In her home country of Pakistan, Unaiza Ali Barlas is often recognised as the holder of a Guinness World Records title.

Her distinction is a result of her talent for illustrations; a passion which has led her to achieve the world’s Longest cartoon strip (individual).

At the age of 20, few can say they have won several drawing competitions, organised a fundraiser and encouraged others to pursue graphic art forms.

But with a determined mindset, young Unaiza has achieved these impressive accolades.

Longest cartoon strip (individual) 10

"I had a studious phase back in high school, so to liven things up, I invented a 'Things I'll Do Before I Die' list – a.k.a. 'Tidbid' list.  Among the lines of the various far-fetched things I wrote in there was the idea of breaking a world record."

Scrolling through the Guinness World Records website, the teen artist stumbled upon a record that struck her.

Her eyes stopped on the words Longest cartoon strip (individual) - a title that had been held by Indian artist Suhas Palimkar since 2013.

After reading a brief description of what the title entailed, she was immediately inspired.

Unaiza remembered her first drawing experience at the age of two, when she was introduced to the concept of illustration.  

"My mom taught me to draw a smiley which I surprisingly copied accurately at the first attempt. She instantly recognised my talent and did everything to steer me towards developing my talent as an artist. I'd splash all my pocket money on art supplies and would dive straight into the art corner after school. My art took me to a world of my own and I’d never get bored as a new adventure awaited me every day."

Whereas her classmates would often prefer math, science and technical studies, Unaiza’s fondness was always for doodling and sketching.

Much of her influence came from several works of animation that surrounded her as a child.

Longest cartoon strip (individual) 7

Disney movies, Cartoon Network shows and observations of art from other comic artists prompted her to learn different styles of drawing.

Studying TV shows helped her to understand story composition and the intricate ways characters and personas can be depicted to form a chronicle.

"When you open a comic book or watch a cartoon, you are actually entering another world - a world full of magic. Haven't we all felt the thrill watching Tom chase Jerry, the warmth of Snow White’s cozy bed, the charm of Cinderella’s ball outfit or the terrifying yet funny scream of Courage the Cowardly Dog? Anything is possible through this medium; you are free to experiment with ideas and express yourself and let out your feelings through strokes, splashes and colors."

Nothing could stop the young and zealous Unaiza from beginning her career as an artist.

Once she had learned to grip a pencile, it was only a matter of finding a surface.

Unaiza craved to draw on anything that she could find.

Her teachers took note in school and would offer words of support when she demonstrated her talent in art class.

Wanting to share her gift with others, even at the age of eight, she began teaching her neighbourhood friends the skills she had discovered.

"I would make worksheets and give them homework and check their work - I enjoyed teaching. We would watch Disney classics and Cartoon Network, freezing the picture here and there with our pencils out, and try to copy the image."

Mastering clean lines and sketches was only one part of the equation - by creating a series of drawings with the same characters in different positions, the cartoonist could elevate her sketches through flip book animation, allowing her protagonists to become fully dimensional, complex and profound.

"I think of drawing as the most powerful way of expression, which is why we see visual methods of learning be far more effective than the typical subjective study. There are no boundaries (except that of the canvas). Drawing is the most creative form of storytelling and expressing emotions without having to speak and is a meaningful medium to connect with the viewer. I’m specifically passionate about cartoons because they allow me to explore the human psyche through the depiction of a diverse range of exaggerated personalities."

For the rest of her teen years, Unaiza’s main focus would be developing her talent as a comic book artist.

This meant endless doodles and comic strips in sketchbooks, entering art competitions and spending hours sharpening her pencil work with advanced art classes and tutorials.

Her passion eventually led her to the ultimate test of her abilities: creating a record-breaking comic strip that would need to exceed the measurements of 191.31 m (627 ft 7.87 in).

Longest cartoon strip (individual) 8

In order to dedicate herself to the record, Unaiza knew she would need as much time and assistance as possible.

