Curious to know more the illustrator who created the cover of the new English edition of The Ventriloquist’s Daughter by LIN Man-Chiu, I tracked down Lipei HUANG 黃立佩 (it wasn’t difficult!) and asked if she’d tell us about herself and her work. Thank you, Lipei, for responding so quickly and in English!
Hi Lipei, who are you? where are you? Please tell us about yourself! What would you like people to know about you?
Hi there! I’m a freelancing illustrator from Taiwan, currently living in Taipei. Actually, my work for The Ventriloquist’s Daughter was created when I was based in NYC, after graduating from the Illustration program at the School of Visual Arts.
I worked full-time for a publisher and a bookstore for the last couple of years. And I felt like switching my career back to freelancing this year. My most recent published work are the illustrations for an LGBT-themed novel for teens written by Man-Chiu Lin.
Now I’m working on a project about trees, and recently finished the field study. It was a great chance to see many kinds of plant, including a beautiful 200-and-something-year-old Coral Tree, and to taste various herbal beverages. That’s my favorite part of my job. I mean, travel experiences can be nice or bad, but planning these things is always exciting.
The Ventriloquist’s Daughter has a very striking cover! It’s sweet and sinister at the same time. There are more colour illustrations in the original Chinese book. Could you tell us about your experience of working on this book?
Thanks for your kind compliment! The character design was one of the most interesting parts to me. Like, since the Peruvian doll plays a significant role in the story, I spent a lot of time doing cultural research to figure out its appearance and what it might wear. The author Man-Chiu and my editor gave me a number of reference photos and suggestions too.
And, it was challenging to set the moods and style at the beginning. I found the story mysterious and gloomy, but also positive for young readers. So I decided to make it feel dark but not too scary. I did the work during the winter, when there was a snowstorm outside the window of my warm place. I guess the situation somehow helped me to get the balance.
(left) The English cover for The Ventriloquist’s Daughter (LIN Man-Chiu, tr. Helen Wang, Balestier Press, 2017); (right) illustration from the Chinese edition
Is the artwork you did for The Ventriloquist’s Daughter typical of your work now?
I think it’s typical in a way, yet not 100%. The work contains some elements that you can find in many of my paintings in the same media, like the way I use the color black, a simple composition, and a quiet atmosphere. I’ll adjust the style depending on subjects and clients’ need, or sometimes just for fun. I make art with different media as well. For example, recently I started to draw digitally and experiment with new color palettes.
I read somewhere that you also write? And that you create graphic novels? Could you tell us more?
I enjoy storytelling, no matter via images or words. I am the author and illustrator of two picture books, Silence Can Be Beautiful (2012) and Forever (2014). I also did Roots under Ashes for a graphic documentary anthology titled Frontline Z.A. about social movements in Taiwan. Besides, I’ve done book reviews & intros – that kind of writing – when I worked as an editor for a children’s book publisher.
Silence Can Be Beautiful: The story follows a deaf girl who views life from a different perspective. Her sister presents her with a clay whistle that creates sounds only she can hear, unleashing her imagination and broadening her world. The story reflects upon the idea that something invaluable can be gained through the loss of something else that is important.
Forever: The story follows a little girl undergoing the loss of her mother, who signed the DNR order after finding out she had lung cancer. For the first time with only her father to celebrate her birthday, the girl receives a letter her mother prepared beforehand. The words from the girl’s mother are about memories they share, and the meaning of life and death.