Abdul Rashid Abdul Razak – a self-taught artist of great talent

"In portrait painting, likeness is crucial"

Abdul Rashid Abdul Razak © Adrian Cheah

Under the guidance of his father, Abdul Rashid Abdul Razak honed his artistic skills at a very young age. He was just nine years old when he earned his first commission – a portrait in oil which he sold for RM80.

His father, an artist who painted huge cinema posters in the days of old, before digital printing, taught Rashid about painting including scale and proportion, textures and highlights as well as composition. Rashid would at times help his father to paint the posters. Rashid comes from a family of eight, only two of whom were interested in the arts. His second brother is a water colorist but did not pursue it as a career.

Rashid noted in an interview, "As a self-taught artist, I did not attend any art school, college or university. Apart from the lessons I obtained from my father, I learned about painting mostly from books, art exhibitions, and through fellow artists."

With such humble beginnings, Rashid persevered and perfected his skills which eventually paid off. He became famous when he won the Mahsuri painting contest in Langkawi in 1995 and walked way with the grand prize RM30,000! The Mahsuri Mausoleum adopted his painted beauty as the official face of Mahsuri, who according to legend was wrongly accused of adultery and put to death. Rashid based the portrait of Mahsuri  on a demure village girl called Nurkumalawati who is his muse in several other figurative works. However, Rashid noted that Mashuri's hands were based on studies of his own daughter’s hands.

A master oil painter of portraits, Rashid paints famous Malaysian personalities including prime ministers and high profile public figures. He has exhibited, not just in the Petronas Art Gallery, but also in the National Art Gallery. He is much respected in the island nation’s art circle and is the president of the Penang Malay Artists Society. Rashid is the curator cum permanent resident artist of the gallery at 167 Lebuh Chulia, the space for which is leased to the association since 2007 by the Penang Islamic Council.

Sometimes Rashid brings his talent to the Little Penang Street Market at Upper Penang Road, held on the last Sunday of the month.

Rashid can be contacted at +6016 416 0859 or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Written and photographed by Adrian Cheah
© All rights reserved