Malaysia is among 6 shortlisted for 2017 Scholastic Picture Book Award (SPBA)

I didn’t plan to submit a picture book manuscript but when my BFF, Evi Shelvia, suggested that I send mine, it was only a few days away. It took me 3 days (had at least 2 hours sleep each day) to prepare the manuscript and 5 sample illustrations, and hurriedly submit just a day before the closing date. I chose to retell a folktale about a Rooster as I was born in the Year of Rooster.

Serendipity happens. Luck is when preparation meets opportunity, right? It’s true. I got the news that I was shortlisted for the award! I believe The Year of Rooster gives me good luck.

Here’s the synopsis of the manuscript: A long time ago, the Jade Emperor had the power to select the Zodiac Animals. Only the strongest, kindest, most noble animals were chosen. Only animals with a special gift can become a Zodiac Animal. Rooster really, REALLY wanted to be chosen, but what was his special gift? And so Rooster sat down and thought about the other zodiac animals. What was so special about them? So he studied them one by one. Each of them is special in their own way. Rooster thought and thought, and then it came to him. His gift was his golden voice.

I am glad that I represented Malaysia to be shortlisted for the 2017 Scholastic Picture Book Award (SPBA) that was announced last April 17th, 2018 by the National Book Development Council of Singapore (the Book Council) at the Makan & Mingle event in Singapore.

The award is presented biennially to an outstanding unpublished picture book with distinct Asian themes by a writer and illustrator team of Asian descent living in Asia. As well as a $10,000 cash prize, the winning book will also be published by Scholastic Asia. SPBA is a joint initiative between the Book Council and Scholastic Asia, the world’s largest children’s books publishing and distribution company.

There was a total of 137 entries from all over Asia, including Bhutan, Singapore, the Philippines, Iran, China, Vietnam, Japan, India, Turkey, and Indonesia. The judges have selected six titles for the shortlist, each from a different country.

The winner of the 2017 SPBA will be announced during Opening Night of the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) on 16 May, and will be presented by the evening’s Guest-of-Honour, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth & Leader of the House, Ms Grace Fu Hai Yien.

The Shortlist:

  1. Aytul Akal, Mavisel Yener, Kubra Nur Ozkececi, and Yasemin Yener: The Flying Grandpa, Turkey
  2. Emila Yusof: How Rooster Became the Zodiac Animal, Malaysia.
  3. Ho Jia En, Sabrine Ong, Shona Menon, Wong Shu Jing, and Melodie James: The Little Durian Tree, Singapore.
  4. Anuradha Ananth Huggler and Shailja Jain Chougule: Poorni and Her Peepal Leaf, India.
  5. Maria Karina: Putri The Treasure of Kancil, Indonesia.
  6. Le Thi Bich Khoa: The Whale Whisperer, Vietnam.


You can read the full news here: National Book Development Council of Singapore shorts lists 6 entries for 2017 Scholastic Picture Book Award (SPBA).

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Collaboration with Zurich Insurance Malaysia to raise funds for less fortunate children

It is truly a refreshing experience for me to be collaborating with Zurich to spread the message of financial and physical wellness. As a children’s book author and mother, these messages resonated strongly with me. With my artwork, I wanted to incorporate values of family togetherness whilst showcasing elements of protection and saving up for the future. I hope I can invoke these same feelings to all who see my art.

Zurich Insurance Malaysia Road Show

Throughout May to August, Zurich Insurance Malaysia Berhad (ZIMB) is running a series of initiatives under its Journey to Wellness campaign. These initiatives, aimed at inspiring fellow Malaysians to adopt healthier lifestyles to achieve both physical and financial wellness, includes a series of nationwide roadshows, exclusive wellness seminars, a social media contest as well as a charity drive.

One of the highlights in these roadshow locations is a giant coin jar, specially hand-painted by me to help raise funds for the less fortunate children from the Shelter Home for Children.

