Interview with nudes and abstract artist, Dolly Daydream Art!
Joining us in conversation today is nudes and abstract artist, Sophie Gregory - who you may be more familiar with by the name Dolly Daydream Art - and we're talking all about her unique range of artwork, her thoughts on body positivity matters, her inspirations, and more!
Britain Uncovered: Hi Sophie! It’s been excellent following your artistic journey over the past six months, and we’re really looking forward to talking about your impressive portfolio of art and hearing your thoughts on a variety of body positivity matters too!
This new venture of yours first got off the ground when you decided to take part in Sophie Tea’s Instagram art class last November – and she has seemingly inspired a whole new generation of artists who are doing an excellent job of following in her footsteps! What is it about Sophie’s art that appealed to you when you saw it for the very first time, and how does it continue to impact you?
Sophie: Sophie Tea is such an incredible artist who, as you say, has inspired a lot of people to start painting and follow in her footsteps.
For me, it was a celebration of the human body, particularly the female form, that impacted me. Sophie paints so many shapes and sizes and with her ‘nudies’ celebrates bodies of all forms. Being someone who has struggled with their weight for as long as I can remember, I found this really refreshing.
When doing her art class, I honestly didn’t expect it to lead on to me painting more and weekly – but at the time that I did it (in the November lockdown), it was something that was both exciting and distracting for me and I could paint the emotions I was feeling!
I really do thank her for doing that class, and I really hope she’s aware how much impact she’s probably had on a lot of individuals.
What I would say is that I have seen stories from her saying that she welcomes artists to paint in her style, but sometimes (as it rightly should) it does affect her when she isn’t credited. So, I feel it is really important to ensure all artists who have been inspired by her work do credit her where they have been heavily influenced by her style.
Britain Uncovered: What were some of the things you most enjoyed about Sophie’s online tutorial, and how does it feel to now be creating your very own range of empowering art? Are there particular themes or emotions you’re seeking to convey to your audience through your work?
Sophie: I love colour and the way she applies her colours! I think for me, it’s the way that she paints with such a range of different colours and in an abstract style. I hadn’t painted since I left school 15 years ago, and it stirred a creative emotion in me which I now feel I’m channelling in the right way.
At school, I thought art had to be ‘neat’ and make sense – but the abstract style is nothing like that and it suits me so much, and she really brought that out of me. I hope my art makes people feel happy when they look at it. Honestly, we’ve all had such a hard year, I want my art to make people bright and positive when they look at it.
Britain Uncovered: Body positivity and body neutrality are such important movements, and we’re pleased to see that these are continuing to gain momentum and are impacting so many lives in such a positive way!
Would you be able to share with us a few details of how your own body confidence journey has evolved over the years? Has body positivity and acceptance come naturally, or is this something you’ve had to work on to get to where you are today?
Sophie: Oh gosh, this is such an interesting question for me.
Honestly, I have struggled with my body for as long as I remember. Since body positivity and body neutrality have become such popular topics on social media, I have really reflected on my own body journey throughout my life.
In all honesty, I have ranged from a size six to a size 12-14 and have never felt happy with my body. I had eating issues throughout my teens and have never really had a healthy relationship with food.
There are certain influencers like Alex Light who are helping me understand my relationship with my body and realise it really is in my mind (which now makes sense, because when I was a size six I still thought I was "fat").
For now, my current goal certainly is body neutrality rather than body positivity. What I will say is that since I have been painting nudes and after this pandemic year, I no longer freak out if someone takes a photo of me where I feel fat or I'm not wearing makeup etc. It’s ok if I don’t love it, but I no longer stay up all night worrying about it (which I would have done before).
Britain Uncovered: Although the mainstream media could be doing so much more to promote all body types, there’s an excellent array of online platforms and tools that are promoting body positivity and inclusivity. Do you find these types of platforms helpful, and what other resources or methods help you to stay positive? As we emerge from lockdown, would you have any advice for any of our readers who may be struggling to appreciate themselves and their bodies at this difficult time?
Sophie: I would say Instagram has certainly made moves through certain influencers and brands to promote all body types, but as you've noted, they all could be doing so much more.
I think one thing I've really valued since setting up my art account is that I no longer follow people or brands that make me feel unhappy. We are human, and there's always going to be certain things that trigger feelings in you. I now follow people who inspire me or whose accounts I genuinely relate to – and there are so many out there: scarletts_world_, alexlight_ldn, and _nelly_london to name a few! All of these accounts promote healthiness and encourage body positivity/neutrality and show that being healthy doesn't necessarily mean being in a size eight or 10 body.
My biggest bit of advice would be to avoid following anyone that makes you feel bad about yourself – there’s a ‘mute’ or ‘unfollow’ button there for a reason.
The other thing (and I'm really trying to listen to my own advice here!) is that your body does not define who you are, and there are so many other things to you than that.
Britain Uncovered: A while back you noted that people were asking you to include curvier bodies in your work, and you responded in style with a brand new piece that you named ‘She’s Magic’! How important is to you to represent bodies of all shapes and sizes, and did this particular work get the desired reaction or feedback you were hoping for?
Sophie: I think it’s incredibly important to represent bodies of all shapes and sizes as that is what society really looks like.
Instagram and fashion websites are generally filled with one body type, although as I previously mentioned, there are waves being made to promoting different body types.
In a way, I feel frustrated at myself when I look back at the comment I made after I did that painting. I'm not sure I needed to call out that was what I was doing. I also should have represented all body types regardless of whether people were asking for them or not (especially being a curvier girl myself!)
