You would have seen Ah Guo’s illustrations or read his columns in Lian He Zao Bao, or even seen Ah Guo merchandise sold at various stores like Jewel Changi. We speak to Ah Guo and get to know the person who has been encouraging us with his heartfelt illustrations which appeals to everyone on so many levels.
A picture always says a thousand words, doesn’t it?
Let’s hear it from the artist behind the whimsical and dreamy scapes of Singapore.
Little Day Out Interview with Ah Guo
Can you tell us how you began illustrating and writing?
I have loved to draw since I was a young boy. I was enrolled into the pioneer class of AEP (Art Elective Programme) during my secondary school days at The Chinese High School. However I stopped art lessons after the ‘O’ Levels. And it was after many years when I started blogging, somehow I began to draw again so I could share my illustrations on my blog. And also because of that, I discovered the amazing wonders of digital drawing.
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My earlier stage of illustration was purely digital art. I only decided to switch back to working on paper around 2013, and since then, it has been mainly watercolour illustrations for me.
I decided to create picture books for a very simple reason, for that art form combines drawing and writing, both of which I enjoy a lot. In 2009, I took a no-pay leave for slightly over a year to pursue a Master’s degree in Illustration for Children’s Book in UK. And that’s how I embarked on a journey of no return 🙂
How did you find your art style?
It’s hard to say really. I never intentionally pursued any specific art style seriously. I’m just depicting whatever I find pleasing in my art. But of course along the way as a picture book creator, I tend to focus more on kid and animal characters, and now I’m getting more and more comfortable drawing them.
What are you inspired by?
I’m inspired by basically anything in everyday life. The best resources are simply out there everywhere, we just need to open our eyes to see and feel. I’m also inspired by love, hope and dreams 🙂 To put it short, I’m a hopelessly dreamy person. :))
Who are some of your favourite artists?
I have many illustrators I love. I was very much influenced by Jimmy Liow 几米 when I started off , I also enjoy books by Jon Klassen, Oliver Jeffers and Sempe. There are also many amazing Japanese illustrators out there, such as Hideko Ise, Komako Sakai, Mitsumasa Anno just to name a few. And yes, I’m in love with Hayao Miyazaki’s animations!
I think the best tip would be to love art, to love what you draw, and to love life. Have the love to share whatever you think is beautiful in your life. And if that’s too abstract, just tell yourself: you could derive endless enjoyment in creating art. That will become a motivation in pushing yourself to do more, practice more and learn more from others. No effort will be in vain.
Let’s talk about your artwork amidst the pandemic. What do you hope to achieve with your art?
To help people to stay calm and positive, to feel hopeful and bring a sense of happiness. That’s in line with what I’ve always wanted to achieve through my art. Of course, I’m also hoping to use the illustrations I’m doing during this period as a form of personal visual record of the trying times we are witnessing right now.
We appreciate your colouring sheet initiative which is available on your Facebook page. Any other plans or projects for the rest of the circuit breaker period?
The initiative was never a planned one really. A friend of mine was requesting on my Instagram for a possible colouring activity and I thought that was a good idea to help everyone out there to cope with being cooped up at home. And then I managed to get DID-Delighting Ideas to chip in to sponsor some prizes, that’s how it became an informal online competition 🙂 For now I will share a new template once a week for the circuit breaker period.
What are your hobbies and your favourite go-to activities for relaxation?
I love horror shows, haha! It’s hard to imagine that sometimes I actually watch horror show while painting my whimsical illustrations. My other favourite go-to activities include having breakfast and kopi-o at the local coffee-shop, I love the lively vibes and energy at kopitiam and hawker centers, very down-to-earth and full of local flavour. I also used to enjoy jogging but with my knee pain, I’m doing evening walks more often now. In short, I’m a very uncle-person 🙂
What is your advice to all aspiring artists – parent or child?
Firstly, you don’t have to prove to anyone how well you can do art. Art is meant to be enjoyed and to express how you feel. Always tell yourself, you are doing art because you have something to tell and to share. Secondly, always believe in yourself. The most important person to love your art should be yourself. Thirdly, there’s never any shortcut in life (unless you are a born genius), so work very hard. Lastly, do remember art is more than technique. Art should be done with passion and emotion.
Words of Wisdom from One of Singapore’s Well-loved Illustrators, Ah Guo
We hope some of Ah Guo’s aspirations and dreams rubbed off on you as you read his words. His emphasis on passion, love and positivity is a timely reminder during this pandemic to continue to hold our heads high. If you would like to paint your blues away, download one of Ah Guo’s colouring templates from his Facebook page or simply enjoy his art pieces and writings which can be found on his site.