Muslim refugees across America as a research assistant. In her spare time, you can find Sanjeda eating Ketchup chips and binge-watching almost every show on Netflix.

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