Emila Yusof is a self-taught illustrator. She has written and illustrated a number of very popular picture books in Malaysia, as well as a series of craft handbooks for children. Her whimsical characters are much loved and her talent has gained her loyal fans both locally and internationally, especially through her blog, Emilatopia. Emila has been a featured illustrator at a number of book festivals, including the Asian Festival of Children’s Content in Singapore in 2013, where she was Guest Illustrator.
Emila lives in Ampang, Kuala Lumpur with her husband, her mother, their 11-year-old son and her 9 cats.
Author/Illustrator: Emila Yusof
1. Legendary Princesses of The World (Due publication June 2016)
2. Princesses of Malaysia Colouring Book (2016)
3. Fleeting Moments: An Illustrated Haiku (2016)
4. My Mother’s Garden (2010)
5. My Mother’s Kitchen (2014)
6. My Father’s Farm (2015)
7. Tree House Colourart (2015)
8. Mother Earth Colourart (2015)
9. Nature Sings Colourart (2015)
10. Dreamworld Colourart (2015)
11. Malaysia Colourart (2015)
12. Siri Buku Kraf Bersama Kak Emila: Origami (2010)
13. Siri Buku Kraf Bersama Kak Emila: Kitar Semula (2010)
14. Siri Buku Kraf Bersama Kak Emila: Alam Semulajadi (2010)
15. Siri Buku Kraf Bersama Kak Emila: Kad Ucapan (2010)
16. Siri Buku Kraf Bersama Kak Emila: Kartun Haiwan (2010)
17. Siri Buku Kraf Bersama Kak Emila: Melukis Dinosaur (2010)
18. The Lil’ Guardian Flashcards (2011)
19. The Lil’ Guardian Alphabet (2013)
20. Alphabets For Boys (2014)
21. Alphabets For Girls (2014)
22. Taman Bunga Emak Saya (2014)
23. Dapur Emak Saya (2014)
Author: K.Raman | Illustrator: Emila Yusof
24. Legendary Princesses of Malaysia (2014)
Author: Nani Menon | Illustrator: Emila Yusof
25. Ke Mana Perginya? (2013)
26. Jangan Takut! (2013)
27. Di Mana Ibu Saya? (2013)
28. Apa yang Bergerak? (2013)
29. Baju Cantik (2013)
30. Cuba Buat Sendiri (2013)
Author: Nisah Haron | Illustrator: Emila Yusof
31. Kawan Baru Hanani (2011)
Author: Rahimidin Zahari | Illustrator: Emila Yusof
32. Biring Sikunani (2014)
Author: Tang Su Lan (China) | Illustrator: Emila Yusof
33. Over The Bridge (2015)
Author: Naemah Ismail | Illustrator: Emila Yusof
34. Nina dan Rama-rama
Author: Mahaya Mohd. Yassin | Illustrator: Emila Yusof
35. Pelangi Pagi
1. Best Illustrator, Anugerah Sastera Kanak-Kanak 2015
2. My Father’s Farm – Ist winner of Kategori Buku Awal Kanak-Kanak Terbaik,
Anugerah Sastera Kanak-Kanak,FSK Malaysia.
3. Princesses of Malaysia – Ist winner of Kategori Buku Bergambar Kanak-Kanak Terbaik,
Anugerah Sastera Kanak-Kanak, FSK Malaysia.
4. My Mother’s Kitchen -3rd winner of Kategori Buku Awal Kanak-Kanak Terbaik,
Anugerah Sastera Kanak-Kanak,FSK Malaysia.
5. My Mother’s Kitchen -Parent’s Choice, Anugerah Sastera Kanak-Kanak,FSK Malaysia.
Can you remember your first drawings?
Yes: a typical beach with lots of coconut trees and seashells. There were mountains as a backdrop.
When did you know you wanted to be an artist and create picture books?
When I could not find the picture book that I wanted…
You are self taught – which artists and/or styles have inspired you along your path of discovery?
A lot. Beatrix Potter, Maurice Sendak, Edward Gorey, Kay Nielsen, Cicely Mary Barker, to name just a few.
How would you describe your own style and what are your preferred media?
I dunno… cute? My preferred media: watercolour and coloured pencils.
Where do you like to work?
I like to work in my little studio corner. I can’t seem to draw with concentration anywhere else.
Most of your picture books are self-authored but you have also illustrated Legendary Princesses of Malaysia, written by Raman, featuring stories about ten different historical and fictional characters. What did you enjoy about this project, and were there any particular challenges?
I was hoping to contribute my own re-telling of these stories but my publisher thought it would be best if they were retold by a good writer such as Raman. I illustrated it based on a simple brief from the publisher. The challenge was drawing the clothing. Not many people agreed on not covering up the bodies with more clothing but I based my illustrations on the stories’ historical contexts.
Please tell us about your popular first book, My Mother’s Garden and its sequel My Mother’s Kitchen. Where did your initial ideas come from for both stories? Do you have any plans to create any more books featuring the same imaginative little girl?
The initial idea came from within my home. The garden and the kitchen were both based on my mother’s. And yes, my next story in the same series is going to be My Father’s Farm. I am currently illustrating it. It’s based on my father’s and father-in-law’s farms combined. After much deliberation with my publisher, we have also decided to name the girl: she’s called Dina.
Are you a keen gardener/cook yourself? And what about your son – have your books inspired him in the garden and kitchen, do you think?
