PETALING JAYA: His first art teacher gave up on him, but the second one thought he had potential.
Over time, Penang-born Delwin Cheah Wien Loong, 13, proved that he is gifted.
He was diagnosed with Asperger’s, part of an autism spectrum disorder, at five.
But at the age of nine, he won recognition as Malaysia’s youngest savant artist to hold a solo art exhibition. He also sang in his music video uploaded on YouTube.
Delwin has now added another feather in his cap. His artworks were selected as backdrop for the “prop restaurant” of Chef Nic, a popular food and travel show, produced by Zhejiang Television, for release in China. The show is hosted by Hong Kong celebrity Nicholas Tse.
Delwin’s father, business consultant Lawrence Cheah, 41, said: “I sent eight pieces of Delwin’s artworks (of safari animals, his favourite art theme) to Nicholas’ production company in early July. Selected portions of the artworks were cropped and enlarged for use in a massive backdrop (9m by 30m).”
The production house paid for a four-day trip for father and son to visit the sets in Beijing from Aug 1 to 4.
“We were interviewed for the show which also featured other celebrities such as Patrick Tse (Nic’s father) and Tan Sri Michelle Yeoh.”
His son, he recalled, did not talk until he was six. “But he would draw from 7am to midnight. He used up one to two reams of paper a week, much more than a photostat machine!” he said.
At five, he was sent for his first art class as his parents hoped that art could help them “to break into his world”.
“But after half an hour, the art teacher could not handle him. She asked us to take him home,” he said.
Both he and his wife, Erina Law, a businesswoman, were devastated. The teacher said Delwin was “the worst artist” she had seen and had “no potential to be an artist at all”.
However, veteran artist Teng Yin Teik told the parents that Delwin’s art strokes were lively and different and his drawings “had soul”.
“That opened our eyes to his art,” Lawrence said.
Delwin is now studying at Lighthouse Academy in Tanjung Bungah, Penang.
He recorded many firsts in 2013 – he held his first solo art exhibition in Living Essenze in Penang, sponsored by One East Museum founder Ch’ng Huck Theng.
In April that year he was also listed in the Malaysia Book of Records as the youngest artist to hold a solo visual art exhibition with more than 60 artworks.
Also in that year, he was certified as the World’s Youngest Savant Artist to hold a solo exhibition by the US-based Record Setter.
After Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor handed over the Record Setter’s certificate to Delwin, he received recognition letters from President Barack Obama in 2014 and Queen Elizabeth II in 2015.
On Sept 3, Delwin and his family were invited for an audience with Johor Permaisuri Raja Zarith Sofiah Sultan Idris. Delwin presented his African safari series artwork to her.