Though you may know her primarily as the mother of Drake’s son, Adonis, Sophie Brussaux has quietly been making a name for herself as an artist in her own right. A visual artist, that is. The last few years, her vibrant, character-driven paintings have been getting looks in exhibitions across the globe, and even the Vatican, where she traveled in 2019 to deliver a custom portrait to Pope Francis himself.
Currently, the Bordeaux, France native serves as Chief Visionary Officer of Arts Help, a Toronto-based non-profit she co-founded a couple years ago, which bills itself as “the largest online community for artists founded on the principle of art-centric solutions to make the world a better place.” The organization recently launched the Black Artistry Series, a project that sees underrepresented creatives explore their identity in celebration of Black History Month. The series, which kicked off at Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas Square last week, showcases art curated by a wide array of Black visionaries—from big names like Director X to emerging painters like Komi Olaf—on digital billboards in major cities around the world.
“The art in this series must be amplified and celebrated because much of the work, like my paintings, conveys through art what words can complicate,” Brussaux tells Complex. “Art throughout history has generally lacked diversity. Assuming art is to serve as a moral compass for people, what does it say about its society if it doesn’t even include all its members?”
Brussaux’s life took the ultimate turn with the 2017 birth of her son—it would eventually make her an overnight subject of international intrigue. But beyond that, Brussaux holds that having Adonis has been an eye-opener, motivating her to use art as a conduit for social change.
“Becoming a mother was the transcendental experience that showed me the way,” she says, adding that she considers Arts Help’s mission one of her callings, after being a parent. “It’s born out of agape love for my son, art, and our fellow earthers. I used to paint for fun, and I still do, but now I paint with a purpose.”
It turns out Adonis, who turned 3 last October, has begun flexing his creative muscles too—which, given his artistically disposed gene pool, checks out. “Art is a big part of the fun activities we do at home. We draw, create, we dance, and paint,” Brussaux shares. “Adonis is a very artistically inclined child. Whatever he chooses to do later in life he will have my full and loving support. We frame his paintings and put them up in the house next to other artists’ works. I want him to grow up seeing the value in the art he produces at every age.”
But Brussaux also wants her son to grow up in a “more fair and equitable world,” and believes she can use art to work towards it. Her debut solo exhibition, Icons With a Purpose, which launched at Toronto’s Design Exchange in 2019, was comprised of portraits of contemporary icons, from Michelle Obama to Leonardo Dicaprio, each representing one of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals for 2030.
With the Black Artistry Series, Brussaux’s organization asked Black artists to curate the project by selecting peers who inspire them. Among the nominees was Joseph Amadu, owner of Toronto creative agency Sunday School. His work, which has been featured in everything from Nike campaigns to album covers for local musicians like TOBi, was used to launch the series in Toronto.
Director X is slated to curate the series next week, highlighting Black artists who’ve inspired his life and his work. Brussaux says the “Hotline Bling” director has been “a longtime supporter” of Arts Help, speaking at one of the non-profit’s earliest workshops. “His contribution to the art world is an example that your artistry can lead to a sustainable career and that remaining true to yourself is how you command respect for your work and community.”
Brussaux, who describes her own art as a mix of “biblical & Sci-Fi fixtures in possible dystopian futures and pop iconography” on her website, calls painting her preferred mode of communication. “I allow colours, textures, and creativity to say the things I mean with less room for misunderstanding.”
Still, she admits the biggest obstacle she’s faced as an artist “is having others see merit in your work.” The art world can be unforgiving, especially to outsiders.
“Specific forms of art have long been valued because they upkeep traditional beliefs, and if your work does not fit that mould, it takes much more effort for the value in your work to be recognized,” she says. One of Arts Help’s goals, she continues, is to create “a safe space for all art disciplines to feel seen and valued.” The non-profit just launched a free online art education curriculum, offered to up to 10,000 independent creatives, led by Brussaux and various industry experts.
Busy as she may be, it appears Brussaux’s hustle is a Rollie, not a stopwatch. She reveals she’s also been working on a line of sustainable women’s activewear and loungewear, dubbed ESSE, set to launch this summer.