How a Saudi artist combines AI with conventional artistic techniques to create nostalgia-infused images

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Updated 31 May 2024

How a Saudi artist combines AI with conventional artistic techniques to create nostalgia-infused images

  • Hadeel Mohammed uses generative AI to create images that depict daily life in Saudi Arabia during the 1990s
  • Rather than replace human creativity, Saudi artist believes AI will augment and improve the creative process

RIYADH: Artificial intelligence technologies have already found new and exciting applications in the workplace, health, education and business. Now, creative industries are finding novel ways to employ these mold-breaking tools.

Hadeel Mohammed, a Saudi AI artist, has used the technology to create nostalgia-infused images that depict various aspects of daily life in Saudi Arabia during the 1990s.

About a year ago, Mohammed took an interest in how technology and creativity can combine to make something entirely new, and began experimenting with AI to create bold visuals plucked from her imagination.

After earning a certificate in AI art, she was able to blend various digital editing methods with more conventional artistic techniques.

Saudi AI artist Hadeel Mohammed begins with a nostalgic memory or an old song and then uses AI algorithms to generate artworks that reflect the ideas and emotions that these evoke. (Supplied)

“Every artwork I create is quite personal and reflects my vision and personal growth to visualize ways to express myself,” she told Arab News.

Mohammed begins with a nostalgic memory or an old song. She then uses AI algorithms to generate artworks that reflect the ideas and emotions that these evoke.

“This is only the beginning of what you see in my work,” she said. “I then spend time refining, editing, changing details and improving compositions using different art software to reach the final photo, while also adding my personal touch to it.

“The end photo is a piece that tells a story and connects with viewers on a deeper level.”

Mohammed says she draws her inspiration from “how life was as a child living in the ‘90s.

“This is my vision of the past, and I try to use my imagination to produce unique art, particularly in the fashion, interiors, retro patterns, styles, colors used, music and way of life during that time. This might not reflect everyone’s lifestyle. I produce what evokes certain emotions.

“I remember my mother would often bring me to gatherings and I was fascinated by the lovely clothing worn by women at that time. To this day, I still enjoy looking at old photos to relive the beauty of that time and through my graphics, I hope to celebrate Saudi nostalgic fashion and lifestyle from the 1990s.”

Mohammed says that artworks that reflect the Saudi or Arab ‘90s can be difficult to produce “because AI’s knowledge of ‘female’ features is so limited,” resulting in her having to edit the photos to depict accurate features.

When curating an image, Mohammed focuses on the “mood and vibe” she is looking to convey.

“I love classic styles and use them a lot in my photos. They are timeless and full of elegance and nostalgia. For the color palette, I use earthy tones to bring a sense of coziness and warmth like shades of brown and beige. I remember them being called ‘royalty colors’ back in the ‘90s, while in the ‘80s, pastel colors and metallic accents were more used.”

She draws particular inspiration from the style of Saudi American businesswoman and editor Princess Deena Al-Juhani Abdulaziz for her fashion and her image as a modern and elegant Saudi woman.

Despite its game-changing applications, AI can be unpredictable. Mohammed says there are occasionally issues with photo resolution challenges in post-processing.

“Most of the time, I have to use editing software to change the composition and enhance the photos, as AI’s results sometimes are unpredictable and inaccurate,” she said.

“Photos generated by AI might be good for the screen, but they are not suitable for printing large-sized photos.

“AI is still limited by the data it is trained on. It only reproduces the same existing styles and techniques unless guided and edited by a human artist. This is where creativity comes in.”

Despite its game-changing applications, AI can be unpredictable, says Hadeel Mohammed. (Shutterstock image)

Instead of being restricted by the curbs that come with AI, Mohammed sees these limitations as an opportunity to learn new methods for generating and refining art.

“It is a fun journey that I enjoy and embrace with all its constraints. However, in order to produce beautiful work that represents my vision, I also combine AI technologies with standard art design.

“For art to be meaningful, it should reflect an emotional feeling and this cannot be done by a machine alone. Only a human can add real purpose and cultural insight to any type of art. Machines just make random pictures without understanding.”

