Hello, everyone. Myra here. We are very happy to welcome Auntie Susanna Goho-Quek as our Featured Artist for our Illustrator’s Sketchpad in GatheringBooks. Here is a brief Q and A about Auntie Su’s creative journeys and the many activities that she is involved in. This is the second of a 3-part Feature on Auntie Susanna. Click here to be taken to Part One where Auntie Su talks about A Night at the Opera. This is in keeping with our bimonthly theme From Asia with Love.
You were trained as a fashion designer in London (did I remember that correctly?) before you got married, could you tell us about your training and what that life was like for you?
Life as a fashion designer was fun, hectic, and glamorous. Later I took up art and had two solo exhibitions. A twist of fate led me to design interiors and I got a lot of satisfaction from that. It led me to Chinese and Tibetan antiques, which was a huge learning curve. I learned to speak colloquial Mandarin and began to do research in art, antiques and cultural history. I subsequently curated 3 exhibitions for Muzium Negara and 1 for Museum Shah Alam (in Malaysia)
I still love fashion and am designing for a select few. I just made my granddaughters prom gown!
Your first book, God is Hu, was published in 2009 – share us what led you to create this book?
The amazingly perilous but exciting journey of life which took quite a few twists and turns led me to question God one evening, “Why did you lead me here?” A knocking sound woke me that night, it was still pitch dark and I immediately thought, “a ghost.” I looked and saw a shape of a bird on the window high up. It knocked its beak twice more and flew off.
I asked God, “What are you trying to tell me?”
Then it hit me, the birds don’t worry in stormy/ snowy/ hot weather, they build their nests, lay their eggs, feed their young. Life goes on, so I do not have to worry…just live.
Everyday, when I had an idea, I would scribble it on paper, and slowly the ideas evolved into a book, first on scrap paper, then little sketches and larger ones, till I finally made a fully painted book which I kept in a specially designed wooden box.
One day, my dear priest Father Paul Pang told me I had to print this book and share it with the world. My dear son helped me with the layout and editing. My daughter read my text and edited some of my words, and we finally found Jeremy of Image printers and we printed, but I could not make any breakthrough selling the book.
At my wits’ end, I read about the NBDC and Mr Rama who encouraged the written word. At 10 pm I emailed him and asked for help. He replied at midnight (very impressive) and I met him at the library the next day. He very graciously allowed me a slot to launch at the Arts House during AFCC.
Oh, by the way HU is not an accidental misspelling, as a little girl once told me. I coined the spelling from a play on the words HU-man, HU-ge etc.
I worked on a Braille /Tactile version with a lot of help from the SAVH (Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped) and some of members even sang/read a chapter at the launch of the book.
I met a neighbor at the SAVH and he kindly helped prepare a power point presentation of the book as well. My dear friends San Sooi, Pearly and Philip came down from Kl and even read for me.
I am blessed that so many people helped, family and friends.
What made you decide to be a children’s book artist?
I suppose I am a child at heart.
I know that you live and breathe art and creativity, Aunty Susanna. Please share with our readers where you draw your passion and creative energies and inspiration from.
From everyday life, the smiles of children, nature – be it the sun, storms, rain, wind, the moon, laughter, birds, animals, forests, mushrooms, flowers and clouds etc.
But the best inspiration comes from my children and grandchildren. I remember their cheeky faces and laughter and their full support in all my endeavours.