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JEDDAH: Art is often seen as a channel for the artist’s emotions, but young Saudi artists in a variety of fields are now using their work to explore topics ranging from Saudi culture to mental health issues.

Jawahir Khaldi, 23, who specializes in digital art, told Arab News that she wants to represent Saudi culture to the world.

“I want to create art that people can relate to and not just look at and enjoy. There should be a sense of place when you look at any of my works.

Khaldi, who learned his skills on platforms such as Skillshare and YouTube, said: “Developing my style has been difficult. It informs others of your preferences. I used to read a lot of graphic novels, and that’s kind of my style now. So, in other words, style is something you collect over the years.

The self-taught artist said she drew because she wanted to communicate her feelings and thoughts, and to do that she needed to capture elements of her surroundings.

Khaldi said she would struggle to express herself outside of a Saudi environment because that’s where she grew up.

“There is a piece called ‘Hissa Sadsa (The Sixth Period)’ that I pulled from my memory. I graduated from public school, so we used to skip sixth period and hide on the stairs to hang out. It’s my favorite memory and, therefore, my favorite piece.

“Hissa Sadsa (The Sixth Period)” by Jawahir Khaldi

Most of the feedback Khaldi receives is positive. “However, there are times when someone will say things like ‘why is this boy wearing jewelry? It’s not accurate,’ but I’m trying to get past those criticisms,” she said.

Shahad Matoq Al-Sonare uses his interest in psychology to create art that seeks to encourage empathy with people dealing with mental health issues.

She said her main goal was not to make people more understanding but “to make them feel the struggle.”

Al-Sonare has created illustrations dealing with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism, Dyslexia, Depression and Bipolar Disorder.

“My drawings are supposed to make people feel uncomfortable because that’s how patients feel,” she said.

The artist follows a painstaking process to avoid misinterpretation, spending up to six months researching a single condition. She also spends long periods with a patient and tries to convey her feelings in her paintings and drawings.

Al-Sonare said she often felt pressure to avoid any mistakes conveying the experience of having a certain condition.

“When I realized how important this was, it gave me a motivational boost and pushed me to finish my paintings and put them on social media.”

His journey as an artist has also been far from smooth, with some viewers saying his work would have a greater impact if drawn in a more “serious” art style.

“Some people have even gone so far as to say that my art isn’t really art, but there have been so many good comments from people, and I feel that despite the negative comments, I’ve established my style in a way that people can recognize my art without looking at my signature,” she said.

Al-Sonare urged people to be more open-minded towards those with mental health issues and to “do their best to understand them”.

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