Weaving a world of fantasy

Abby holding up one of her illustrations from her picture storybook Puteri Pakma.

PERAK-born artist Abby Zain found the inspiration for her acclaimed storybook Puteri Pakma after a jungle exploration trip in 2011.

She was immediately taken by the sight of the world’s largest, most magnificent flower – the Rafflesia – in the Ulu Geroh rainforest, Gopeng.

She began work on her picture storybook in 2013, taking a year to craft 35 pieces of artworks for her self-written fairytale.

Abby, or Ar Bayaah Mohd Zain, successfully made her debut in 2014 at KLCity Art Gallery at Dataran Merdeka with her child-like paintings crafted from pencils, acrylic paint and marker pens.

She said she favoured this particular style of naive art, named the Gaugin style, as her picture storybook catered to children and adults alike.

“Many people often remark that my paintings are easy to emulate, because they look like they were drawn by children.

“But to craft drawings that follow a storyline, it is an effort that has to be done phase by phase.

A visitor taking pictures of the Puteri Pakma 2 art exhibition.
A visitor taking pictures of the Puteri Pakma 2 art exhibition.

“You cannot just simply start drawing without visualising how the art is supposed to complement the storyline,” she told reporters during an official book launch at the Port & Co Gallery Cafe at Jalan Raja Musa Aziz, Ipoh, on Sept 21.

State Tourism and Culture Committee chairman Datuk Nolee Ashilin Mohd Radzi was present to launch the book, and introduce Abby’s art exhibition of Puteri Pakma 2, the sequel to the first book which is still work in progress.

The story of Puteri Pakma introduces readers to a wicked prince Parawala, who was out to hunt and kill tapirs.

Fierce and greedy, Parawala was about to strike a peculiar-looking, purple tapir when suddenly, lightning turned him into stone and a terrifying thunderstorm swept his kingdom away.

It was then up to Puteri Pakma, who was destined to save a nation, its ruler and the tapirs from extinction.

Expressing that certain aspects in the story came from a personal place, Abby, who believes in the importance of saving nature, said she painted Puteri Pakma out to be a saviour of the rainforests.

“As a nature lover, I felt challenged to come up with a story that sends a message to people about treating the weak and vulnerable with the same compassion we ourselves wish to be treated with.

“It took me a long time to conceive the storyline.

“But apart from my forest travels, I was inspired by my dreams as well.

“For example, in the part of the story were Puteri Pakma was riding on a whale to search for the prince, this scene actually came to me in a dream,” she said.

Before becoming a full-time artist in 2008, Abby was a kindergarten teacher for eight years.

“I still had an immense love for drawing, so I started drawing part-time and sold my artworks to galleries in 2003.

“I continued improving my skills by learning from several art teachers, who taught me how to sketch and paint with different materials.

“Later on, I decided that painting part-time was not enough for me, so I quit my job after giving birth to my third child, and opened my own art school to teach children what I love best,” the mother of three said, adding that her art school was now named after her storybook, Puteri Pakma Art Studio, in Selangor.

Abby can now proudly add another feather to her cap as Puteri Pakma was recently selected as one of the National Book Council’s 50 Best Malaysian Titles for International Rights.

Her book, along with 49 others, will be exhibited at the Malaysian stand at the prestigious Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany from Oct 14 to 18.

As printings for Puteri Pakma were only limited to 500, those interested to own a copy may visit www.puteripakma.com for information.

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Family & Community , Perak , Abby


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