Better known as “Ah Guo” on his blog, Chinese Studies lecturer and published illustrator, Mr Lee Kow Fong, had much to smile about when his new picture book was published.
His whimsical drawings that adorn his desk transports one to a different realm, one reminiscent of the innocence of childhood.
A published illustrator of five books for children, the 40-year-old is also a fortnightly columnist for local Chinese newspaper Lian He Zao Bao.
His picture book, Secret Garden of Little Happiness, is a collection of over a hundred illustrations accumulated through the years. Grouped into nine themes, his drawings seek to uncover the true meaning of happiness in Lee’s ‘secret garden’.
“To me, my secret garden is my own blog. A diary or a blog is a place where I can express myself, so it’s like I’m inviting all my readers into my secret garden,” says Mr Lee.
The illustrator used to write in dairies, but his private outlet of self-expression has since gone online on his blog, KF’s Drawing Room, where he posts his illustrations regularly.
Back when he set up his first blog in year 2000, he saw it mainly as a writing platform. This lasted until his lecturing colleagues told him that there was a way to share his drawings online. That marked the start of his sojourn in digital art.
Mr Lee started with using Paint, the default Microsoft graphics painting software. He struggled creating images with a mouse, but progressed to using a graphics tablet later on. Since then, he has experimented with different tools, techniques and effects to replicate hand-drawn artwork.
“A common thinking about digital artwork is that is lacks the human touch,” he says.
“I have to keep exploring different ways to use (computer) tools to make my work seem less digital as possible.”
Mr Lee graduated from National University of Singapore with a Bachelor of Arts in Chinese Studies, and his mastery of the language landed him job as a commercial copywriter in Mediacorp Radio for ten years.
He has just recently returned from completing his Masters in children’s book illustration from the Cambridge School of Art, Anglia Ruskin University in the United Kingdom.
The dedicated lecturer now holds workshops at the Singapore Centre for Chinese Language and various primary schools to promote the appreciation of picture books.
Perhaps this best way to reward his efforts can be seen in an A3-sized card sitting in a corner of his office. Made by some primary school students from his workshops, the card opens to an array of stars pasted neatly in rows.
Scrawled in messy child-like handwriting, one of the stars read, “Ah Guo, you draw so well!”
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