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Beyond cancer: Creating, thriving and gifting

A group of bird watching enthusiasts captures stunning images with a click of a button, and Mr Yeow Teck Chai immortalises these digital photographs into watercolour paintings.

An art aficionado since his youth, 70-year-old Mr Yeow, a self-taught painter, constantly seeks to improve his watercolour art and finds meaning in painting to raise funds for various causes. He also enjoys sharing his art with his friends and the public to appreciate.

Inspired by his friends who enjoyed birding, Mr Yeow kick-started his latest project, a book on ‘Birds Of Malaysia: An Artist’s Love’. He set out to “paint as many species of Malaysian birds as possible”, and took two years to complete the project. With his book and passionate pursuit of art, Mr Yeow, a cancer survivor, is living his second lease of life to the fullest.

The main challenge in painting birds is to capture the sheen and detailed texture of their feathers.


Charlotte, Mr Yeow’s daughter who moved back from Hong Kong to Malaysia during the COVID-19 pandemic, helped to research and edit the book.


Left to right: Mr Yeow, Charlotte, Mrs Yeow and Charlotte’s daughter, on her second birthday.

“I am proud of my dad’s passion for art, and this project which he started when his first grandchild was born. He successfully completed it in time for her second birthday, and that is a major achievement. It is a gift that we were able to work together on this as a family during a global pandemic, no less,” said Charlotte, Mr Yeow’s daughter.


‘Birds Of Malaysia: An Artist’s Love’ was born out of Mr Yeow’s desire to make his art more affordable and accessible to the general public. His original artwork ranges from RM6,000 to RM7,000 (estimated SGD1900 to SGD2300).

During a medical check-up in 2004, Mr Yeow was diagnosed with nasopharyngeal cancer (NPC). His brother-in-law, a doctor at a Malaysian medical centre, recommended that he see Clinical Associate Professor Joseph Wee, Senior Consultant in the Division of Radiation Oncology at the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS). Accompanied by his wife, Mr Yeow made the trip from Malaysia to Singapore and underwent treatment at NCCS for six months.

Speaking about his brush with cancer, Mr Yeow shared that NPC can be treated and encouraged patients to stay strong and keep their spirits up.

“After your treatment, get back to your normal activities and keep yourself active. Have a positive attitude towards life and try to contribute back to society whenever and in whatever way you can,” advised Mr Yeow.

And Mr Yeow has been doing just that and inspiring others, 16 years since his diagnosis.

Mr Yeow Teck Chai is the artist behind ‘Birds of Malaysia: An Artist’s Love’. A 240-page hardcover publication that features over 130 watercolour painting prints of Malaysian birds and their habitats. Eighty per cent of the proceeds will go to Society for the Severely Mentally Handicapped and the Malaysian SLE (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus) Association. For more on Mr Yeow's art, visit