Sunday, April 20, 2014

work in progress: the art of LEGEND OF THE CARDBOARD HEROES

Bartholomew Ting's cardboard robot sculpture at the Mindvalley office in KL

One big highlight this year is our upcoming transmedia project inspired by local cardboard artist Bartholomew Ting. After tossing ideas around for a few months, we settled on a story concept that we first called CAPTAIN CARDBOARD, and later changed to LEGEND OF THE CARDBOARD HEROES. We hope to launch this in time for the Imagination Foundation's Global Cardboard Challenge on 11 October 2014, with a local event co-organised by The Playful Parents.

This week we'd like to feature the concept artist who has been working with us to visualise the story elements and bring the main characters to life. A big thank you to Joseba Morales, for the creative contribution and the sheer enthusiasm that he has brought to this! We don't have his photo, but he has provided lots of exciting sketches below to spark your imagination. What sort of story will this be? Who's the hero? How can cardboard be used to defeat evil and create a better world? We'll be sharing more information soon, so remember to follow us on Facebook!

Meet Joseba Morales

Tell us about yourself!
I am a Spanish illustrator, cartoonist and sequential artist. I think I've always been drawing, I became interested in comics and illustrated stories in my early childhood. I felt it was my vocation and since then I have not given it up.

How did you create the illustrations for Cardboard Heroes? 
I always try to imagine what I want to draw. When I am dealing with characters I always try to put myself in their shoes: where they live, what they do... and I try to imagine them. Then, I try to capture them on paper. I rarely have to make several designs because I would have already meditated a lot before I started drawing. These characters have so much potential.

Any advice for young illustrators?
It sounds a bit trite, but it's real: work, work and work... and a lot of sacrifice. This is a beautiful job but it is tough as well.

Check out Joseba's work here.
You can admire Bartholomew Ting's cardboard sculptures here.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

gung ho developments at the SHENZHEN MAKER FAIRE 2014

Last year we launched the GUNG HO Vs ZOMBIES story kit, with a thrilling story, DIY electronics learning toy, online store with, and a fun demo session at Hackidemia.

If you were at the Maker Faire in Shenzhen, China earlier this month, you'd have heard the latest update about this from our education collaborator William Hooi: he's turning the whole project into a full scale maker learning programme called GUNG HO KIDS.

I know your head is probably bursting with a kerzillion questions. Why is he doing this? How will our zombie story help kids get smarter and more creative? How can you join in the fun and learn to be a gung ho maker yourself? And so on.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it: view his slides above, watch the video of his presentation below, and read our quick interview with the man himself. There is a new kingdom rising, where young makers and hackers create the dreams of tomorrow. Join us and let your GUNG HO shine!


Tell us more about the event!
I was away in Shenzhen for their Maker Faire, a 2-day family-friendly carnival where everyone who's into DIY projects can showcase the stuff they made. It is the largest Faire so far for Shenzhen, with close to maybe 20,000 people attending. Concurrently, they also organised special interest forums like Makers in Business, Makers in Education, etc. The organiser for the Makers in Education forum was looking to invite speakers from different parts of the world who are involved in education and the makers movement, and so they contacted me. The moderator of the forum, David Li (a famous hacker from the Xinchejian hackerspace in Shanghai), happens to be a friend too.

How did your GUNG HO KIDS presentation go?
I was given 10 minutes to speak, and I decided to talk about my experience working in the Singapore Science Centre and how I was involved with Hackidemia. In both cases I kept facing the same challenge: What happens to the kids after the workshops are over? There needs to be some form of follow-up or continuity to their learning process. So I shared my proposal for a GUNG HO KIDS platform.

How do you hope to develop GUNG HO KIDS?
This is meant to be an initiative to help children with art, science & technology. It is designed to be an open-source platform where kids can be actively involved in the process of creating their own stories, crafts and knowledge. I'm hoping to take the hacker/maker culture and integrate this with Japanese pseudoscience-pseudoengineering entertainment. I'm in the process of discussing this with several partners in the play & tech sector, to see if this can add value to their existing programmes. We will officially launch this in June, in time for the school holidays.

What was the response from the other makers?
For a few minutes, I felt like a superstar being mobbed! There was a lot of interest from parents and teachers to reporters. Many have indicated their interest to collaborate on this project, so I think we have something good here.

Any inspiring people or projects you encountered there?
It was simply amazing. While I've heard a lot about Shenzhen, it was actually my first time being there. I met many awesome hackers/makers and learnt about their ideas and projects. I'm most inspired by the Kharkana guys. They are a group of 3 engineers who want to transform Nepal into a prominent maker capital of the world by channelling their energies to educate their kids. They will be visiting Singapore too, and so I'm working to organize a workshop with them.

You can contact William through his Gung Ho Guild website.

Monday, April 7, 2014

artist interview // reach up for the TIME TALISMAN magic!

In 2011 we launched Super Cool Books with an original fantasy series about a magical talisman that takes three kids 150 years back in time. The TIME TALISMAN stories follow Justin, Emily and Roz as they battle a whole cast of demons, sorcerers and alchemists who want to take over colonial Singapore, and in the process the friends discover some really mind-blowing secrets about the world around them.

