Book Illustrator Singapore: Interview with Desirae Goh

This week, we had the privilege of interviewing Desirae Goh, a book illustrator in Singapore. She is the author and illustrator of the ‘I am Not Like the Other’ book series.

Hi Desirae, nice to meet you. Please share more about yourself.

Hi! I’m Desirae Goh, 26 years old, and I’m a writer, an illustrator, and an educator. For the past 3 years, I have been working as a preschool teacher full-time. But ever since COVID-19 hit, I have been working on writing and illustrating my own stories.

You mentioned that you wanted to pursue art as a career? Do you think that you’ll ever lose passion in art? Did your passion in this industry invigorated your decision to switch career pathways?

When I was in secondary school, I did consider pursuing art as a career. However, at that time, I bought into the idea that art had no future, and I also didn’t think that I was good enough. After all, I only got a ‘B’ for my O level Art. Although I didn’t pursue any art-specific courses after graduating, I found all my subsequent studies and career to possess elements of art. From the Essentials of Graphic Design (from my Mass Comm Diploma) to The Artistic and Expressive Child (from my Teaching Degree), art was always relevant and necessary.

I am Not Like the Other Clouds (Book Cover) by author and book illustrator in Singapore - Desirae Goh
I am Not Like the Other Clouds (Book Cover) by Desirae Goh

Naturally, I started out my career in Teaching after graduating with a teaching degree. However, as time passed, I couldn’t help feeling that I wasn’t enjoying my job as much as I thought I should be. In fact, the parts of the job that I enjoyed the most were when I got to explore the different art mediums. So I thought, why not take up a job where I get to do art, or maybe even one where I purely teach art?

What made you want to practice art? How do you express yourself through art?

Art helps me to express my thoughts and ideas in a way that words never could. Not everything can be explained away in words, and the world we live in is rarely ever black and white.
What helps me to make sense of the world around me and myself is art – the penning down of my thoughts, and creating visual illustrations that paint a thousand words.

We’ve realised that you’ve published quite a few children books. As a book illustrator in Singapore, how do you usually integrate your works of art into these books?

The children’s books I have written stem from well-known concepts. For example, my first book “I Am Not Like The Other Clouds” is based on the phrase “every cloud has a silver lining.” My book challenges the idea that there is good in every bad situation. Anyone who has ever been in a bad enough situation will be able to identify with me that some situations are just plain bad, with not even a little good in it.

I am Not Like the Other Clouds (Book and page illustration) by author and book illustrator in Singapore - Desirae Goh
I am Not Like the Other Clouds (Page Illustration) by Desirae Goh

But of course, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t find good outside of that bad situation. What digital illustration does for me is to help me convey these messages into a pictorial representation – for myself and for others.
First, I pen down my ideas. Then, I sketch out my ideas on paper, creating a storyboard. Finally, I trace my sketches using Adobe Illustrator. Ta-da!

We’ve seen some of your book covers and illustrations. Which is your personal favourite? How long did you take to complete the artworks?

Among the three, my personal favourite would have to be the most recent one, “I Am Not Like The Other Straws,” simply because I currently identify with it the most.
Also, I always hope that my next book will be better than the last one. Find out more about ‘I Am Not Like The Other’ series. Each book typically takes about a couple of months, from ideation to completion.

What’s your plan for the future? Where do you see yourself in 3 years?

With hard work and a little bit of luck, I hope to open my own store one day selling my books. I’d still be writing and illustrating to add to the collection, and be coming up with new merchandise based on the characters in my books.

I am Not Like the Other Cakes (Book and page illustration) by author and book illustrator in Singapore - Desirae Goh
I am Not Like the Other Cakes (Page Illustration) by Desirae Goh

Do you have other mediums that you’d like to explore?

One day I’d like to explore pottery-making, just so I can say that all the plates and bowls I have at home were made by yours truly. I also plan to try out metal smithing with my fiancé to craft our own wedding bands. I’m really open to trying out anything new that interests me.

How do you feel about the art scene here? Do you think that there is hope for the art industry?

In the past, I felt that art was not seen as a respected career by many, and thus thought there was no future in it. But today, I know better. Anything can happen. You can achieve anything you put your mind to. We can be the ones who create hope for the art industry.

Any parting words for the readers?

“If it makes you happy, it doesn’t have to make sense to others.”

If you feel that our Singapore artists (book illustrator) deserve more recognition, be sure to check out our other artists and stay tuned to our socials as well.

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