There was an error in the article; please read ‘Girl From Perak’ as ‘Girl From Pahang’.
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Colour me Happy
Self-taught illustrator and children’s book author Emila Yusof’s beautiful picture books are beginning to attract an international audience. Firefly met the Malaysian talent to find out where and how she produces her beautiful tomes.
Emila Yusof could be just the woman to engage children in reading. She fights on the side of paper in the war on technology, producing beautifully illustrated books that explode with colour and whimsical characters, introducing today’s youngsters to the world of gardens and crafts and capturing the imagination of the young through her words and pictures.
Malaysian-born Emila has been an established illustrator and author for the past few years, attracting the admiration of readers and industry insiders alike for her ability to create lovely stories and illustrate them with beauty and grace, and a healthy dose of vibrancy.
She has produced a set of alphabet books for children and illustrated the book The Legendary Princesses of Malaysia, but is perhaps best known for the charming, recurring character of Dina. Dina first appeared in the beautiful My Mother’s Garden and is now becoming an icon in her own right, accompanying Emila on her trips abroad.
While Emila has enjoyed a strong reputation and loyal audience on her home shores for some time, the rest of the world is finally sitting up and paying attention thanks to ongoing trips abroad to promote her work at various international book fairs. One of Emila’s books was recently picked up by a German publisher and is set to be translated, while another is being licenced for an online book animation in Taiwan – “I believe it’s a good start” Emila says humbly.
The Girl from
International success as a book author and illustrator was far from the mind of the young Emila growing up in Perak, who harboured dreams of being a fashion designer but had a drawing pencil firmly in her hand from the age of five. “It is in me,” she says, “I just have to draw.”
Her creative instincts led to a career as a graphic designer, before she moved into illustrating in 2007 and finally to her role as an author in 2010. The move to create her own picture books was one prompted by an inability to find ones she liked, drawing on the world around her to create books that sing with Malaysian culture and traditions.
Her books have proved popular with the young audience for whom they are intended, but her skills have also caused a flurry of invitations to attend events and appear at workshops, both in Malaysia and abroad.
An Online Story
Emila’s unexpected journey to fame has been documented on her blog Emilatopia since 2005, an award-winning site where she records her thoughts, her achievements, her latest creations and some jealousy-inducing photographs from her travels around the world.
“Blogging is an important platform to get more people to discover my artworks and books,” she explains, “and it has helped to get comments on how I can improve my art.”
There seems to be little space for improvement in the beautiful works Emila has created so far, which appear in alongside text in both English and Malay and sparkle with colour and fun.
Her inspiration is drawn from travel: “The world is made-up of all sorts of colours, I love the richness and vibrancy of it (Oh, I love autumn!). And I think that is reflected in my work, the highly saturated and vibrant colours.”
There is also a distinctive Malaysian style to her books, which Emila feels is important to “keep people aware of the things we have in our country.”
While globe-trotting serves to get the ideas flowing, Emila creates her work from her home in the Malaysian capital, trying to maintain focus on drawing with a husband, son and cat in tow. “The tight deadlines are tough for me,” she admits. “I have to balance my work with the household chores.”
While many marvel at her whimsical creations and imaginative work, Emila had no formal training and remains adamant that skills such as hers can be learnt “as long as you have the passion to draw” she stresses.
Her passion continues to produce a steady stream of fine creations, with forthcoming works including Dina’s reappearance in My Father’s Farm and others that have yet to come to life under her pen.
Keep an eye on Emilatopia to keep tabs on the humble Malaysian, admire her images on Instagram (emilayusof), or visit her agent to see how you can get your hands on her books (http://www.yusofgajahlingard.com/emila-yusof.html).