Malaysian medical science grad turned to pen art to overcome insomnia, now sells her work online

·4-min read
Meet the 23-year-old Malaysian pen artist, Khairunissa Mohd Izham who is determined in creating awareness on local traditional architecture through her artworks. ― Picture courtesy of Khairunissa Mohd Izham
Meet the 23-year-old Malaysian pen artist, Khairunissa Mohd Izham who is determined in creating awareness on local traditional architecture through her artworks. ― Picture courtesy of Khairunissa Mohd Izham

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 4 ― Malaysian pen artist, Khairunissa Mohd Izham is determined to create awareness about local traditional architecture through her artworks.

The Ipoh-born initially started to use art as a form of therapy after she was diagnosed with insomnia during her second year of college.

Her doctor advised her to explore her artistic side since her medications no longer had any effect for her.

“I tried exploring other kinds of art designs like portraits and water colour but I never was so good at those, so I decided to try something else.

“I came across an Instagram page of an artist who uses only a pen to create these amazing artworks and I was like okay, great, I’ve decided to try that.

“The idea of drawing buildings just kind of pops into my head and I’ve been practicing it since 2018 but I never considered myself being an artist until last year when I sold my first art print on Twitter,” Khairunissa told Malay Mail.

She also said that she’s no longer having trouble with her sleep ever since she started drawing which has also helped with her mental health state as well.

“At first, my intention was to cure my insomnia but the constant support that I get from my father really pushes me to learn more about pen art.

“I actually don’t have any art background and my father is an engineer and he knows a thing or two about architecture.

“He also knows that I love to draw buildings and landscapes and he actually motivates me to learn more about architectural arts,” she said.

Khairunissa’s first ever sold artwork was a pen sketch of the Palazzo Poli, a palace in Italy which she managed to sell on Twitter.

As she started to garner more requests, she signed up as a seller on online shopping platform, Shopee and started selling from there as the postage fees were much cheaper there.

The medical science graduate also said that she used to focus her drawings on European style buildings until she met another fellow artist who encouraged her to start practicing on local architecture.

“From there I started drawing Malaysian buildings. The first local building I did was Dewan Bandaran Ipoh then Rumah Kampung Penang and the latest one is Istana Jahar in Kelantan.

“I’ve learned so much from those three buildings. When I was drawing the Rumah Kampung Penang, I think that’s where I began learning about wood textures and how to draw it.

“I’ve studied the pattern itself and from there it made me want to explore and find more buildings in Malaysia that have traditional values on it,” she said.

Khairunissa admitted that her recent drawing of Istana Jahar has been one of the most difficult one yet.

The drawing took her 61 days to complete with more than 10 hours spent working on it daily compared to her other works that would usually only take her a month to finish.

“The most challenging part for Istana Jahar is that this is the first time I’m drawing on an A1 sized paper which is the biggest one for me so far.

“And I think the most difficult part will always be the first step which is the scale as I need to transfer the scale of the building itself from the reference picture into a piece of paper.

“If you mess up with the scale, you’ll also mess up the length, the height and the measurement,” she said, adding that the reason she chose Istana Jahar was because of the balanced state of the palace.

Actively promoting her artwork on Twitter, Instagram and Shopee, Khairunissa also said that her drawings of local architectures have gained more interactions than her drawings of European buildings.

This is because not many are familiar with European buildings while local buildings on the other hand would often attract attention as it is easier for them to relate to.

“Local traditional buildings are a treasure that we must appreciate and there’s a lot of other buildings in Malaysia that we have never heard of.

“Of course, people will recognise the famous ones but the ones like Istana Jahar, not many know about it, and I had people asking me about Istana Jahar and they didn’t know that it was located in Malaysia,” she said.

Khairunissa aims to spend the rest of the year exploring and drawing more local traditional buildings with Istana Negara and Bagunan Sultan Abdul Samad next on her list.

She also hopes that her artwork can help in creating a spark among Malaysians to appreciate local artists and local buildings.

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