She decided to take a year off studying to spend her days and nights continuously drawing.

"The timeline of constructing the comic stretched onto one year and took a stupendous amount of art supplies, rigorous planning and persistent work. I set out daily targets for myself and would work on them overnight as those hours suit me best in terms of creative output."

One of the most challenging aspects was making sure she had independent witnesses to verify and observe the fabrication of her comic strip.

Each member would need to watch and ensure that Unaiza was indeed hand-crafting all parts of the comic strip by herself.

Grateful for the overwhelming support she received, her ultimate focus was ensuring that her narrative of the record-breaking comic strip was properly executed and communicated.

Of all the elements she learned about art, Unaiza’s most valued lesson was the way art could portray complex, real-world issues and emotions.

Longest cartoon strip (individual) 2

In this case, her protagonist Jack represents those who are dissatisfied with the predictability and dullness of their everyday lives.

"Jack reflects those people who suffer from discontentment of their reality in a material world. Stressing over 'keeping up with the Joneses' is specifically common among many youngsters and is a major issue leading to mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. I chose this concept to address these issues and reach a conclusion."

In her lengthy piece titled "The Exit", Unaiza would show Jack arriving at a door which promised an escape to a better life in exchange for money. During his journey Jack meets others who influence his life as he searches for ways to get the money to open the door.

Ultimately, when he collects enough to travel through "The Exit", a false door is revealed, fooling Jack and disappointing him.

Longest cartoon strip (individual) 11

Towards the end of the comic, Jack begins to understand his greater purpose in life and learns to become content within his own means.

"Just like Jack, I want others to understand that true happiness lies in inner wellbeing and can be amplified by doing your part to make the world a better place."

Longest cartoon strip (individual) 4

In preparing for the final measurements of her comic strip, Unaiza took a page from her own sketchbook.

With her help of her family, Unaiza decided to organise an art fair where she would ask volunteers to help measure the comic strip and raise money for charity.

"The main tasks included arranging a vast venue for layout, a certified civil surveyor for measurement, videographers, TV channel reporters, large audience and a hundred volunteers. As we dedicated the record to raise funds for Edhi Foundation, the idea of holding it all under the banner of 'Art for Humanity' was born."

With her vast experience, Unaiza had grown to find art as a tool capable of causing great impact; so in her endeavors to achieve a world record, she saw no better cause than serving those in need.

Though determined to help others with her passion Unaiza still anxiously awaited the final measurements of her comic strip.

Longest cartoon strip (individual) 5

Her sketches stretched across the lawn of the event grounds and hundreds of volunteers who were eager to see her become a record holder made sure every inch was measured.

After the final tallies, Unaiza Ali Barlas managed to achieve a grand total of 267.38 m (877 ft 2.77 in), clearing the previous record holder’s total and becoming the youngest person earn the title.

"I feel the most important lesson anyone can learn from my story is 'do what you love and success will follow.' This also means being patient and not letting any sort of setback hold you back from giving your best to achieve your goals."

Since accomplishing the record, Unaiza has been regarded by local Pakistani press as the "nation’s pride", giving her the opportunity to not only have her vision of world peace communicated, but also receive an award from her school principal and the Pakistan National Council of Arts.

"In our society, women are not as empowered as men and are subject to numerous restrictions imposed by cultural and social norms. Having won this record, I feel privileged to inspire millions of young girls struggling to achieve their goals in life and break stereotypes."

While it may seem as if Unaiza has accomplished a great deal already, she is only just beginning.

The now-established artist has big plans to call global attention to the many talented animators in Pakistan, as well as to continue teaching others who wish to learn how to make illustrations come to life.

She is now working as an animator on the country’s first 2D hand-drawn animated production titled The Glass Worker and hopes to work on more films in future.

"It's my dream to establish a digital arts and animation institute, studio, gallery and library all under one roof as one of its kind in the world, aiming to take Pakistan's animation industry to a whole new level."

Longest cartoon strip (individual)3