The Journey of a Self-Taught Watercolor Artist

Azmannor during the trip to Bali, Indonesia.

Born in Terengganu on August 20, 1985, Azman Nor is a well-known watercolour artist with a distinct style and strokes. Under the tutelage of a few watercolour maestros such as Mokhtar Ishak, Maamor Jantan, Rafie Abd Rahman, Abey Zoul, Direk Kingnok, Prafull Sawant, Mazuki Muhammad, and a few more, Azman Nor has developed his unique technique while at the same time being inspired by artworks by John Singer Sargent, Joseph Zbukvic, David Taylor, and Chien Chung Wei. For him, perseverance and always improving skills and experiences are the elements needed to be a watercolour artist.

Azman Nor is a lifetime member of the Malaysia National Art Gallery and a few more watercolour societies, such as Persatuan Pelukis Terengganu (PeTer) and Persatuan Seni Rupa Malaysia (PeRUPA), and is also being hired as an instructor for watercolour courses at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM). He also conducted dozens of watercolour workshops covering all audiences, including being invited as guests in national television programmes such as TV3’s Malaysia Hari Ini (MHI), TV Alhijrah’s Assalamualaikum, and Radio Malaysia Terengganu’s Terengganu Icon Segment.

He actively engaged in a programme that focuses on promoting watercolour arts at the local and international level, among which were Projek Monetizing, Penyelidikan dan Dokumentasi Visual Gumbang organised by Balai Seni Negara, Projek LakarSAPA Vietnam, and Arteducare Jogjakarta organised by Galeri Shah Alam, @rtquarelle Bali organised by IWS Indonesia, Projek UKM@50 in conjunction with the golden jubilee celebration of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, and many more.

To date, hundreds of his watercolour artworks using impressionism and realism techniques have been acquired by collectors. Throughout his work on watercolours, he has travelled indoors and abroad to gain experience and challenge himself to produce watercolour artworks in different settings. It is not just about doing business; it is also about learning about the culture and socio-economics of the local community. Among his memorable ones was a trip to Sa Pa, a small town in the Hoàng Liên Son Mountains of northwestern Vietnam. On this trip, he experienced a 7-hour train ride from Hanoi to Sa Pa and even completed a few sketches along the ride in the train cabin, which was shared with four other people.

Since the beginning, he has been active in performing watercolour art. He has amassed quite a collection and participated in watercolour competitions in and outside of Malaysia. Among others were Kellie’s Castle Plein Air Competition organised by PIOR Negeri Perak, the Floria Putrajaya Watercolour Competition, listed as an Honourable Mention in the 1st International Watercolour Biennale 2018, and a lot more. As a result, a lot of his artworks were acquired by Malaysia’s National Art Gallery and art collectors—local and international.

With Dato' Sri Siti Nurhaliza
With Dato’ Sri Siti Nurhaliza
With Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad
With Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad
A portrait for Tuanku Muhriz of Negeri Sembila
A portrait for Tuanku Muhriz of Negeri Sembilan

… to be a successful artist in any art medium, one must have passion as a prerequisite. The passion will overcome so many doubts …


Watercolor Arts, Through the Eyes of Azman Nor

One of the watercolor artwork by Azmannor

His pursuit of the watercolour world began as a self-challenge when he saw how incapable he was of creating even a simple watercolour painting. Nonetheless, he has a hidden gift that has been with him since he was six years old. His aptitude and enthusiasm for painting, however, did not develop; one explanation for this is that he was locked in a different scholastic stream, which was pure science. All of this changed when he began to have a stable job and family, which gave him ample opportunity to pursue his passion and recapture what he had previously lost. God knows best, as they say, and he chose watercolour as the medium and skill to perfect. This may have been his best decision ever, as he was able to master the method in a short amount of time.

For him, to be a successful artist in any art medium, one must have passion as a prerequisite. The passion will overcome so many doubts that normally artists face when they start to count in the factor of investment cost in getting the best art equipment and producing artworks and start to question their self-worth, whether their artwork could be sold or not to collectors, and many more dilemmas. The artist has to avoid putting profit over quality and depth. For Azman Nor, having a good mentor and using the correct equipment also contribute to shaping his skills and talent even more along the journey.

In the first two years, he focused on mastering all watercolour techniques, which he believes will shape his forte in the watercolour world. By implementing this approach, eventually he believes he will not be wasting time on creating artwork that does not bring back a worthy ROI, either in depth, satisfaction, or art acquisition.

Azman Nor is known among colleagues as a “modest” watercolour artist since he constantly uses society as the background of the majority of his artworks. In his paintings, there is always a tale about individuals or society. Most of them reflect the story of Malay traditional life from his childhood recollections, family reunions, traditional festivals, classical artefacts, and much more. The best part is that most of his collectors could identify to his story, which piqued their interest in purchasing the artwork in order to ensure that particular moment was immortalised in a watercolour painting.

To date, besides actively creating artworks, he also ventures out his watercolor skills into a different medium such as sketchbook, artbook, and children book. 

Batek and Tiffin