Taking a colourful look at life
The magic Jimmy Liao Fu-pin's stories creates is varied. Children are amused by the colourful pictures that often feature adorable animals. Teenagers grasp the bitter-sweet feeling of leaving childhood and entering adulthood. Adults catch the heart-tugging loneliness and anxieties of the urban life.
So it is no wonder that 29 picture books of this Taiwanese illustrator have been translated into seven languages and adapted into movies, stage plays and animations.
Jimmy made his debut 10 years ago with Secrets in the Woods and A Fish that Smiled at Me after a brutal three-year battle with leukaemia. The black-and- white Secrets in the Woods tells a secret, dream-like encounter between a girl and a rabbit in a forest. In the latter, a man who leads a routine and monotonous life re-discovers happiness in life after he sees a fish.
Then came more books, like Turn Left, Turn Right, Then the Moon Forgot and Sound of Colors and soon he was a household name. His works vary in contents - from romance to child-parent relationships to a blind girl's adventure - but they blend melancholy and hopefulness together.
'My early works are grey and gloomy. I was afraid of life then after the illness and I comforted myself through drawings. Perhaps they comfort readers as well. But I hope my books bring readers hope instead of loneliness, ' he said at the opening of the Jimmy One Decade Exhibition - Never Ending Story at Times Square late last month.
Ten years ago, after quitting his job in the advertising industry, Jimmy began creating his own stories. Still the 50-year-old father of one does not seem to be short of ideas.
'I always get inspiration from people, especially from my daughter. The difficult part of creation is deadline pressure and the loneliness,' he said.
This year he released a memoir, The Beginning of Jimmy's Story.
'Many people regard creation as a romantic process, but they may not be aware of the enormous loneliness and effort behind the books. Through this book I want to share my experiences with struggling artists and help them. My only advice is that hard work does not guarantee success, but there will not be any successes if you don't work hard.'
The exhibition, which displayed Jimmy's original works and sculptures of his characters, was a rare opportunity for the artist to step out of the studio and meet friends and fans.
On the opening day, more than 300 fans had queued up for his autograph. First in the queue was Katy Lo Wing, a Form Seven student from Holy Trinity College, who rolled in with a suitcase full of Jimmy's books. After hours of long wait, she met her idol and got four books autographed.
'I read his books when I'm happy or unhappy. My favourite is Sound of Colors. He shows me the world is beautiful if you feel it with your heart, and convinces me there is an angel out there who will helps us thorough difficult times.'
Behind her was 13-year-old Orangie Yung Tsz-ching. 'Jimmy's works are cute and adorable. He is a father but he can see the world through children's eyes.'
The exhibition moves to Beijing after this Sunday.