To Top

Life & Work with Aalia Rahman

Today we’d like to introduce you to Aalia Rahman.

Hi Aalia, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start, maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
I don’t remember when I was exposed to art since art was always a part of my life. Since my mom was an artist herself, there has never been a time in my life when we didn’t have art supplies. We always had paper, sketchbooks, and craft supplies. My mom worked as a graphic designer and programmer, and despite seeing my mom, art was never a career choice I thought about.

Growing up, I always made art with pencils and watercolors. But when I painted with watercolors, I ran into the frustration of the colors not retaining their vibrancy. I would apply the colors as thick as I could, and I still felt like it lost its vividness the minute the water dried. What I didn’t realize over the years was that I always used watercolors like oils. Eventually, when I got to high school, my mom introduced me to canvas and oils and that has been my primary medium ever since.

Obviously, back then, I only did it for fun and because I liked art. But when I was entering undergrad, I realized I didn’t have a major I wanted to pursue. I was doing pre-vet as I wanted to be a veterinarian. But I didn’t have a major I liked. And that was when I decided to major in art. And failing to get into veterinary school just made choosing a career in art and design a no-brainer. I only got introduced to design a little later when I took my first graphic design class during undergrad. I enjoyed it and have stuck with it as well since then.

We all face challenges, but looking back, would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
It has not been a smooth road. But hopefully, we’re getting there. I think the biggest challenge has been the business side of art. They, unfortunately, don’t teach you that in art school and you’re mostly left trying to make a name for yourself by yourself.

If you’re like me and you come from an Asian background, then you also get discriminated against and looked down on. When I tell people I’m an artist, sometimes people are confused. They’re not sure where to put me in society, I guess. Everyone believes they can do art and seeing you pursue it as a career, sometimes they’re not sure what your purpose is. And no matter how much you might tell yourself that their opinions don’t matter, sometimes their negative ideals does end up weighing you down.

The other challenge I faced was that I didn’t have any designer friends. It made networking within the design community a little harder. There’s also the fact that there aren’t a lot of Muslim or Asian designers within the field, and putting yourself out there requires a lot more effort on your part. But from hardship, you do learn lessons. And I’ve actually learned to rely on myself and my means to achieving and accomplishing what I can. And I’m here, so I guess something has worked out.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
If it wasn’t obvious, I work as a designer, developer, and artist. I consider myself a surreal expressionist. I make large surreal oil paintings that explore mental states, emotions, and memories. I’d say I paint concepts, not objects, and I usually request clients to commission concepts as well.

Now, as a designer, I help businesses reach their target audience through industry-centered branding. As a minority and with a background of art, I use my struggle as a point of understanding others and their struggle with their business. So I combine my artistic skills with design to come up with novel ideas that convey my client’s vision and message.

Something I’m proud of is how far I’ve come on my own. When I graduated, I didn’t have any design or artistic support or mentors or even friends at that. I didn’t even have a portfolio. But from not having anything to being someone who was featured on the St. Louis Post Dispatch last year, for example, makes me very grateful for where I’m at and where I’m going.

Alright, so to wrap up, is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
Get a mentor if you can. But if you can’t, don’t let that stop you. In fact, don’t let anything stop you. There are free resources across the interweb and if nothing else, feel free to reach out to me as well and I’d love to help and connect.

Contact Info:

Suggest a Story: VoyageSTL is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More in Local Stories