Mohammed says AI still requires “the right people to choose the best art and know good art when they see it, as machines make many random photos. Not all of it is appealing.

“In summary, AI alone cannot substitute human vision, guidance, experience, and emotions to make art with true meaning and impact.”

As with all AI tools, advances are occurring rapidly.

“As technology develops, Al will create a greater variety of creative mediums and aesthetics and other fields like music and animation will be incorporated into technology,” said Mohammed.

“Also, algorithms will become more advanced and accessible and will not require much effort to meet our standards or ideas.”

And as AI tools become more widely used, their acceptance in the creative industries among artists is likely to grow.

“I think in the next few years, artists will be more accepting of AI-generated art, and it will also change the way that artists create their own work. I see that AI will probably become a common tool for artists, content creators and graphic designers.”

Rather than replace human creativity, Mohammed believes AI will augment and improve artworks.

“AI-generated art can become a major force in the art world and artists will experiment with new techniques to reach broader audiences. As people become more comfortable with AI’s capabilities, its influence in the art world will grow, leading to a rich and diverse landscape of artistic expression.

“I see a future where AI and human creativity work hand in hand.”

Evidence of this growing acceptance of AI-generated art can be found on Mohammed’s TikTok and Instagram accounts, where she has received positive feedback from her followers.

“I mostly receive a lot of positive feedback, both in comments and private messages,” she said.

“People regularly express their appreciation and thank me for bringing back old memories and feelings. They say that they enjoy and love my content. It makes me happy that, through visualizing memories through art, I can provide positivity and happiness to others.”


Saudi electric car consumer base growing as Kingdom aims to become a hub for the technology

Updated 4 sec ago

Saudi electric car consumer base growing as Kingdom aims to become a hub for the technology

  • Consumer base is growing as Kingdom aims to become a hub for the technology

RIYADH: Hamed Al-Rafidain, who works in HR, drives a fuel-guzzling 4 X 4, as many in Saudi Arabia do — but his other car is electric.

Al-Rafidain, 39, is part of a small but growing electric vehicle consumer base in the Kingdom, which aims to become a hub for the technology.

“What drove me to buy electric was financial considerations,” said Rafidain, who spends up to SR2,000 ($530) a month on fuel for his off-road vehicle. “Maintenance costs are also lower compared to a conventional vehicle, with no oil changes.”

For a little over $53,300, he bought a BYD mostly for short trips within the capital. Driving outside Riyadh was a “gamble, especially since the infrastructure is still underdeveloped,” Rafidain said.

Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the PIF, owns 60 percent of electric car maker Lucid and South Korea’s Hyundai plans a factory in the Kingdom. The Saudi brand CEER, launched in 2022, expects to start production in 2025. Eventually Saudi Arabia aims to produce 300,000 electric cars a year.

Meanwhile Chinese giant BYD is expected to dominate the Saudi market, since its global rival Tesla has no dealerships in the Kingdom.
Electric car sales tripled last year to nearly 800 and salesman Hassan Mohammed expects more this year. “More than one car brand has opened its doors in the Kingdom and now offers after-sales service, which has encouraged consumers,” he said.

Saudi leaders offer condolences to Kuwait after passing of Sheikh Jaber Al-Ibrahim Al-Sabah 

Updated 15 min 25 sec ago

Saudi leaders offer condolences to Kuwait after passing of Sheikh Jaber Al-Ibrahim Al-Sabah 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent letters of condolences to Kuwait’s Emir Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah over the death of Sheikh Jaber Duaij Al-Ibrahim Al-Sabah, the Saudi Press Agency said Wednesday.

The Crown Prince also sent a separate letter to Kuwait’s Crown Prince Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Sabah.

Sheikh Jaber died at the age of 71 and will be buried after Thursday’s Maghrib (Sunset) prayer, Kuwait’s news agency said.

Looking sharp: Prickly pear cactus takes over Baha

Updated 53 min 52 sec ago

Looking sharp: Prickly pear cactus takes over Baha

BAHA: In the heart of Saudi Arabia’s Baha region, a humble cactus is sparking an agricultural revolution. The prickly pear, known locally as Al-Barshumi, has blossomed from a niche crop into a burgeoning industry.

