Cheah Sin Ann is a 49 year-old self-syndicated cartoonist based in Singapore. He was previously with the Straits Times from the mid 80s to 2003 doing editorial cartoons and The House of Lim strip for the paper.
When I asked him why he left the Straits Times, he revealed candidly that he had been retrenched in 2003, after 17 years with the national newspaper. In fact, he added, the Today paper had interviewed him about his retrenchment the day after. Seeing our worried faces, Cheah added, “It’s fine. I just took it in my stride.”
Cheah struck me as a nice, easy-going kind of guy as well as a loving father. In an SMS text to me to confirm the interview time, Cheah apologised for his late reply and wrote “sori was literally hanging out w my kids at the battlestar galactica rides in sentosa whn u text!”
I also sensed that he seemed wearied by the difficulties of his chosen career path in a Singaporean context, wearied by the number of closed doors he has seen here, at home. Yet despite it all, he has persevered and persisted on his chosen career path as a cartoonist and now contributes cartoon strips to a newspaper in Brunei.
Cheah’s new book, Billy & Saltie: Cool Croc, was recently published in March 2010. When I asked if he has approached any of the local newspapers to review it however, his answer rather infuriated me.
Cheah told us that he had approached the Straits Times, as well as other newspapers and magazines under SPH to review his book. Yet he had not received any replies from either his previous employer or the other SPH publications.
“I can’t put a finger on it and I have speculated a lot, on why none of them have gotten back to me. But after awhile I decided to just let it go and move on, move forward.” Cheah shrugged, smiling resignedly.
The least these SPH newspapers and magazines could do, I feel, is to send an email indicating that they did not want to review his book, if they did not want to. Especially the Straits Times, his previous employer for 17 years.
“But I-S magazine was interested.” Cheah added cheerfully. He told us that the I-S guy actually interviewed him twice. “He came to my house, took some pictures, then he came back again and took more pictures. But he never actually got back to me on whether the article came out or not, and till now I don’t know whether an article eventually came out.”
As we chatted, Cheah also started to open up and he shared his feelings on retrenchment. “When I got retrenched from the Straits Times, I thought something was wrong with me, with my cartoons. Then I followed my wife back to Ireland (his wife is Irish), did some soul-searching, and came back to Singapore with a clean slate and decided to start a fresh, new cartoon strip.”
The idea of Billy & Saltie was thus conceived in Ireland. Cheah has managed to sell it to a Malaysian newspaper, and when it got dropped, a Bruneian newspaper swiftly picked the series up again. Cheah continues to contribute to that Bruneian newspaper.
Pages: 1 2