A Neilston artist has illustrated a new children’s book inspired by a stray cat who was adopted by an unlikely family, the capybaras at a Malaysian Zoo.

James Callaghan, who works from his studio at home, spent about three months creating beautiful drawings for “A New Home for Oyen”.

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The real-life Oyen was abandoned outside Zoo Negara, 5km from the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, in 2020 during the pandemic.

The ginger feline then made headlines nationally and internationally after finding a home among the zoo's herd of the world’s largest and friendliest rodents, where he still lives today.

James explained how he got involved in illustrating a book based on this remarkable story thousands of miles away.

He told the Barrhead News: “I paint all sorts of things, portraits, landscapes, cityscapes and surrealism, so this was quite a different opportunity for me.

“I was contacted by a woman in Malaysia called Loo Thoe Lim (the book’s author).

“I have a profile on a website called Book An Artist and she went online looking for an illustrator and she liked the style of my paintings."

The 52-year-old jumped at the chance to bring this heart-warming tale alive by illustrating a book for the first time.

“It would be nice to think it will be something that will take off because it’s such an amazing story," he added.

“It will touch the hearts of adults and children all over the world if you own cats.

“I’ve got a cat myself, Daisy, and she sat with me through the whole thing so I was able to copy poses."


@znmzoonegara Haaa oyen pun dah ada signage sendiri 🔥 Mungkin next Roren kita pulak? Korang belum kenal Roren kan 😉 #oyen #oyenbarbar #masbro #capybara #zoonegara #zoonegaramalaysia #zoonegaramalaysia2023 ♬ girls like me don't cry (sped up) - thuy


As well as illustrating the book, James has painted commissions for people from all corners of the globe and has had his artwork displayed in a London gallery and at The Stag Gallery at Glasgow’s Buchanan Galleries.

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He first discovered his flare for the subject at a young age and enjoyed it during his schooldays at Holyrood Secondary in Glasgow’s southside, but despite the opportunity to pursue further study in it, he decided to enter the world of work instead and keep art as a hobby.

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It was only when his brother, who works for the Archdiocese of Glasgow, asked him to take part in an exhibition for Lent Fest in 2008 that he started to pursue painting more seriously.

He sold all of the paintings at the exhibition straightaway and the person who bought them commissioned the dad-of-two to do two further works.

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His children, however, were younger at the time so it was not until recently that he has had the time to start making a bigger go of it.

James' art career has particularly taken off in the last year after he was forced to retire due to ill health from his job at Glasgow Clyde College’s Children’s Centre in Cardonald where he worked as a child development officer for 16 years.

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“After being forced to give up my job as a child development officer last year, I decided it was time to take my life long love of art, to a new level,” explained James who started his career at Nursery Times on Neilston Road in Paisley where he worked from about 2006 to 2009.

“I’ve been able to fulfil my dreams and I have achieved quite a lot in the past year so I'm quite proud of myself.

“I do a lot of commissions for people and I was recently asked if I would do a commission for the new owners of the Travellers Rest here in Neilston.

“They are renovating it to reopen it and they have asked me to do a large painting of the old Neilston to put on their wall inside the bar and restaurant.

“It’s quite a compliment to think that local people will be able to go in and see my work while they are having a pint or a meal."

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The former child development officer recently went to Arthurlie Family Centre in Barrhead to introduce ‘A New Home for Oyen’, which has a hidden mouse in each picture for children to find.

He now hopes to take the story into schools and other local nurseries after the summer holidays.

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“After reading children's stories to pre-school children for almost 20 years as a child development officer, it was a great honour and privilege to be able to pick up and read a children's book which I have illustrated,” said James who is married to wife Emma and has two sons.

“The children were all very interested in the story and well behaved.

“I went into each three to five room and read them the story and gave them a signed copy of the book for them to keep in each classroom in the nursery.”

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Although the book is not yet available in book stores in the UK, it is available to buy on Amazon HERE.

Another one of James' works Saint Mungo, rightAnother one of James' works Saint Mungo, right (Image: Newsquest/Supplied)

To see more of James’ work click HERE.