This week we're pleased to announce that we'll be repackaging the series for our iPad app, with a new cover concept and a grand finale to the epic adventure. The entire story arc will be told through five books, and as you can guess from the wonderful cover art it will be packed with thrills, wonders and surprises.

The fantastic set of arms on the new book covers were illustrated by Regina — or Regi-chan as she is known online — a young artist with a great talent for both realistic and manga style drawings. Even though you only get to see each character's arm, you nonetheless still get a vivid sense of the personality and mood of the person (or demon, in one case).

We're pleased to present this quick interview with Regina! Do remember to download the series on our iPad app, when we release it in a few weeks. If you love stories about magic, wizards, alchemists and fantasy worlds, you'll surely find this a most delightful read.


Please introduce yourself!
Hi, my name is Regina and I'm from Spain. My passion is art in all its different forms. That's why I am an illustrator!

How did you develop your illustration skills? 
I started drawing when I was a child. I learned on my own, watching anime and reading manga, and looking at other artists. I would draw my favourite characters and create fan art. (You can find my portfolio on DeviantArt, as Regi-chan). When I was older I went to an art school, and I perfected my drawing skills and learned many new techniques. The advantage of having a teacher instead of learning by yourself is that you learn how to develop your projects. As an artist you are always learning about new ways to make art and different points of view, and getting inspiration from the details you see everyday in front of you.

What are your favourite drawing tools? 
The most comfortable tools for me are my Wacom tablet and computer, because you can work in many styles. But I love watercolours and chinese ink too.

Could you share with our readers your process for drawing the Time Talisman covers? 
Before doing an illustration I always research what I'm going to draw. For example, if you don't know how a Shaolin monk looks, you can Google it and look for pictures to inspire yourself. As I like to draw in a realistic style, I need to have a good knowledge of anatomy. You can also get a mirror and use yourself as a model. After that, I add all the fantasy touches for each character.

Check out more of Regina's works at her Facebook page!

Friday, April 4, 2014

yes, self-publishing is the new cool

The latest issue of Hype magazine has a special feature on self-publishing! This article by Benedicta J. Foo gathers good advice from various people including fellow authors Eliza Teoh and Shamini Flint, Ethos Books founder Fong Hoe Fang, and me as well.

In the same issue: nice cover story about young and talented singer Ming Bridges, book reviews, spoken word poetry in Singapore, and a section on letterpress printing. Hype magazine is produced by the final year students at Ngee Ann Polytechnic's School of Film & Media studies (Print Journalism). Find out more here.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Xobon magazine says I'm a Creative Big Kid! Woo-hoo!

Credit: Thanks to Xobon for all the images here.

Xobon is a fun magazine for kids that celebrates imaginative play and creative expression. For their Creative Big Kid section this month, they're running a big Super Cool Books feature which includes an interview with me, a Foldable Fantasy minibook (My Blade Quest), as well as a writing and drawing worksheet based on the story. Readers can also win a copy of Diary of Young Justice Bao, if you send in your piece of creative writing. Do check out the magazine for details! (See page 15)

We're really impressed with everything that Xobon has managed to accomplish with its four great issues so far. We had a chat with the magazine's founder Soo about why she started Xobon and how storytelling can help kids become more creative. Enjoy her interview below, and remember to check out the magazine.

(By the way, "Xobon" is "No box" spelt backwards, because it aims to help kids think outside the box.)

Thanks to Xobon for featuring our work! :)

How would you describe yourself?
I'm a dreamer who enjoys retreating into a realm of my own. I like to let my mind wander and I push boundaries. I love toys and one of my favourite things to do is to visit toy shops. I am also a graphic designer/art director who makes commercial products visually appealing so that consumers will be attracted to them and use them.

When and why did you start Xobon?
I started Xobon in September 2013. I believe that children are naturally imaginative and creative, but many of us lose this instinct as we grow up. In Xobon, there is a regular section featuring creative adults called "Creative Big Kids". I want children to understand that adults can be creative and playful, no matter how old they are. And that pursuing a creative career is possible. Creating a magazine like Xobon is something I've wanted to do for a long time. I am loving every minute of making it!

How do you think kids benefit from reading and writing stories?
Reading and writing stories are excellent ways to let your creative juices flow. In a story, anything can happen. Stories take you places and lead you on exciting adventures. They are food for our souls. Kids learn to express themselves and be creative when they read and write. Through stories, they also learn about moral values.

Xobon is full of creative surprises, including lots of contributions from readers.  

How can parents help kids be more creative?
Parents can help kids be more creative by reading stories to them at a young age. Make storytime fun by having different voices for the characters in the book, and also by acting out the scenes. You can also make things together. Just use anything you find at home: laundry pegs, plastic bottles, shoe boxes, used envelopes, bottle caps, unwanted compact discs, etc. See what your kids can create. You'll be surprised! Or, write a story together. Today you can write a paragraph, and have your child continue with the next paragraph tomorrow, and then go back and forth. A week later, read the story together. Or, you can write the story while your child draws the scenes!

As you can tell, Soo has endless ideas for helping kids of all ages be creative!
For more good stuff, visit the Xobon page at:
To check out Soo's design work, go to:

Xobon is available at: The Art Sauce Studio, 47 Chun Tin Road, Singapore 599621.

For mail order and subscriptions, please email: