Instagram has become a significant platform for artists to promote their work and reach a wider audience. Many of these artists utilize their social media following to spread messages of positivity, hope, and love. One such artist is the talented Sophie Fleetwood of @simplysophiedesigns. Sophie's artwork often focuses on female empowerment, diversity, and mental well-being. However, her creative process has evolved over time and only recently encompassed these causes and topics. Contributing writer Jaelyn Decena had the opportunity to speak with Fleetwood about her artistic journey, and the importance art has for her.

How long have you been doing art?

Well, I've been doing digital art for two years. But, I've honestly always been artistic. Since I was little, I've always used creativity as an outlet. It runs in the family. I began doing digital art with Adobe Create and then recently got an iPad in January to start using Procreate, which has been a game-changer for me. Before, I would sketch and then try to digitize it, which was really a hassle and time-consuming. So using Procreate has been really useful for me. The price tag of an iPad and Apple Pencil is pretty intimidating but definitely

What inspired you to begin doing art?

One thing that inspired me to begin doing art was being on Instagram and seeing the community of artists there. I've always been a goal-oriented and go-getter type of person, so when something inspires me, I like to do it that day as soon as possible. When something pops into my head, I immediately have to get started that day. So, for example, my portraits have been blowing up recently. I remember seeing other people doing it and thinking, "oh, that's cool!" so I began doing some of my own. Especially seeing women on Instagram doing their side hustles and doing something meaningful with their work really inspired me to start doing this. I thought, "if they can do it, why can't I?" you know?

What's a piece that has the most importance to you? One that has the most meaning for you and why?

Oh man, that's a hard one. If I had to choose, a piece I've done that has the most meaning to me is one that says, "things you should be telling yourself." This one was shared so many times and has really blown up. I think it has around 40 thousand likes now, which to some people may not be a lot, but it was a big deal to me. It was one of the first times I realized that my art can create a human connection. Seeing the impact my work can make on someone else's life lit a spark in me. As an artist, sometimes it can be so tempting to post something just because it's pretty. But I know that if I'm gonna post art, I want there to be meaning behind it. A lot of the things I post are things that people need to hear and how important mental health is. This post is also important to me because it features a person of colour. If you look back at my first few posts, they mainly featured White women and had no diversity in my drawings. I felt like I was excluding a group of people. I want people to be able to see themselves in an illustration of mine by promoting representation. I always want to be contributing in a positive way. Also, this post is important to me because even though I ultimately create art for other people, they're often daily reminders that I need to hear myself. When I create, it's coming from my heart, so I try to make it authentic and real. I want my Instagram page to be a place where people can share their feelings on my page as a safe space. I want my page to be a place where people feel peace, confidence, happiness, joy, and acceptance.

What is the goal behind creating art for you?

Yeah! So the goal behind creating art for me is to reach people. I want my Instagram to reach as many people as possible and make a daily impact on their lives. My posts usually have words in them, and that's because I have a lot to say. You can never underestimate scrolling through your feed and seeing a post that means something to you. So my main target audience is women, and people will ask me, "why don't you include men?". I'm all for helping out men and self-care in men. But my main focus is women because it's my passion. With all my work, I wanna be able to post something and maybe that one illustration helps make their day better.

What does self-help/self-care mean to you?

No problem at all! My self-care is having alone time and not feeling bad about it. Part of it is also helping yourself to help other people, you know? I feel like in society, self-help can be mistaken for "oh it's all about me," but part of self-care is helping yourself so that you can help other people. Of course, there are times to set boundaries between yourself and others. Some people may not bring a positive influence into your life, so then you can set boundaries. I always try to make sure I'm contributing to the world positively in some way. Self-care, for me, is also spiritual. I know this isn't for everyone, of course, though, and what's my thing may not be the same for everyone. But as a Christian, part of self-care is taking care of my relationship with Jesus because other areas of my life will suffer when I'm not keeping a good relationship with my faith. I genuinely want people to know, "oh, she's a Christian," but at times, it can be intimidating because not everyone has religion or faith. It's a vulnerable experience sharing your religion publicly, but I do want people to see that that's the goal of everything I do.

Do you have any advice for readers when it comes to taking care of your mental well-being?

Yeah! So, my advice to others would be to be extremely careful with who you surround yourself with. Surround yourself with positive people, you know? And positivity goes both ways, of course. Think about the person you're with when you're with these people, ask yourself, "do I like who I am when I'm with them?". If you're in a toxic friendship, self-care is getting out of that friendship. A lot of girls message me asking to make a post about transitioning from high school to college. For me, once I graduated, I never looked back. I stayed close to three friends. Now that I'm an adult, once I see that something is toxic, I can cut it out. Self-care isn't just helping yourself and doing things that make you happy, it also can include your relationships with other people. It's important to question: are you getting a meaningful friendship out of this? Your life can be so enriched with people who genuinely want the best for you.

Much of Fleetwood's work promotes self-care practices essential to daily life. While living in a fast-paced world , it's important to remember to slow down and check in on personal and mental health. More about Sophie Fleetwood and her artwork can be found on her website.

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