Once confined to private farms, prickly pear cultivation has spurred scientific research and yielded an array of food, medical and cosmetic products.

The fruit’s triumph is evident in the vibrant tapestry of green, yellow and red hues that now adorn Baha’s mountains, terraces, valleys and plains — a spectacle amplified by the region’s regular rainfall.

Fahd Al-Zahrani, director general of the Baha branch of the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture, spoke about the government’s commitment to this agricultural renaissance.

“We have established a dedicated production line and oil press benefiting all regional farmers,” he said.

He also hinted at plans for a more comprehensive production line and the creation of an integrated prickly pear city, developed in partnership with the region’s Prickly Pear Association.

The initiative’s architect, Faeq Al-Ghamdi, recounted its humble beginnings. He said that what started as 80 tangled seedlings on a single farm had flourished into a network of 26 cooperating farms, collectively producing 40-70 tonnes annually.

By 2021, the farms had more than 400 seedlings of premium varieties, including “Gimoncaryo” and “Marez.” This growth has enabled a diversification beyond simple fruit production, with the range of innovative products, including prickly pear juice, ice cream and soap.

Al-Ghamdi’s original farm now has 3,000 seedlings, including imported varieties, with an annual yield of 3-5 tonnes.

“In just four years, we’ve developed 20 products, with some already registered and others in various stages of registration and research,” he said, adding that more innovations, including a perfume extract, were in the pipeline.

The project, known as the Al-Sarah Al-Barshumi Initiative, has also spawned seven scientific studies aimed at sustainable development of the prickly pear plant.

Al-Ghamdi’s vision extends beyond cultivation toward establishing Baha as a regional leader in prickly pear production, achieving domestic self-sufficiency and tapping into export markets. The project is working to double the current acreage dedicated to cultivation, establishing model agricultural cities, creating a specialized processing industry and marketing 30 prickly pear products.

“The cultivation process begins with what we call pads or stems,” he said. “These parts are carefully separated from the mother plant and we then expose these cuttings to sunlight for a period of seven to 10 days due to the high fluid content of the pads, allowing them to dry and prepare for planting. Once cured, we carefully select the planting formation.”

Beyond its economic impact, the prickly pear boom promises significant health benefits, according to Dr. Nadia Al-Zahrani, a nutrition specialist at Al-Baha University.

“Prickly pears come in a spectrum of colors, ranging from green to red, with the red variety being notably the sweetest,” she said.

Noting their rich content of fiber, vitamins E, C, and K, and various minerals she said: “These components contribute to weight management and blood sugar and lipid levels regulation.”

Al-Zahrani said another use of the prickly pear fruit was in skin care.

“The rich vitamin and mineral content of the cactus play a crucial role in enhancing skin appearance and health,” she said.

A number of farmers in the region are cultivating prickly pears, capitalizing on the area’s unique environmental assets, leveraging the region’s fertile soil and abundant water resources.

They have embraced modern cultivation techniques and begun introducing new varieties of fruits and trees, many of which were previously unknown in the region.

Like father, like son: 10-year-old walks 150 km to Abha

Updated 58 min 28 sec ago

Like father, like son: 10-year-old walks 150 km to Abha

  • Sultan Al-Bariqi’s trek promotes tourism in Asir, health benefits of walking

MAKKAH: In a remarkable feat of grit, Sultan Al-Bariqi, a 10-year-old Saudi, has become the country’s youngest person to complete a 150-km journey on foot from Al-Namas to Abha in southern Saudi Arabia.

Accompanied by his father, who is also an adventure enthusiast, Sultan finished the five-day trek last Thursday.

Sultan’s father, Mohammed Al-Bariqi, told Arab News that the walk aimed to promote tourism in Asir, showcasing the region’s cool climate, dense vegetation and towering mountains.

The route offers visitors the chance to experience lush green landscapes and enjoy the natural environment. 

