Thursday, 29 October 2015

Jian Goh's Book Talk At MPH Mid Valley Megamall

Goh Kheng Swee, a.k.a. Jian Goh, a.k.a. Miao, recently joined a growing list of Malaysian comic bloggers and artists who have published their own books. Goh's book, Once Upon a Miao, is a selection of episodes from Goh's growing up years in Kuching, Sarawak.

He conducted a book talk and book-signing session at the MPH bookstore in Mid Valley Megamall on 17 October 2015.




It was clear Goh hasn't had much practice with public speaking. But he'll improve with time; there will be more talks and public appearances. Nor can he fully hide behind his online avatar, Miao the orange tabby cat.

Goh started by talking a bit about how he started comic blogging. The former electronics engineer has always been fond of drawing, but his dad had other plans for him, apparently.

The need for this book and Goh's stories became clear when he related tales of his first time in the Malaysian peninsula, where Sarawak and the rest of East Malaysia was some mysterious land.


Goh gives the audience a primer on Sarawakian culture. Here,
he's talking about food - one thing all Malaysians love.


"Do you live in trees?" he was asked. Perhaps as a way of making himself sound cool, he replied, "Yes, but we use lifts to go up the trees." (Author and academic Prof. Lee Su Kim was asked the same question - about all of Malaysia - in Texas, only she said we used escalators.)

Goh also claimed, to the audience's amusement, that Sarawakians also rode wild boars and surfed on crocodiles, complete with illustrations. The boar was cute.

Other cultural differences included the food. In Sarawak there is only one type of laksa, but several types of kolok mee. The first few weeks he was here, Goh despaired at not having Sarawakian food. We were also introduced to several phrases used in Sarawak, and the fact that no, you can't tell what race some people are over there.


Goh demonstrates his skill with a mouse and on-screen art tools.


After a brief reading session - or was it before? - Goh demonstrated his drawing skills with a mouse. You know, those art tools that requires knowledge of how you stretch that curve or break it to form your desired shape?

Goh drew his feline avatar on a laptop; the process was projected onto a white screen. It took him about five minutes to produce a full-colour image and he made it look effortless.

I don't know many artists who do digital art well with a mouse, but since many of his characters are basically composites of numerous shapes, I guess it works for him.


The audience seemed awed by the dexterity in which he drew with a mouse
(at left). "Yeah, some days I can do it with my eyes closed." Show-off.


One thing about my camera was that it was too "auto". It was hard to get a clear shot of the artist and the image on the screen, so I had to settle on one or the other.

...Ah, the book signing. Always the best part.

One lady, known as "Singing Coconut" (on Instagram, I think - don't ask me) bought about 13 copies and Goh signed them all. Those who bought the book on that day - and on subsequent book signings - also got a custom bookmark free.


At left: I'd say Ms "Singing Coconut" was happy with that. In her heart,
she's probably singing right now. At right: NOT Ms Coconut.


Goh claimed that cameras hate him, which is why so few of his posts feature his real face. Do you believe that?


Goh, hard at work at the book-signing table.


Still, I couldn't get fantastic author-signs-this shots of him; this was the best I could do without shoving the camera right up his nose.

More signings. By the fourth buyer or so he started getting requests, and these got more complicated as time wore on. "Me eating something (ended up being kolok mee)!" "Can I have Narutomiao?" (Yes, with kolok mee logo, too.) "Kakashimiao, please." (How do you even?)


Goh seems to be wondering, "Urh, what Kakashi look like again, ah?"
(Okay, so I forgot what his request was.)


Goh was game for anything. It helped that some of the fans brought along visual aids so he could get an idea of what to draw. Take one lady, for instance...


"Can put a ring on this?" No-lah, this lady wanted Goh to duplicate
the nail art in the doodle. Didn't see what it was.


But for others, he had to rely on given descriptions.


Drama Auta: Goh: "Maiku, really want me to draw THAT ah?" Lady in
Red: "You can or not? I challenge you." Lady with Shopping Bag: "..."


This bunch I called "Miao's Angels" because, from the questions and banter, I think some of these people have corresponded with him before. One of them even drew him a balloon with a Miao and some assorted doodles on it.


Goh, a.k.a. Miao and his "Angels". I think the lady sitting down
wanted a Miao doodle with her avatar, a pink fox.


One more, ladies! Because someone asked, "Why aren't you
posing with your books?"


Well, a good session overall. His books are really hot right now, from what I heard. Guess it's true that many people like cats. Especially one that speaks the local lingo and can tell you where to find the best kolok mee.


Goh's Once Upon a Miao: Stories from the Other Side of Malaysia is now available at all major bookstores. A review of his book is here, and here's the podcast of his appearance on "That Time of Night" at BFM89.9.

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