It's okay to not be okay: Sofia Shamsunahar's message through doodles

For Sofia Shamsunahar, there was power, vulnerability and — ultimately — healing in art.

The fourth-year political science and human geography double major started drawing when she was six and took art classes until high school.

Once she entered university, she started her Instagram page called Sofsdoodles to help keep her motivated to continue drawing. The account currently has over 800 followers.

Shamsunahar describes her style as minimalistic, almost childlike pen drawings.

“I always thought real art was realism, paintings and chalks and so I never took my drawings seriously,” Shamsunahar said. “So they would always just be a side thing to keep, to pass the time.”

It wasn’t until she arrived at university that her outlook changed.

“I had gone through a dark year and I would use art to cope with it,” she confessed. “It made me feel lighter when I felt really grey and it made me find a way to express myself when I couldn’t find the words to do it.”

During that time, she started a series called the Sad Snake series, to document her healing journey.

“The last piece of the series was the snake looking at himself in the mirror saying ‘I love you, dude,’ and that symbolizes the self love that I felt at the moment,” she said. “It was closer to the end of my healing journey where I felt like I had worked through everything and achieved what I wanted to.”

Since then, Shamsunahar has worked to promote her message about well-being. This year, she partnered up with UBC Thrive week to showcase her drawings. Her art can also be spotted on campus at Sprouts, the bike cage by the Beaty Biodiversity Museum and the Student Life and Sustainability Centre. She is also planning on donating a coffee table book filled with drawings about vulnerability and self-love to counselling services to help alleviate the uneasiness that students may feel when sitting in the waiting room.

Through her artwork, Shamsunahar hopes that people can accept and embrace their emotions, both the good and the bad.

“I just find that a lot of people are very uncomfortable about having feelings and try to numb it.” Shamsunahar said. “I want to change that mindset: it’s okay to ask for help and you’re not burdening anyone if you’re asking for help.”