Awesome Artist : Colleen Kong


In this series, Awesome Artists, we talk to our favorite artists to get insight on how they draw, and get their tips for creating. We spoke to  Allison Langton, who shared her watercolor techniques with painting plants, and Tim Miller, who gave us a peek into his process for creating the picture book, Snappsy the Alligator. Today we welcome back one of our friends, Colleen Kong-Savage, who was our very first guest for 3 & 1/2 Questions.

Meet Awesome Artist Colleen Kong


I’m so excited for Colleen as this is her debut as a picture book illustrator. Above is the cover of The Turtle Ship by Helena Ku Rhee, illustrated by Colleen Kong-Savage. Colleen uses a technique called collage – doodling with paper. We’re so excited to share Colleen’s process in drawing with scissors and paper.

The Turtle Ship is a story about a poor boy named Sun-sin who dreams of traveling the world. One day a contest is announced that the winner of best ship design would get to sail with the royal navy. Sun-sin’s idea for a ship is inspired by his best friend, a turtle called Gobugi (which means “turtle” in Korean).

Colleen is going to share with us one of the most difficult scenes she worked on for the book, as seen below.

KCD: Hi Colleen. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your work with us! Can you tell us a little bit about this scene from the book?

CKS: For this scene, I wanted show the Gyeongbokgung Palace, which was the grandest of all the palaces built in the Joseon Dynasty, the period in which Sunsin lived. So I did a sketch to show the art director how I planned to illustrate this scene. It was rough, messy, and fast because the purpose of the sketch was to show the Art Director my idea.

The Art Director said, “We like the expressions of people wondering why a kid is there with a turtle. It’s cute the way you have him holding the turtle on his head. We suggest backing out in space so we can see many more of the “hundreds of people.” Right now it looks like there are only six other people.”

Arrival_sketch 1

smileNote that Colleen shows a sketch before starting a final drawing. The above is the first one she showed, and she does a few more before it gets approved to proceed to final draft.

trythisBefore doing a drawing, see how many ways you can sketch the drawing. Trying different viewpoints or changing something about the subject or try different ideas.

KCD: How did you react to the Art Director’s feedback?

CKS: I don’t know if you ever noticed — drawing people is not easy, not even for a professional artist. But the Art Director was right, I hadn’t drawn very many people, so I sketched some more.

“How’s this?” I asked the Art Director.

She said, “This is a little better with a few more people added, but we still don’t get a sense of hundreds, and nobody has a replica of a battleship.”


Argh! Drawing a crowd is a lot of work! You have to make up many different faces, and many different bodies doing different activities, wearing different clothes, in different positions from the viewer’s point of view. Plus as a collage artist I was imagining all the like tiny bits of paper I’d be cutting out in the final illustration. And oh yeah, I had forgotten about the replicas.

“How about this?” I asked the Art Director. “Is this enough people and battleships? And do you like how you can see Sun-sin’s face now? I want people to see that he’s excited to be here.”

Thankfully, the Art Director said, “YES!”


KCD: How do you start drawing with paper?

CKS: I make many copies of this drawing. I use most of them to help me cut out all the individual shapes from the papers I want to use. With the help of a light table I trace facial expressions. And I always keep one copy of the master drawing whole. 

This copy is my template and it helps me figure out where to put the pieces.

As I put the pieces in place I glue them to each other—not onto the template. I will glue the crowd to another background when it’s complete.

This is what the back of a whole crowd of people look like.



Phew! I bet it took a long time to complete pasting all the people and their details. Here is the completed scene again. Thanks for sharing your process with us, Colleen!


smileEvery professional illustrator sketches ideas first before doing a final piece of art. The final art takes a long time, so it’s important to work out all the details first, and that way, you’ll make all your mistakes in the early draft and not the final art.


Next time when you want to create something, try sketching out a few ideas first. See how many ways you can approach the drawing, trying it in different way each time. Good luck!


