About the Artist

My name is Colleen Kong-Savage—yes, as in King Kong was a Savage beast. This June 2018 I make my children’s book illustration debut with Helena Rhee‘s The Turtle Ship, published by Lee & Low Books (woohoo!).

Once upon a time I was intimidated by the big bad city of New York, but what a thrill to live on an island of a thousand different cultures. Growing up, my family hopscotched about the globe. When I returned to the US, I missed all the foods and people I had encountered overseas… until I moved to Manhattan. As I earned my writing MFA at Columbia University, I fell in love with NYC, its growly sense of humor and population of creative oddballs. Because of a phobia of driving, I will never leave the metropolis.

Before I began freelancing as a graphic artist, I manned the dusty counters of New York Central Art Supplies and spent so much time coveting the handmade papers, my employer collected back all my wages with my paper purchases. I used to draw inky figures larger than life, which earned me a scholarship to the Art Students League, an art school that nurtured the likes of Georgia O’Keefe, Norman Rockwell, Don Freeman, and countless notables. I worked abstractly as well as figuratively, tearing, crumpling, collaging giant swathes of paper.


Photo credit: James Dean

Alas space is hard to come by in New York City. After the arrival of my son and his massive collection of trucks and trains, there was no more storage room for super-sized canvases.  In a move towards pragmatism, I began doing graphic design and illustration for small businesses (and building my future greeting card empire, Konga Line), limiting the size of all artwork to the dimensions of my scanner. Although on occasion, I do design and help coordinate the painting of murals for public schools through the volunteer organization of New York Cares. But picture books are where my heart is at. I find satisfaction in the chemistry between words and images, that perfect story nugget, consumed in a New York minute… then revisited again and again and “Read it again, Mama.”

Kindergarteners at PS 2, Manhattan, sit for a pic with a new mural