Planet Picture Book

The Story of Ink and Water

Water Girl, Ink Boy and Brush Boy discover that by working together, they can create beautiful, lifelike paintings in the traditional Chinese style.

The exquisite cover art of this picture book drew me in for a closer look. Recently released by Balestier Press, it tells the story of Water Girl, Ink Boy and Brush Boy who discover that by working together (and having fun!), they can create beautiful works of art.

I enjoyed the distinct personalities of the two main characters in the book, especially Water Girl, who is ‘smart and spirited’, curious about the world around her and always in search of excitement. Brush Boy is more experienced and knowledgeable, but doesn’t claim to have all the answers. He shows Water Girl and Ink Boy how to combine their talents on paper to create paintings, and explains how to achieve lighter and darker tones. Teamwork is the key. When Water Girl dances on the paper by herself, she discovers that the marks she makes vanish without a trace; however, when the trio experiment with different combinations of water and ink they realise the different effects they can achieve – and their enthusiasm is infectious!

‘“Amazing! It’s like magic!” They were all open-mouthed in astonishment.’

The characters experience the magic of painting as their creations come alive: a freshly-painted lamb springs out of the paper; a lifelike cow is born; white clouds turn black with rain.

Throughout the story, Li Qingye cleverly weaves in details of traditional Chinese ink-and-wash painting. We learn about the basic tools needed to create works of art (brush, ink, inkstone and paper), how to achieve lighter and darker tones, and how to combine the different tones to create a lifelike picture. And Liang Peilong’s exquisite illustrations are proof of the beauty of this technique. Using a limited palette of black, grey and white with dashes of pink and red, he conjures up a joyful, magical cast of characters. There is an appealing serenity about his work: each illustration is quietly evocative, capturing the emotions and movement of the story. A lovely overview of Chinese painting is provided in the back matter.

The Story of Ink and Water is a magical introduction to Chinese ink-and-wash painting in picture book format with unique, timeless appeal for readers of all ages.

The Book
The Story of Ink and Water by Qingye Li, illustrated by Peilong Liang, translated and adapted by Chun Zhang (Balestier Press, 2018)

The Author
Li Qingye started her career as a nursery school teacher. She published her first picture book in 1973 and has continued to write since her retirement from teaching in the 1990s. She lives in Guangdong province, China.

The Illustrator
Liang Peilong is a multi-award-winning children’s book illustrator and an artist-in-residence at the Guangzhou Institute of Fine Arts. He is renowned for his ink-and-wash paintings and his work has featured in many international exhibitions. The Story of Ink and Water is his first book translated into English. He was born in 1944 in Guangdong, China.

The Translator
Chun Zhang graduated from the Courtauld Institute of Art and the SOAS University of London. The Story of Ink and Water is her first literary translation.

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