06 Mar 2016: The Blue Mansion & The Penang Colouring Book

With a lively interaction between text and illustration, Drawing the Blue Mansion and The Penang Colouring Book artfully captures the heritage of Penang and stimulates the reader’s dimensional imaginations.

Picture books are no longer seen as the stuff of young readers. Their contents can range from simple ideas to complex and sophisticated scenarios. Though not exactly a recent phenomenon, picture books, because of their versatility, are now regarded as one of the most important literary formats in the field. It is the same versatility which encourages creativity, in both writer and reader. With a lively interaction between text and illustration, picture books, unlike their textual counterparts, stimulates dimensional imagination and visual intelligence.

Drawing the Blue Mansion is a pictorial project inspired by the multiple award-winning Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion in Penang, an iconic edifice which is testimony to the stunning brilliance of eclectic architecture in the Straits Settlements. Produced by architect/artist Lim Eu Jin, the slim volume is a graphic and theatrical portrayal of daily life at the mansion based on Cheong Fatt Tze and his favoured seventh wife, Tan Tay Po. The architectural lines explore the fine divide between architecture, orthographic drawings and the sequential art of graphic novels or ‘comics’. The narration through the architecture is arranged chronologically, slowly unfolding and enhancing the reader’s experience, from beginning to end. An added feature of the book is a fold-it-yourself miniature cardboard model of the building. Drawing the Blue Mansion is a collaboration between Eu Jin with Laurence Loh and Lin Lee Loh-Lim of Arkitek LLA, the conservation architect of the Blue Mansion.

Less lofty but no less captivating isThe Penang Colouring Book, a collaborative project led by a collective calling themselves ‘We Are Artists’. Not only does this book provide a fun way to pass the time – it also imbues therapeutic benefits to the colourist and serves as a reminder of how beautiful the island of Penang truly is, and why we should do everything in our power to keep it that way. As if that were not enough, the purchase of this book contributes to a worthy cause: half of the profits from sales go to the artists and the rest to a chosen charity. The drawings feature different facets of Penang culture, including kebaya design, streetscapes, shop fronts, public transport, tile designs, house façades, animals and crockery.