The giant coin jar will be travelling to selected locations nationwide (please see below).  The proceeds collected will be channelled to the Shelter Home for Children to help provide food, clothing and education for the children, and maintenance of the home.

Here’s the list of the roadshow locations:

  • Palm Mall, Seremban: 17 – 19 June 2016
  • IOI City Mall, Putrajaya:  15 – 17 July 2016
  • Village Mall, Sungai Petani: 29 – 31 July 2016
  • Gurney Plaza, Penang 4 – 7 August 2016
  • Ipoh Parade, Ipoh 18 – 21 August 2016

After Ipoh, the roadshow team will be at Johor Bahru, Kluang, Melaka, Kota Kinabalu and Kuching. For more updates, please visit Zurich’s Journey to Wellness page.

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How to practice life drawing from your living room

Don’t have a life drawing studio near you? No problem.

As an artist, one of the most trying things to get a grasp upon is the human form. Where endless hours have been spent in capturing gesture drawings and “real-world” situations, I have found that there is still a bit to be gained from just studying the human form in an artistic pose. And where I would encourage anyone who is a serious artist to seek out a life drawing session at an art studio, such may not be realistic. For those who do not have access to such a studio, do not fret. You can still get life drawing practice through the use of 3D models. However, before you fire up your computer and start looking for a 3D model, here are a few things to consider.

Get an atomically correct model

There are a great deal of sites which are available on a number of sites. When you are looking for a model in which to practice your life drawing, it is crucial that you find a model that is proportionate and atomically correct. Where those which are not accustomed to an atomically correct may find that being presented with either male or female genitals, buttocks, and breast a bit unsettling, such is needed (not as a perverse application but as a means of understanding the muscles in how they correspond to each other). As live models would be presented in both clothed and nude models at most studios, it is advised that 3D models used for atomically studies be both clothed and nude.

cgtraderCredit image: Copyright: Aiman Akhtar.

Choose a high poly model

When you look to find a 3d model, first ensure that the model is not skewed but proportionate. Secondly, the model needs to be high poly. High polygons ensure that the model has an ample amount of detail. The more detail, the more the polygons the model will have. If you find that a model has low detail but a high polygon count, check to see how the model was constructed. In many cases a low detail and high polygon model will be the results of a conversion from another program which was done improperly, or it will be the result of errors within the model. Both of these are not what you will want in your 3D model.

Get a rigged model

A rigged model means that the model can be moved around and posed. This will require that you have a 3D program for the model, but the results you will get in being able to pose your model is priceless. By being able to move your rigged character, you can stimulate the various gestures and poses which you would get in a studio setting.

Draw as though you were in a studio

When I draw from a 3D model, especially a human model, I treat my drawing session just as though I would treat a studio session. This means that I set my computer up in an area that can be easily seen from my canvas. In some situations, I wire the computer to my television to allow for a larger viewing area. After I have the set up completed, I allot a certain amount of time for gestures and warm-up. One way in which you can mimic the time constraints of gesture poses is to set up various poses within the timeline of your 3D program. For example if your playback is 29.95 frames per second, you can put a different pose every 300 frames for 10 second gestures.

Once you have the warm up and gesture drawing pose your character as needed. This can be either a preset gesture on the character, or you can create a custom pose. The good thing about the 3D model is that you can zoom in on the model to get details on a particular muscle group. Just ensure that you do not change the angle.

Studio or 3D model

It is always advised that you try to get a live model when you draw. Whether you are attempting to draw wildlife or the human form, real models are always preferred. Yet, when you cannot get a live model the 3D model is clearly the alternative over pictures and static references. Again, ensure that you have a model that realistically proportioned, is rigged, and one that does not fit into the “perfect” mold (as most people have a bit of a flaw here or there). If using 3D models, ensure that you purchase various ethnics, ages, sexes, and weights to help with the diversification of your skills. It is also advised that you try different mediums (such as charcoal or pastel) when sketching so that you can further focus on the anatomy and less upon the pencil, paint or pen.

