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Mecca: A Saudi artist has taken his passion for drawing his passion to the streets by drawing sketches on the disposable cups of coffee shop customers and then handing them out as gifts.

Salem al-Salem said that it all started when he worked in a cafe in Alkhobar. During quiet times, he practiced his art by doodles on paper cups and gifted his creations to his clients.

“It was a great way to make someone’s day and win them over as a customer at the cafe,” he told Arab News. “It was a different experience for people and they liked it, so the number of customers increased.”

But not everyone appreciated his art at first, al-Salem said.

Fastfact

• Salem al-Salem said he was positive about the future of the arts in the state, as people like him now had more opportunities to pursue their passion.

• The artist said that he enjoys seeing people’s reactions when he hands over his sketches to them.

• It takes about 10-15 minutes for the artist to make a face

“While this was a great way to attract customers to the cafe, the owner believed that it was forbidden for religious reasons to attract people in this way. But gradually, society accepted it. And I was able to paint and present my work.

The artist said he enjoys watching people’s reactions when he hands over his sketches to him. “Sometimes, they even hug me.”

But not all of his unheard topics get immediate consideration.

“A man As I finished photographing him, I followed him to give him a picture. I handed him the cup but he took it and threw it,” he said.

“So I picked it up, introduced myself and handed it back. When he saw the picture, he apologized and was embarrassed at his reaction. But he was really happy with it.”

The artist said that he had a special way of deciding who to sketch.

“Since I love coffee and art, I go to different cafes. I look for people with different facial expressions and choose the one I hope to attract the least.”

Al-Salem said that he began learning about drawing and painting in school and that while many of his classmates considered art less important than other subjects, he found it inspiring.

“I find inspiration in all kinds of art,” he said. “It can be beautiful music that takes me on a journey and results in a painting, or it can be a beautiful scene or situation. Drawing makes me very happy.”

And as his experience increased, so did his speed.

“It used to take 35-40 minutes to make a face, but now it has come down to 10-15 minutes,” he said.

Al-Salem said he was positive about the future of the arts in the state, as people like him now had more opportunities to pursue their passions.

“The fine arts movement is living its best days in the state. Diriyah houses the Jacques neighborhood, which hosts artistic events, exhibitions and workshops, and is helping to advance the artistic movement and increase people’s artistic appreciation.