RIYADH: Saudi digital artist Jewmana Al-Jifri has carved a niche for herself in the gaming and anime industry with illustrations marked by elements drawn from Arab culture.
Al-Jifri, 32, forayed into the world of illustration by chance. “My father’s gift of a tablet to me in 2009 marked my accidental introduction into the world of digital art. I used to be a traditional painter, but after getting the tablet, I committed all of my time and energy to mastering digital sketching,” Al-Jifri told Arab News in a recent interview.
Over time, Al-Jifri’s passion for video games inspired her to seek greater creativity in her work. Her illustrations are inspired by video-game heroes and characters from “Final Fantasy” and “Assassin’s Creed.”
One of her reworkings is a character from “Assassin Creed” seen with a sambosa, a popular snack that Muslims consume during iftar in Ramadan in the Gulf. She also uses mosques, Arabian falcons and Arabic typography to give her illustrations a Middle Eastern look.
“My mother is a superb artist, and she gave me the inspiration to start drawing when there was no current technology available. I learned to draw exclusively (from) the TV screen. And as the years went by, video games became a major source of inspiration for me because they offer more intricate drawings than cartoons do in a variety of different aspects, such as costume and character design.”
Al-Jifri’s all-time favorite is “Assassin’s Creed” because she considers it different from other video games. “It tells a lot about (real) historical stories and events that are mentioned in the history books.
“It allows players to see famous historical cities and monuments in various eras such as Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and Santa Maria del Fiore in Italy and Hagia Sophia Mosque in Istanbul.”
Al-Jifri started displaying her work on social media, and in 2021, joined the official Assassin’s Creed Rebellion Community Server on Discord as she was eager to have her work recognized by the gaming community.
The community allows players of the game to network, compete in challenges, and provides a platform for talented individuals to showcase their creative skills.
She published her first work on the community’s network in May 2021, “thanks to the continuous motivation from the members. In October 2022, I was selected as an interactive artist in the server to volunteer to create digital stickers for the server with the help of an artist from Malaysia, and we finished creating the posters last April.”
The poster highlights stickers that could be used by the community to display a range of emotions, from surprise to anger. It has been posted permanently on the community’s server.
Al-Jifri not only adapts existing characters but produces original work for clients, encompassing video games, YouTube channels and books.
“In 2018, some players in FFXIV (Final Fantasy XIV) knew me and offered me a commission to make a special drawing for them for their desktop. Honestly, my target back then, (by) accepting these commissions, was to pay for a new tablet and a new program for developing my digital art skills,” she said.
“I previously turned my passion into freelancing where many clients would come to me for character designs and I faced a lot of criticism, but I overcame these things and changed the concept of digital art for the better,” Al-Jifri added.
Her passion for illustrating earned her a Final Fantasy runners-up prize for one of the best shield designs for the game in 2018. “This is only the beginning and I am still developing my technical skills to do more when I get opportunities like this.”
Al-Jifri believes that stepping into the digital world is important for artists who want to get global recognition.
“This made it easier for many painters to share their work around the world, not just in one city. In recent years, I’ve gained a lot of followers and fans who inspire me with their admiration for my work, to produce more graphics of the well-known video game series ‘Assassin’s Creed,’ as a historical game between reality and fantasy that varies in its curation.”
In future, Al-Jifri wants to set up a character-design institute for creatives who want to collaborate and connect with video game developers.