Haha. Not so, though my mother is. My son has actually been inspired to create a children’s book himself. He has drawn some comics – half way, but I think that’s a good start. I’ll be persuading him to finish them.
Lil’ Guardian Alphabet was also published last year, and, like My Mother’s Garden,it focuses on Malaysian flowers – but it perhaps contains more of an element of fantasy? Can you take us through the process of how the book came into being – were there any hiccups or surprises along the way?
Knowing that I like to draw fairies a lot, the publisher Oyez! suggested that I come up with my own fairies (without wings). Then we decided to name them flower guardians. When I did the first set to showcase at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in 2010, I was having problems with my eyes. My glasses didn’t help me much with drawing the little details. After getting new glasses, I was able to come up with a new set of flower guardians, and they looked much better!
You have also created a series of craft books for children. Is that an alter-ego Emila I spot teaching the children from within the books’ covers? What were the challenges involved in putting the series together?
Hahah! Yes, the publisher (PTS) came up with that alter-ego idea. The challenge was that I did everything myself, from writing to illustrating to photographing the crafts.
Interview from windowsmirrorsdoors.org:
Interview with Home & Decor Magazine:
Could you tell us a little bit about your background?
I am a self-taught illustrator. I have written and illustrated a number of picture books in Malaysia, as well as a series of craft handbooks for children.
(Complete this sentence) When creating a particular piece of art, you draw inspiration from…? everything around me.
How do you channel your inspiration creatively to create your pieces?
I keep a sketchbook to pen down ideas.
What are the challenges you face as an artist? What is the most challenging work you’ve done so far?
Time. I am also a homemaker and struggling to both being homemaker and author/illustrator.
What is your philosophy as an artist?
The written word has been influencing people for a long time and it may be fair to say that we are more what we read than we are what we eat. I don’t have a philosophy as such. If I had one it would be that I put up the easel, add paint to the palette and apply it to canvas the only way I know how.
In your own words, could you describe your work?
My illustrations explode with colour and whimsical characters.
How do you challenge yourself to come out with these ideas?
It is not about challenge, really, it is about using the my imagination in the perspective of a child. Every adults have their inner child. The inner child is figuratively, metaphorically real., so I just need to bring it out. Watching kids doing their activity also helps the process.
What are your favourite materials to work with? Watercolour and color pencils. I combined these two.
Which process of your work satisfies you the most?
It must be from my book ‘My Mother’s Garden’ because every flowers in the book was referred to the flowers that my mother has in her garden. Drawing them is like therapeutic.
Interview with The Star:
You’ve been a children’s book author since 2010. What triggered your interest in this genre?
When I could not find the picture book that I wanted.
Is there a common theme in all your books?
I don’t actually know how to put it but my Dina Series it is all about a little girl who is curious about everything around her. This series taught children name of things around them.
My Lil’ Flower Guardian book and flashcards are about flowers.
Alphabets for Boys and Alphabet for Girls are about children aand things alphabetically.
What has been the inspiration behind the books you write/ illustrate?
The initial idea for the Dina Series came from within my home. The garden and the kitchen were both based on my mother’s. The soon to be published My Father’s Farm are based on my father’s and father-in-law’s (deceased) farms combined.
Having published several books, what would you say are some of the most valuable lessons you have learnt about publishing/ publishing industry?
Writing a book is half the job. The other half is promoting it. We must help publisher sells the book. There are thousands of children’s book writers/illustrator out there and the competition is big. I have been developing a fan base since 2007 where I posted personal illustration projects on my blog. When I got my books published, I just continued from there. I also shared my artworks on social media platfroms such as twitter, facebook, google +, LinkedIn, Flickr, Instagram and Pinterest. It helps me to get people to know about my books.
Interview with Sarah Rees, Fireflyz Magazine:
What first compelled/inspired you to start drawing?
It is in me, I just like to draw since I was little.
What were your earliest ambitions?
Does your childhood influence your work?
Is Dina a version of you?
Not really but she has my braided hair when I was a kid.
What is your favourite book so far?
Jonathan Livingston Seagull – Richard Bach.
How long does it take to illustrate and create these books?
Different book takes different amount of time to create depending on the details, not to mention the mood.
What do you enjoy most about your profession?
The process of colouring.
What is the hardest aspect of your work?
Tight deadline. I am working from home; I have to juggle between work and house chores.
What has been your proudest moment so far?
When one of my books has been licensed to be translated into German language. It is a new and small publisher but I believe that is a very good start. Apart from that, one of my books has been licensed for online book animation by a Taiwan publisher.
What do you do to relax from work?
Travel and capture lots of photos for my drawing reference.
What prompted you to start the blog? Why do you think blogging is important?
I started the blog just to share my artworks and to get comments/critics on what can I improve. In my case, blogging is an important platform to get more people to discover my artwork and books.
What future plans do you have in regards your work?
I plan to get them licensed in many languages.
I understand you like travelling – where would be your dream destination?
I dream to travel to places that I have not been.
Do you think it is important that your books celebrate and illustrate local culture and traditions? Why?
Yes, because we need to tell people what we have in our country.
Is there anything that you find difficult to draw?
Do you think drawing can be taught or is it a natural ability?
It can be taught long as one has the passion to learn to draw.
What inspires your colourful, whimsical style and characters?
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.
If you couldn’t be an illustrator, what would you do instead?
Have you any words of advice for budding illustrators and authors?
If they are very keen to write/illustrate children’s books, they should read more of that kind of books. Get the idea on how it is written/illustrated. Promote work on social platforms.