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'The Great Skate' artworks go on display

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- "When I was 6, I showed my mom a scribble I did at school," James Hugh Gough recounts wistfully. "She asked: 'Why are you showing me this? It's garbage!'" Though his mother remains his toughest and most honest critic, the Canadian writer-illustrator has come a long way since those childhood doodling days.

On July 2, Gough followed up the publication of his successful children's book, "The Great Skate," by opening an art exhibition at Taipei's Soul of Art Gallery (亞索畫廊) featuring pieces from the book as well as a collection of his original inks and acrylics.

The works showcased at the Taipei-based artist's exhibition, which runs until Aug. 31, are the product of over five years of rigorous work. For the pieces in "The Great Skate," Gough chose to primarily use watercolor pencil, while several other exhibited artworks are drawn with ink pen — both are incredibly demanding mediums, with little room for error.

"If you make one mistake ... you have to start over," he explains with a wry smile. In fact, Gough completely redrew some pieces over five times before he was satisfied, and even then, they still had to pass the discerning eyes of his wife (also a skilled artist) and art director. This is no easy task: he says that "sometimes, I'll spend two months working on a single picture, only for it to be sent back by my art director because it doesn't fit my theme."

Despite this long and often frustrating process, the passionate artist has persevered and is now visibly excited to see his efforts bear fruit.

Describing the most rewarding part of the strenuous journey of creating "The Great Skate," Gough says that "when you see the kids getting into the book, and even jumping up and down … it's hard to beat that feeling."

Aiming to share his passion for storytelling, Gough will hold a storytelling event on July 22. As an artist and an English teacher, he looks forward to teaching English during the storytelling sessions; he states that "if they can't follow it, maybe they can make it up as they go … sometimes that's even better."

After the exhibition celebrating the end of a hard-working process, Gough hopes that the Chinese version will be published soon. He gave the translator, Chu Hao-yi (朱浩一), who translated "I am Malala" (我是馬拉拉), among other works, complete artistic license, as he "respects another language's poetic style."

Gough hopes the Chinese version will connect with wider audiences.

In addition to working on the Chinese version, Gough will be engaged in art activities, including an art club where he will be guiding the art lessons, as well as English art sessions at the Soul of Art Gallery. Perhaps, he says, his next book could vary in simplicity in comparison to "The Great Skate." But before he embarks on another fabulous journey weaving another great tale, he will take a break as he is currently, "brain dead."

(The China Post interns Vivian Kuo and Julian Lee contributed in this article.)

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