Arts and Culture

Children’s book illustrators group Ang INK marks 30th year

Diana Uichanco - Philstar.com
Childrenâs book illustrators group Ang INK marks 30th year
"INK Story: 30 years of Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan" is ongoing at the Ateneo Art Gallery until December 17.

MANILA, Philippines — Once upon a time, a few dozen young people who loved to draw found themselves together in a nondescript room. Surrounded by pencils, paints and lots of paper, they set out to learn all there was to learn from a renowned figure from a foreign land.

For days and days they listened and they learned, they imagined and they drew. By the end of their time together, each of the young artists had created wonderful magic on paper with the expert guidance of their visitor.

It was 1991, and it was only the beginning of an adventure for these young people. The nondescript room in which the group was gathered was somewhere in the former Goethe Institut Manila in Quezon City. The gathering that featured guests from foreign shores was a children’s book illustration workshop with renowned German illustrator Reinhard Michl. With budding artists in attendance, most of them were in their 20s and had just started their professional careers. 

When the workshop concluded, they formed an organization out of a desire to interact more with one another and other colleagues in the field. The 21 artists who became the first members of Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan, or Ang INK, achieved more than enhanced camaraderie. More artists, graphic designers, painters and other creatives in the visual arts made literature come alive in the pages of children’s books. This eventually led to a remarkable boost to the children’s book industry and to the work of children’s book illustrators in the Philippines.

Eventful 30 years


Three decades down the line, Ang INK has traversed quite the journey-- sponsoring countless art workshops and talks, conducting activities to polish the talents and techniques of INKies (a spunky name for the organization’s members!), collaborating with other groups for various projects, and regularly holding exhibits showcasing INKies’ works. And its most recent exhibit -- not without its unique challenges to mount owing to the current health situation -- marks another milestone in the history of the group: its 30th anniversary.

“In spite of difficulties the past two years, especially in meeting in person, I still feel the warmth, passion and joy in this exhibit of my fellow members and their love for the children’s book industry,” said the group’s current president Nina Martinez at the online opening of INK Story: 30 Years of Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan at the Ateneo Art Gallery in Quezon City.

“I hope that whether you are a friend of the organization or a visitor and newcomer, you get to see in this exhibit the colorful history of the children’s book industry as well as leave with a hint of hope for what it can still achieve for you as a reader or as a kid at heart.”

Penpen Awards

It was also this year’s online anniversary celebration that marked the launch of the Penpen Awards, given to two INKies for their outstanding contributions. Robert Alejandro was acknowledged  for generously sharing his talent and techniques, whether face-to-face, on television, or via social media, and for inspiring young and old to bravely explore their artistic side and to just have fun. While Liza Flores was honored for always stepping up to the plate and leading the group in accomplishing many important milestones -- even through the toughest challenges -- and for generously mentoring INKie recruits into fine, creative professionals.

Facing forward

The online event also included a panel discussion dubbed Facing Forward: Visions for the Philippine children’s book industry, which generated a fruitful exchange of ideas between three personalities, each of whom is actively involved in the industry: Adarna House VP for Product Development and The Raya School director Ani Almario, multi-awarded writer of children’s books and University of the Philippines-Los Banos Asst. Professor in Communication, Research, and Children’s Literature Cheeno Marlo Sayuno, and part-time teacher, freelance illustrator and INKie Patricia Ramos.

Ang INK has certainly come a long way from the 1991 bunch of fledgling founding members who knew next to nothing about running a professional association. Currently with some 70 active members, the group has evolved into an enterprising organization that continuously finds venues and creates opportunities for its members to educate themselves, further hone their craft, collaborate with other organizations, and have their work animate the pages of an ever-growing number of children’s books. Even Michl, the German illustrator who gathered them together during that fateful workshop 30 years ago, is impressed and delighted by the great strides Ang INK has made.

“I feel honored that you remember our two weeks together during that workshop in Manila as I have the best memories of it, too,” the artist said in a video message shown during the exhibit opening. “I’m glad to hear that INK still exists and is doing well all these years. Good luck to all of you and keep INKing for the next 30 years!”

"INK Story: 30 years of Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan" is ongoing at the Ateneo Art Gallery until December 17. — Video from Ateneo Art Gallery via YouTube

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