Inspired by a mother who, though not artistic herself, encouraged her children to travel with sketchbook and art supplies, Aida Algosaibi-Stoklos has been drawing inspiration from her surroundings and creating art as long as she can remember.
Until she left for an English boarding school at age 13, Aida's home was in the Middle East, in a rural desert area where she could see horizon in all directions. That solitary space made room for inspiration and creativity to flourish, for imagination to fill in the blanks.
The habit of looking around her and recording images in her mind's eye has stayed with Aida. The busy wife and mother always has a small notebook at hand and snatches moments during her busy day to record ideas and impressions in sketches and words. An interval spent sitting in her car waiting to pick up her daughter from school becomes a creative interlude in her day. Then she carves out time to follow the short, winding desert path (careful to watch for rattlesnakes!) to her cozy studio sited a few hundred yards from her house.
Despite her lifelong love for drawing and painting, as a young woman Aida followed her head toward a career in architecture. Though she still loves to see beautifully-designed buildings, hindsight suggests she made that choice mostly from a desire to be taken seriously by her family.
“I think in my heart from the beginning I just wanted to go to art school, but I had it in my head that art is not a career.”
Circumstance caused her to leave architecture school after three years. By the time she could have returned to her studies, she had grown disillusioned, understanding that working for an architecture firm would mean she was creating for someone else and she wouldn’t be free to do what she wanted. So, she transferred to the School of Visual Arts in New York to follow her heart.
Aida returned to England to have her three children, but she longed still for the desert of her youth, for its simplicity, for room to breathe and think and a sense of groundedness. Now Aida has made a home – and found the space for her creativity to flourish – in the desert Southwest.
“The minute I landed here I felt happy,” she says of Tucson, her home for the past decade. “My heart was singing.”
Aida has painted in oils since she was a child, when her mother drove her and her brother an hour each way from their remote desert home to study with a Scottish painter. But talk with Aida about her work and you’ll quickly feel her passion for depicting her beloved desert landscape in monoprint.
“There are times for color and times when I don’t see the need for it,” she says. “I couldn’t capture the same drama with color.”
She focused on that medium in part because, for a busy mother of three, the process was more suited to small blocks of time. And, over the years, she came to love not only the contrast of her sepia-on-white images, but also the tactile experience of their creation.
When she’s working on a monoprint, Aida uses no tools, no brushes. She puts on a pair of gloves and “paints” with her hands. A face gets shaped with just one finger. Excess ink gets rubbed off the glass with the side of a hand.
The Sonoran desert abounds with views and sensations that combine in her mind’s eye, later to appear on canvas or paper. Although her artistic repertoire includes photography, Aida seldom draws or paints from photos, preferring instead to create from her own imagination. She’s constantly taking in her surroundings visually, but in her art she tries not to copy what she sees, preferring instead a depiction that evokes the feeling, the sense of that place she filed away in her memory.
“I absorb the landscape visually and it makes an imprint on me that comes out in my work,” she says. “Nature is so perfect, for me try to copy that is an unnecessary task.”
She has done the same when creating portraits of people she knows well and of the horses who are part of her life. Instead of working painstakingly from photos or from life, she makes a quick drawing and then paints to portray the subject’s essence, not only their beauty but also a sense of their character
“Instead of creating a perfect photorealistic image, I paint from what I know them to be,” she explains.
Although I love to draw and paint, over the past year my creative energy has focused on producing a series of monoprints. This body of work depicts man’s place in the vastness of the desert – big, sweeping worlds of sand and cacti and cloud-dense skies broken up occasionally by small signs of human habitation. These starkly beautiful images, complex in their simplicity, I hope will inspire a response in viewers that goes a bit deeper than the mind.
I love it when people tell me that seeing my art evokes some emotion. I want them to feel something, to have a reaction – even if they hate the picture – because I was feeling something when I was creating this.
The artists whose work I most admire share a few traits I aspire to – their art makes them seem to me to be strong, brave, decisive. Frida Kahlo’s paintings show a sort of raw pain that is not at all timid. Picasso didn’t hesitate. When he put his brush down to do a line, he did a line. And photographer Graciela Iturbide. I aspire to paint like she photographs, so that you can imagine a whole story behind her image.
When I work, I know a painting or drawing is complete when I feel I have achieved just the right balance between polished and raw. I like my work to look, perhaps, a bit unfinished. Overworking a piece means it becomes too perfect, too “plastic,” and don’t like absolute perfection in my work. I find perfection boring.