Sarah Al-Zaidi’s viral fame has modest origins, with scribbles and scrawls at the age of 4 marking the start of her artistic journey.
Her portraits and the distinctive materials she uses to create them — beads, buttons and even precious stones — have garnered widespread attention in the Kingdom.
Al-Zaidi’s latest work is a portrait of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. It weighs 32 kilos, took months to finish and even required two trips to a mountain.
Her father Hussein said his daughter’s passion for art was clear even when she was an intermediate school student.
“Since she was 10 or even younger Sarah’s scrawls and letterings were everywhere in our house,” he told Arab News. “She devoted her time and effort to drawing and artwork. That was her world.”
She decided to attend art college to improve her drawing and painting skills after she finished secondary school. Her first group project was a bead and button recreation of the green-eyed Afghan girl Sharbat Gula, a photo that was made famous through a National Geographic magazine cover. It was part of her graduation project.
“With my colleagues at the art and design college of King Abdul Aziz University in 2017, and under the supervision of our teacher, we were able to produce an amazing artwork,” she told Arab News.
Sarah was later inspired to portray other personalities she had long admired, and Princess Diana was the second project.
The portrait of the princess was widely circulated on social media after she shared a video of it.
“In that work I only used beads and buttons to portray the princess in a green dress. I used buttons in that work because I think such materials can clearly express the nature of every female.”
The message she wanted to convey through the piece was that the princess still had a place in the memories of many people.
Sarah recently presented her most “precious” work, one that she said she would always be proud of. The portrait of the crown prince took her nearly five months to finish and required about 2 million pieces to create.
She said his achievements in empowering Saudi women and his Saudi Vision 2030 reform plan were some of her motives for presenting artwork that she hoped would express her “gratitude and appreciation for everything the crown prince had offered” to people, especially women.
“The crown prince … has been working on empowering women in different social, economic and educational fields. He has also made many jobs available for them, and that will surely pour in the benefit of the national economy.”
She decided to use precious stones to reflect the lofty position the crown prince holds in her heart.
“The portrait is 160 centimeters high and 106 wide and I have used around 2 million pieces ranging from gemstones to other materials. These include diamond, peridot, onyx, obsidian, aventurine, sodalite and tiger’s eye. I have also used other materials, such as azurite, howlite, amber, quartz, aquamarine, natural seashell and different sizes of beads.”
She traveled to Riyadh twice to collect stones from Tuwaiq Mountain, a formidable natural landmark that the crown prince said portrayed the “unbreakable strength” of Saudis.
“The Saudis’ strength is like that of the Tuwaiq Mountain, unbreakable, unless this mountain is leveled and equaled to the ground,” he told the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh in 2018.
“His eloquent words were inspirational and the way he said it proved that he had a clear goal, and he was determined to achieve it,” she said. “His strong and inspiring personality ignited my imagination to think of an idea that represents his views. However, I told myself that I should come up with a totally new idea, a different and special perspective artwork that resembles him.”
She chose “Mountain’s Firmness” as a title for her artwork.
“Since such art projects require hard and precise work, it took me some 150 days to finish it. And I won’t forget my family’s encouragement and support that also helped me produce an artwork that I will always be proud of.”
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