Sofia Hydman is a woman with a thoroughly enviable #squad. She refers to them as “my girls,” and they seem like a hell of a lot of fun. They love their food, openly fart, delight in their own boobs and bellies, and appear to very rarely (if ever) give a fuck.
In a world of toned abs and bodacious babes—even in the frequently forward-thinking world of illustration—it’s refreshing to see little titties and fat bellies being celebrated, and in Hydman’s work, this is no accident. “There’s not a lot of these sort of girls out there,” she says. “I like that they’re shiny and pink, and sometimes old.”
Considering she only started illustrating full-time last year, Hydman has built up an impressive portfolio and unique approach. She’d previously balanced her practice alongside full time jobs in graphic design, most recently at the Identity Works branding agency in her hometown of Stockholm.
Hydman has been drawing her “girls” for a few years now, and in doing so has created a highly distinctive trademark style that paints feminism in soft shapes, pastels, sparkles, and everything that’s fun. But where do these divine creatures come from? “I wish I had a good answer,” says Hydman. “It just comes so naturally to me. There’s a feminist touch to my work just because that’s who I am: My work evolves from what I think is fun and what I stand for.”
While this feminist thread is a strong underpinning for Hydman’s work, there’s clearly also a healthy dose of humor at play (check out her tribute to our favorite conspiracy theory, Paul is Dead, below). “I try to make people smile with my images, or even laugh, if I can,” says Hydman. “The images are just what I think could be funny.”
Back in 2016, she made the brave decision to move to New York for a year and work as an art direction duo with her boyfriend at the ad agency Anomaly. For some couples, that sort of life-work crossbreeding would be a nightmarish hell; for Hydman, it all worked out just great. “We really got to know each other in a different way,” she says.
But how not to take work home, together? “It is hard to draw a line,” Hydman concedes. “When you’re a designer or an art director your work is basically your hobby, but when it’s interesting and exciting to talk about it’s ok, but it is hard not to talk about work.”
Hydman’s partner has, like her, now moved into the world of illustration. “Being in the same industry is really helpful,” she says. “We can share images and discuss our illustrations, and it’s really helpful to have a partner who understands.”
Making the leap into working as an illustrator full time—as she had always dreamed of—seems to be paying off. “When I was working a nine-to-five, I just had a few hours to create a drawing or a gif and I didn’t think about it as much as I can now,” she says. “Today, I can plan more, rather than just grabbing the first idea and going with it. The biggest change is time.” That time is essential to Hydman at the moment, as she tries to broaden her style. “I still like to do goofy and cartoony and bubbly curvy girls, but I also want to be able to take on different projects that could be a little more commercial,” she says. “It’s about working out how to balance my personal style with what clients want.”
Her advice for those looking to quit the day job? “Just show your stuff, be out there doing things and producing lots of work—that’s the general tip,” she says, though she adds that it helps to have a sizable savings. “Bear in mind that some months you’re going to earn money, some months you’re not, and figure out if that’s something you’re ok with.”
With characteristic playfulness and optimism, she adds: “It’s gonna be ok!”