Rescued and Reinvented by Art: In Conversation with Eclectic Stina Aleah

Q: Where are you now compared to where you started

A: It feels surreal to me, sometimes, to think about the journey from then to now. I feel like I’ve completely changed as a person; I vividly remember those long nights in which I would be plagued by hopelessness, not believing in myself and believing that I was capable of building this life that I have right now. I used to feel completely lost, I was always searching for that blueprint to guide me through it all, and I found none. It was as if I had to start from 0 and build myself up, one step at a time. The tears, the prayers and most importantly, the constant struggles- who knew they would get me where I am today. Not many black artists were given the opportunity to be what I wanted to be. Now as I look at myself, I’m so grateful that I can be the pioneer that other black and brown girls can look up to.

Q: What is the secret to your success? 

A: I think something that really helped me was the fact that I am extremely stubborn. Throughout my life, I have not let “no” stop me from what I want to do. I know it’s a trait that my parents don’t exactly love, but it allows me to get stuff done. The way I see it, No is not permanent. No is a roadblock that you have to figure out how to get around. Personally, I live by the mantra “It’s only failure when you stop”.

 Another thing that I think helped me out a lot throughout my life was my business acumen. Before 2016, I was not drawing but rather doing business and operations. I was thoroughly business minded when I first started making art, and my mindset was focused on business marketing, operations and systems. It was a huge advantage because I applied skills I learned from my business background to my art. 

Q: How did you get into art?

A: When I was an athlete, I knew nothing about art. All my knowledge came from how to become an elite athlete. I knew the difference between a lead athlete and a good athlete. This, by extension, helped me differentiate between a mediocre artist, and one who really knows art and lives in it. Sports taught me the cardinal lesson that, to excel at something, you need to immerse yourself in it and be completely dedicated. When I discovered I wanted to be an artist, I knew I would keep trying till I mastered it. 

Q: Where did you start?

A: No classes, just YouTube. If I see something I like, I want to try it out on my own and see what my take on it is. I like the spontaneity and challenges. 

Q: How could you possibly have taught yourself to be this good?

A: My love for art, ironically, came from a time in my life that was traumatic and career-halting; my injury. I think that experience really changed me, both mentally and physically.  I had to sit in an art room while recovering, long days when I wouldn’t know what to do to fill up my time. I would’ve become an empty shell, and art gave me purpose. i was creating sculptures out of cupboards, and fell in love with the desire to create, since I had lost my athletic structure to injury.

Q: What type of support did you have?

A: My dad has been my coach since I was little. Her mom was the academic. So I got support from both ends, structure and academics. My parents equipped me with the skills I needed to succeed. We were never provided with a dictionary for questions. My mom asked me to look at the dictionary myself. That taught me to be resourceful. My dad taught me how to visualise and achieve my goals.

My whole household was shaken when I had my injury. I was on the sofa for a week and I was depressed; it was the hardest time. I was only 17, and thought that my life was over. But despite all the chaos of the injury, I became an individual who was more impactful to people and an inspiration as an artist, more so than I would’ve been as an athlete.

Q: What is it about the art that heals you?

It’s the fact that I don’t have to listen to anyone and I can do whatever I want. It’s one of the things that make me feel completely free, not bound or restricted in any way. And I think I made the right decisions when it came to my art. An  important decision I made about my career was that I was never interested in doing celebrity art and what was popular. All of my art in the early stages was around my moments of getting through depression, and I turned those moments of vulnerability into inspiring art. Being that vulnerable was hard, but I began sharing my journey online on Instagram, showcasing my feelings on canvas. There is no celebrity art on my page, I am not riding the trend wave, I am just being me.

Q: How would you describe yourself in a nutshell?

A: Me is more of a feeling. In my household, my mum was professional and corporate, and I learned to be the same. She taught me how to speak correctly, and made me into a structured person. But I felt suffocated. Before I started creating, I thought being structured and being well spoken was one thing. As I tapped into my creativity, it made my life more colorful. I think the person I’ve become is a much more upgraded version of me, I am a free spirited individual who has structure and guidance at my core. I like people who learn all the rules so that they can creatively break them. 

Q: Does race play a role in your art?

A: Initially, I never believed that I could do whatever I wanted. A part of me wanted to look at art that represented me. I was not confident about being a black woman in art. Even today, I still go through that kind of imposter syndrome. But in the journey of discovering myself and my art, I found the confidence to be unapologetically me. I hope I can inspire other women like me to find the courage to break barriers.

What’s your next big step? What is your footprint in the art world?

A: I am still trying to discover what my style is, what my footprint is in the art world. I hope to exhibit My work internationally. Jason Paulus splatters paint and has become a huge household name, that’s my goal. Bough is a huge inspiration for me, too, I’ve always been mesmerized by his works. I want to be one of them.

Q: Who are your mentors? 

My mentor to me is myself. My biggest Inspiration is my son. I began painting when he was 1.5 yrs old, and his life gave me a different perspective of true happiness. I want to leave him a legacy to look back to and know how I accomplished what I did.

Written by Peter Jones