“We chose Al-Namas as our starting point, passing through Balasmar, Billahmer, Tanomah, and Shaar en route to Abha,” he said. He highlighted the region’s significance as a hub for domestic tourism, attracting thousands of visitors annually. 

“July typically sees high temperatures, but Asir enjoys a moderate, cool climate perfect for hiking and exploration,” he said.

Despite initial concerns about Sultan’s age, Al-Bariqi was impressed by his son’s enthusiasm for walking and experiencing nature first-hand.

Sultan, he added, was inquisitive about every stop throughout the five-day journey; the trip was filled with excitement for the young adventurer. He reported that the trip sparked joy in Sultan, keeping him motivated and eager from beginning to end.

The journey was also filled with encouragement from passersby, who offered drinks and motivational words. Sultan maintained high spirits and fitness throughout the trek, fueled by light meals and energy-boosting fruits, Al-Bariqi said.

With Abha as its final stop, the trek not only marked a spirited achievement for the young boy, but also highlighted environmental consciousness and long-distance walking’s therapeutic benefits.

Al-Bariqi, 52, is no stranger to long-distance walks, having previously journeyed from Asir to Makkah for Hajj in 16 days and to Madinah in 27 days.

He advocates walking as a holistic health practice, urging people to reduce dependency on cars and travel by foot, which he believes offers a comprehensive regimen for health and wellness. He also finds genuine pleasure in walking to explore tourist areas. 

The younger Al-Bariqi, initially apprehensive, found the experience life-changing. “I was afraid I could not complete the first stage, but my father’s encouragement motivated me,” he said.

The 10-year-old now aspires to make long-distance walking a regular part of his life and is encouraging his peers to embrace physical activity. 

He highlighted the universal importance of exercise, saying that it was not exclusive to any particular youth group. He also advocated for community-wide support and encouragement to foster a healthier, more active society.

Sultan eagerly anticipates recounting his adventure to schoolmates post-holiday, aiming to share the many benefits he discovered during his journey.

Development of Riyadh’s King Abdulaziz Park gets underway

Updated 52 min 57 sec ago

Development of Riyadh’s King Abdulaziz Park gets underway

  • Project spanning 4.3 million sq. meters set to take 3 years to complete
  • Green space will feature 24 children’s areas, 2m trees

RIYADH: A three-year project to develop King Abdulaziz Park in the nation’s capital is underway following the completion of a design competition, the Royal Commission for Riyadh City announced on Wednesday.

The winning design was one of several presented by four international companies and once completed will cover about 4.3 million sq. meters. It comprises six distinct green spaces, the most prominent being the central Botanic Garden spanning 200,000 sq. meters and featuring more than 200 species of local plants.

Part of the Green Riyadh initiative, the new park will be built in the north of the city, close to King Khalid International Airport, Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University and a train station.

A key element of the design is the Munsiyah Tributary, a branch of the Al-Sulai valley, which runs for 11 km through the park. The design also includes sustainable commercial buildings and a 2 km pathway overlooking them.

More than 2 million trees and shrubs will be used to provide shade throughout the park, each of them served by an irrigation system using recycled water. 

Khaled Al-Bakr, CEO of the Quality of Life Program. (Supplied)

As well as terraces, squares, open theaters for events and festivals, restaurants, the design includes 24 children’s areas and 30 sports zones.

Khaled Al-Bakr, CEO of the Quality of Life Program, said parks and other green spaces were vital to a good quality of life for the residents of any city.

“King Abdulaziz Park, King Salman Park and King Abdullah International Parks are among the major park projects in the city of Riyadh, which will enhance the humanization of the city of Riyadh and provide vast spaces for residents and visitors,” he told Arab News. 

“Parks enable sports activities and provide recreational places for individuals and families, in addition to their environmental and climatic benefits.”

The parks development project, supported by the government, was helping to change the face of the city and achieve the goals of the Green Riyadh and Vision 2030 initiatives, he said.

Several other green spaces, including Al-Urubah, Al Munsiyah, Al Qadisiyah, and Al-Rimmal parks, and planting along main roads like King Salman Road and King Khalid Road are already underway.

An irrigation network spanning 1,350 km has also been developed to service the new parks.