Artist Tiffany Choong compiles sketches inspired by 'Everyday Penang' in illustrated book

"It is my way of celebrating everyday things and I hope readers will be reminded of a time when simple things brought them joy."

The sketches in Everyday Penang are described as personal glimpses of the island (Photo: Tiffany Choong; MIKU Books)

Artist Tiffany Choong and her sketchbook are inseparable. Armed with a penchant for nature, nostalgia and a vibrant palette, she finds the act of filling in the blank pages highly therapeutic and a means to express her creativity.

The Penang-born artist uses her skill and the transformative nature of art to manage her emotional well-being. “I call this practice my ‘happiness project’ because when I draw, it frees my mind from all worries and anxiety. It shuts out the noise and allows me to be present and focused. My art is my therapy and it has the capacity to heal the mind, body and soul. I use this practice to work through my emotions and problems as it has a calming effect on me,” she says.

Choong recently released a compact book titled Everyday Penang and is currently having an exhibition called I am Not an Oriental Vase: Journeys of Diaspora and Discovery at Hikayat, Penang.

“How the book came about is nothing short of a miracle.” She recounts a deep conversation with a friend about life sometime in July. Expressing her desire for a solo show and contemplating an illustrated book, she was uncertain on how to even take the first step.

The very next day, when she received a message from Rosalind Chua — the publisher of MIKU Books — she felt like the universe had heard her. “She had seen some of my artworks online and asked me if I had any illustrations on Penang, to which I answered, ‘Yes, I have plenty!’.

“I told her I have 30 sketchbooks filled with drawings of everyday things from everywhere I travel to and that I would be back in Penang soon if she would like to see them. A few weeks later, she went through my sketchbooks and curated a collection of drawings for the book. That’s how Everyday Penang was born.”

Here, Choong takes three questions from Options.


One of her artworks displayed at Hikayat (Photo: Tiffany Choong)

The sketches in Everyday Penang are described as personal glimpses of your island. Tell us more.
I am a sentimental person who associates emotions with objects and places. Penang is my home, where I grew up, but with my parents’ passing, I feel a great sense of loss. I draw things and places that conjure up good childhood memories that make me happy. The drawing of the Wat Chayamangkalarang holds a special place in my heart. I visit this temple whenever I am back in Penang because I feel close to my ancestors here. There is a sketch of the “roti man” because spotting one always brings a smile to my face. The pineapple, in my eyes, is the king of fruits. I love pineapples and their symbolic meaning in Chinese culture, which represents abundance and wealth. My sketches celebrate the everyday and ordinary things that we have forgotten about.

How do you navigate expressing complex emotions through your art and what message do you hope readers take away from Everyday Penang?
I use my art to filter out negativity and art is my tool to process emotions such as loss by capturing positive memories and identifying who I am from the objects I chose to sketch. As adults, we become jaded and cynical from negative experiences. Everyday Penang is seeing things with fresh eyes, like the eyes of a child who is allowed to wonder and wander the world for the first time. It is my way of celebrating everyday things and I hope readers will be reminded of a time when simple things brought them joy.

How does the exhibition tie in with your new book?
The exhibition came about when I was in Penang in August, the same time I met my publisher for the book. I caught up with Gareth Richards over coffee and out of the blue, he offered his space for me to have my solo exhibition at Hikayat. Both happened simultaneously and independently of each other. I am just grateful for this opportunity to share my works with more people. The fact that my art exhibition and new book are in the same space is mind-blowing and the synchronicity of how it all materialised is just beyond me. I am a believer in following my passion, to live with an open heart and to manoeuvre through life’s challenges with grace.


'Everyday Penang', priced at RM45, is available for purchase at and all major book retailers. 'I am Not an Oriental Vase: Journeys of Diaspora and Discovery' will run from 11am to 6pm daily at Hikayat, 226 Lebuh Pantai, George Town, until Jan 1, 2024.

This article appeared on Dec 11, 2023 in The Edge Malaysia.


Follow us on Instagram