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Four Expert Tips for Painting Wildlife

Painting pictures of wildlife is often one of the more difficult subjects to tackle. For many artists, there is a lot of planning and preparation which goes into creating the perfect wildlife pictures and getting every detail spot on. Whether you’re an artist who’s looking to brush up on your wildlife work or are about to try painting wildlife scenes for the first time, these top tips will help you to perfect your wildlife art and produce paintings which you’ll be forever proud of.

leopardRoyalty free photo

Use Real Life Subjects

When painting wildlife, there are so many more elements that need to be taken into consideration than just the animal or animals themselves. You should try to sketch and paint from real life as often as possible, as this will enable you to see how the animals interact in their natural habitat and create paintings that are as true to life as possible. If it’s not possible to paint and sketch from real life or you are worried about alerting the wildlife to your presence and scaring them away, you might want to consider the use of a trail camera, which you can use to record the wildlife in their natural habitat for a reference. See a guide to the best trail cameras here.

Refining Your Sketches

It’s always tempting to skip straight to the painting stage after you’re drawn up a sketch, however experts say that it always pays off later on down the line to refine and re-refine your sketches before you let any paint touch the paper. You should begin by blocking with basic shapes in several stages and try to represent as much of the animal as possible with these shapes. Then, art experts recommend starting with a focal point, for example an eye, and measuring vital points from this with your pencil. Next, you should refine the sketch, ensuring that the shapes of limbs and facial features are accurate, along with checking vertical and horizontal alignments. This provides you with a good framework for painting or developing layers with confidence.

Stay Stocked Up

If you are observing and painting wildlife from real life, it’s important to ensure that you’re fully stocked up on all the art supplies that you will need and more. When you’re painting wildlife, time is definitely something which is not only your side and you can’t afford to have to run back home for supplies if you run out. Overstocking, rather than understocking, on the equipment that you take with you is definitely the best situation to be in.


Last but not least, careful planning is essential when you’re going to create a wildlife painting. Deciding which animals you are going to paint, where you are going to find references, and the materials which you are going to use is important. When you are constructing a scene, there are many different elements which should be considered, which is why experts recommend planning your scene on tracing paper first so that you can make any changes if necessary.

Wildlife is a great branch of art that every artist should try at least once!

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Dina Series Pouch Bags

Dina Series pouch bags. 10″ x 7.5″ – RM35 each. Illustrations by me, manufactured by Makes a perfect gift, if you ran out of ideas of what to give. So what do you keep in a pouch bag? Pencils, drawing tools (brushes, travel watercolour set), make-up, and oh, Raya money packets, of course!

Dina is a character from my Dina Series picture books.

To buy, just browse me at Creative United’s website:



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ACE Malaysia Lucky Contest

ACE Malaysia is celebrating its 1st anniversary in Malaysia and is giving away great prizes! If you are up to it, all you have to do is:

  1. Head over to Ace Bags & Luggage shops at Isetan KLCC or Mitsui Outlet Park, Sepang
  2. Spend more than RM300 to be entitled for Lucky Draw.


  • 1st: JAL air tickets for 2 persons worth RM4000
  • 2nd: Panasonic product worth RM1500 (43″ Viera TV)
  • 3rd: HITACHI product worth RM1500
  • 4th: SUSHI KING food voucher worth RM100 x 20 winners

Closing date:31 May, 2016.


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Happy World Book & Copyright Day

wbdposterHappy World Book & Copyright Day to all!

To celebrate, share and spread the love and respect for books and reading, OyezBooks is having a limited time promotion starting from 22-24 April with 20% off ALL Oyez titles AND in addition, they are also throwing in their World
Book Day poster (of a cute anteater reading books) for FREE!

Just enter WORLDBOOKDAY in the Coupon Code upon checkout –




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