That painting in particular was one of my favourites. All body shapes are beautiful to paint, and for that one I actually took inspiration from the model Ali Chanel and one of her photos she had posted. She is a gorgeous representation of a curvier figure and I really enjoyed painting her!
Britain Uncovered: Overall, do you feel as though your art can be a force for good that can help people to feel empowered and more confident about themselves? If so, why do you think nude art is particularly helpful when it comes to achieving these feelings?
Sophie: Absolutely! Not just for my art – but all nude art! I think that it helps people see their bodies as beautiful and a way of feeling confident about themselves. It takes a lot of courage to send your photo to someone to paint, but it can also be very refreshing too.
I've had quite a few people message me and when I've asked if they want the painting based on their own body, they've said, "I hadn’t even thought of that, I have put on weight, I don’t like my body etc". But when they've thought about it, they have come back and said, “This actually may help me accept myself.”
Britain Uncovered: A great deal of your work is commission-based, and you’ve been very thankful to the ladies that continually trust you to paint their bodies! How much do you enjoy these compared to your other paintings, and could you talk us through your typical process for these commission pieces please?
Sophie: I do enjoy painting commission nudes as it is incredible knowing you are painting someone for them to have in their own house!
I would ask the customer to take photos however she feels comfortable and send through the images (to only me!) and then we decide together which one we think would be most effective for me to paint. Sometimes the women wear underwear or a bikini and sometimes they are fully nude – it’s just however they feel most comfortable.
Britain Uncovered: One of your commissions features a very brave woman who has undergone over 40 operations for her Chron’s and chronic kidney diseases – and you came up with a really beautiful painting in which the scar on the lady’s stomach is the central feature of this work. How did you approach this piece, and did it feel completely different to your other nude paintings?
Sophie: This one was one of the more difficult paintings that I did, mainly because I felt such an emotional connection to it and really wanted to do it justice.
I'm really glad you asked me this question as when I approached it I changed my idea about it half-way through (and started again!) At first, I was going to do the scar as different colours against the rest of her body, but when I started to paint it, I felt that that was a strange thing to do – as the scar was now a part of her and her body, so should be the same as the rest of it.
It is a painting that I will always feel proud of doing, and proud that the lady allowed me to do it of her.
Britain Uncovered: In addition to painting bodies, you’ve also been creating pieces based around inspirational quotes – such as 'What A Plot Twist You Were' and 'Love You To Bits' – each decorated with your distinctive style and flair. What gave you the idea to transition to these, and how well are they received compared to the nudes? Which ones mean the most to you personally?
Sophie: ‘What A Plot Twist You Were’ was created on Valentine’s Day. We were in a dark, snowy February and being single, I was spending it by myself. I just wanted to paint something different and the concept of the ‘quote paintings’ came to me. As I mentioned before, the bright colours I use in my art are my favourite bit about it and I wanted to keep that in.
The quote paintings are usually very well received and I tend to get more interest in those than the nudes. I suppose it is something a bit different to the nudes and I haven’t come across anything similar.
The current one that means the most to me is the ‘Love You To Bits’ painting. This one I did for my lovely friend Michelle who recently lost her mum, and those words were what her mum used to say to her at the end of every phone call, so I wanted her to have them on her wall to remind her of her mum.
Britain Uncovered: For a giveaway earlier in the year you created a special ‘Let’s Get Naked’ painting, which was fun to see because our website has long been advocating the benefits brought about by social nudity experiences! Do you feel that baring all in public can help people to feel more confident in their own skin and be accepting of their bodies, and is this something that you would try some day perhaps?
Sophie: I'm a very liberal person when it comes to nudity and people showing their bodies – and I think if they are proud of them, it’s something they should do. I find it hard to translate my thoughts down to words and there probably isn’t enough space on here to say what I want about this, but I feel it’s especially important for women to be able to do this for so many reasons, which is why I love the Sophie Tea nude catwalk event.
Personally, it isn’t something I would feel comfortable doing, but I really admire the women that do and I think they look absolutely incredible when they do it!
Britain Uncovered: You’ve mentioned in a number of your posts that lockdown was a particularly challenging time for you, and I think we’re all relieved that it’s finally coming to an end!
Has your newfound art journey proved therapeutic during this difficult time, and will it be difficult continuing to paint now that life is returning to ‘normality’? We’ve already seen a few art accounts that were set up during lockdown fall by the wayside, and it’s such a shame to see!
Sophie: Honestly, my friends and family will attest to this… I don’t know what I would have done without art and my puppy during lockdown. It really really saved my mind when I was at home by myself nearly every day and evening. I have found a new hobby which I have massively enjoyed doing and it really does help me zone out of reality.
It’s also great as I have painted a few things for myself and I'll always remember how I felt when I painted those things! One – the nude called ‘Party Like it’s June 2021’ – was during Boris’s announcement about the easing of the restrictions, and I'll always remember how I felt when I was painting her!
I definitely will continue to paint. I know I won’t be able to do as much as I did previously, but it’s something that I want to always keep doing. I've actually been asked to do a talk and potential art therapy lesson for a local hospice, talking to them about what painting does for my mind and how they might find some mindfulness in it for themselves. I'll be sharing it on my Instagram so look out for it!
- To see more of Sophie's art, we'd encourage you to head on over to her Instagram page, @dollydaydreamart - where you can also find details about how to buy her work and even arrange your own commission!