Illustrious Illustrators #1 Carson Ellis & Thé Tjong Khing

I decided to ‘launch’ a new series in which I discuss my favourite illustrators. As you might know, I’m a huge fan of illustrated books: from children’s classics to adult fiction, illustrations often make me love a book even more. I do not love every illustrator’s style, but over the years I have found some illustrators (who are sometimes also writers) that make my heart flutter a little. In this first installment I will introduce you to Carson Ellis and Thé Tjong Khing!

Carson Ellis
Ellis is an American illustrator, well-known for the collaboration with her husband Colin Meloy in The carson-ellisWildwood Chronicles (which I highly recommend!). She also illustrated New York Times bestsellers Home (which she also wrote), The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart and The Composer Is Dead by Lemony Snicket. She is also an occasional maker of editorial illustration (The New York Times, Poetry Magazine, and The New Yorker, among others). Ellis: ‘I live on a farm in Oregon with Colin, our two sons, one cat, two llamas, two goats, one sheep, eight chickens, a family of barn owls and an unfathomable multitude of tree frogs.’ She writes also very nice blogs about their home and her work (here).

I always love Ellis’s illustrations for the use of colour and the shape of figures and forms. At first glance, they seem quite simple: round trees with a few branches, clear silhouettes … But there is always something going on. Her illustrations in Wildwood were quite sombre and made me quiver because they made me feel like there was something coming. (And yes, there was something coming.) This was also enhanced by her use of dimmed colours, although she uses the occasional bright and vivid red. I only know Ellis’s illustrations from The Wildwood Chronicles but I would love to collect more of her work. I think Home will be an excellent second purchase!

Visit her website here.

Thé Tjong Khing
Khing is a Dutch illustrator from Purworedjo, Indonesia. Born in 1933 he went to the art the-tjong-khingacademy in Bandung, the capital of West-Java. He came to the Netherlands in 1959 to continue his studies. Khing first started working for Toonder Studios, the studio of the Dutch comic book artist Marten Toonder, but from the 1970s on, Thé worked as a freelance illustrator. About his name: his family name is Thé, his first name Khing. Tjong is a so-called ‘generation name’, a name for all sons of the same generation. It is customary to say the family name first.

Now about his illustrations. Khings work is characterised by his use of colour and his plain interplay of lines. He plays with colour, not using bright and vivid colours, but less striking – sometimes even subdued – colours, but colourful nonetheless. Khing is one of the first (Dutch) illustrators I discovered and loved. The books I first read as a child where his fairy tales (which he had also written) and the books of Vos en Haas or Fox and Hare. His latest work is a children’s book on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of Hieronymus Bosch, one of the most famous Dutch painters. The book is also available in English (here and here).

Visit his website here (Dutch only), or read more about Khing here.

Well, that’s it for today! I hope you enjoyed this new series. Please tell me what you think of both Ellis and Khing and which illustrator you would like to see in one of the future episodes of Illustrious Illustrators. Thank you for reading and see you soon!

Amber Linde


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