A sketch for me

"Simply Butterflies" by Yap Hanzhen
After my story on Yap Hanzhen, Johor’s gifted special artist, was published in the October 2014 issue of The Iskandarian, I received an email from Yvonne, his mother.  She thanked me for the story and told me that they wanted to suggest an idea to me but was looking for a good time to say it.  And she went on to tell me that Hanzhen would like to draw a sketch especially for me – his guardian angel! 

I was rather taken aback because it’s such a gift to be called his guardian angel – and I’m no angel at that – as it was my privilege to share his story with readers.  I was just deeply touched and quite overwhelmed by the kind offer to draw something for me.
Hanzhen working on my sketch
Yvonne said that I should give him the subject of my choice or describe what I want and let him decide how he could draw it for me.  She said Hanzhen would be able to start on this project in about two weeks so I have some time to think it over.  I know he’s a gifted artist but it was just mind-boggling to come up with something for him to start on!

I knew that since I mooted the idea for him to sketch Johor Baru’s iconic buildings and landmarks for posterity, he was inspired to start on the project and sketched a series of detailed drawings in this collection.  These drawings caught the interest of the property owner of DoubleTree by Hilton Johor Baru and Hanzhen was commissioned to compile his drawings into a booklet that could be used by visitors to enjoy a discovery trail in a tour of the city or presented as gifts and souvenirs.  [This book has been published and I was delighted to receive my own copy!]

Hanzhen completing the sketch with meticulous detail
Around the same time, Hanzhen also completed a commissioned piece for the Consul-General of Singapore in JB where his art took a leap from sketching single buildings to meeting the challenge of drawing JB’s panoramic skyline and causeway!

In the days since receiving that email, I got caught up with so much work that I hardly spared a thought for the subject for his sketch.  When I remembered, it was already November and I rushed a message off to Yvonne.  I discovered that Hanzhen and I shared a common icon – the beautiful butterfly – as he adopted the butterfly as his trademark and is used on souvenir t-shirts and other premium items.  I asked her if they have seen the spare tyre cover on my car which was custom-made in Australia with my choice of picture and I sent them a photo to show what it looks like.  

Hanzhen [Right] with his brother Zhihan, wearing
the t-shirt printed with Hanzhen's trademark butterfly
My current cover was designed with a coloured picture of a collage of butterflies and my name across the top.  I suggested that Hanzhen create a collage of butterflies in his unique style so that the drawing can later be transferred over as a design for my spare tyre cover.  

Yvonne was delighted with my idea and told me that Hanzhen would be thrilled to do a sketch with a collage of Malaysian butterflies, complete with scientific names and interesting facts because he already has a list of them.  She said that they would let Hanzhen explore the idea further and compose the image own his own.

Hanzhen gave me an outline of the
design with the butterflies' common names 
On November 20, Yvonne shared photos of Hanzhen working on the sketch of butterflies and it warmed my heart to see the progress he was making on my sketch.  This was something new to me because I never had anyone offer to draw something especially for me. 

A few days later, I received another message asking me what I would like to name my sketch and I replied saying, “Simply Butterflies” by Yap Hanzhen.   The Yap family went abroad on a short trip and when they were back, I was invited over for Hanzhen to present the sketch to me!

In addition to the softcopy [to be sent out to create the design for my new spare tyre cover] and the original sketch, I also received a beautifully framed version that now graces a wall at home.  As promised, Hanzhen provided me with an outline of the design with the common names of the butterflies as well as a list of the butterflies’ scientific names with the links to the relevant websites he researched.  From the outline he provided, I could see the Rajah Brooke is in the centre with [clockwise] Paper Kite, Common Tiger, Lime Butterfly, Common Birdwing, Common Rose, Dragontail Butterfly and the Five Bar Swordtail. 

My copy of the book filled with Hanzhen's sketches of
historical buildings in Johor Baru
I appreciate Hanzhen for his effort to create “Simple Butterflies” for me and I’m happy to know that he is well on track to a career in drawing.  The last I heard, he has received a commissioned project from a new hotel in Bukit Bintang to draw iconic buildings in Kuala Lumpur and streetscapes.  As I said in my recent story on Hanzhen, he is blessed with a unique talent and it looks like the sky’s the limit for JB’s gifted special artist!

As the year is coming to a close, this specially drawn sketch that Hanzhen presented me is just one of the many reasons for me to be grateful for the work that I do.  Even though it’s all-in-a-day’s-work for me, I’m glad that what I do turned out to be a blessing to others.  The sweetness is when I get pleasantly surprised to receive a blessing in return!


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