Colleen Kong-Savage is an illustrator, artist, and graphic designer. Her picture book debut, The Turtle Ship is published by Shen’s Books, a multicultural children’s book publisher based in California. Shen’s Books aims to emphasize “cultural diversity and tolerance, with a focus on introducing children to the cultures of Asia.”

All images courtesy of Colleen Kong-Savage.


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28 days 28 drawings doodle challenge

28 days drawings banner

For February, our drawing (and media) challenge is to doodle something silly every day. Take a look at the list below. Join in anytime. All ages welcome. Check back here to see our videos and doodles! Show us your drawings on instagram, facebook, and twitter with the tag #28days28drawings and #kidcandoodle and we’ll share your doodles too. Hope you’ll doodle with us.


28 Days 28 Drawings February Doodle Challenge


Day 1 : cats in hats

I’m challenging myself to try a different medium each time — you should too! Whenever possible, I think it’s important to experiment with different materials and play with them. Try each one out, get a feel for how they work, and see which ones you enjoy using. Keep learning!

This was done using China Marker, a grease pencil often used to mark up proofs by photographers. This waxy pencil writes on plastics, windows, and other surfaces. I like their rich, crayon-like color; it’s my favorite drawing implement and what I often use to create the artwork for kidcandoodle.


Day 2 : dancing dogs

dancing dogs

This mint + pumpkin risograph print was made at Hato Press in London. The printshop offers a 2-color risograph printing workshop that is ideal for learning how the process works. It’s very similar to silk-screening, but done with the convenience of a photo-copier machine. It was such a fun experience — I want to do it again with Little Dude.


Day 3 : party animals


Double-duty: I added the blue to coordinate with the popular weekly Colour Collective twitter art prompt, “air force blue”. This was done with Prismacolor pencils, one of the best colored pencil brands. (My family gifted me a 72-color set for my birthday this year.)


Day 4 : sloths taking selfies

sloths taking selfies

Biro or Bic ballpoint pens are a drawing tool that I usually shy away from — I find them intimidating. I created these selfie-obsessed sloths using ballpoint, and then colored them in Photoshop.


Day 5 : doodling deer

28 days doodling deer

This doodling deer is painted with Windsor & Newton Designers gouache, and the color palette has a vintage look to it, don’t you think? (Thanks to Carin Channing for this doodle prompt)


Day 6 : panda pillow fight

panda pillow fight

Painting pillow-fighting pandas with Windsor & Newton Drawing ink seemed very appropriate, because the ink recalls Asian calligraphy, and pandas are native to China.


Day 7 : dinosaur detectives

dino detective

It’s hard to draw a dinosaur detective without making it look goofy! My Dino Sherlock was drawn with a Pentel brush pen and then colored using a mini set of Filia oil crayons, which are portable, and great for on-the-go drawing kits. I also love the vintage-look packaging.


Day 8 : penguin pirates

A post shared by Dylan Hall (@extrostar) on

My son Dylan likes to draw digitally, using pixel apps such as 8bit Painter, and he’s been contributing several drawings for 28 Days 28 Drawings, like this one for penguin pirates. *proud mama*


Day 9 : rollerblading raccoons

rollerblading raccoon

Raccoons are just too cute to draw. This rollerblading rodent was sketched with graphite pencils. A basic set like Derwent should be included in every artist’s supplies.


Day 10 : giraffes in galoshes

giraffe in galoshes

Wouldn’t it be funny to see a giraffe in wellies? I thought so too! Oil pastels were used to doodle this rain-ready long-legged mammal.


Day 11 : space hogs

space hog

Uh-oh, it’s a swine in space! Drawn with stubby Stabilo Stifte crayons, a genius 3-in-1 tool that can be used as coloring pencil, watercolor, or wax crayon, too. They are nice and soft and the chunky size is fun for small hands to hold.


Day 12 : trees hugging

tree huggers

I wanted to make sure that not all the drawing prompts were of animals, but still include unexpected things, such as this couple of tree huggers. Created with a mix of Windsor & Newton drawing inks and colored pencils.


Day 13 : fruits in sunnies (sunglasses)

fruits in sunnies

A fun medium to try is collage: it’s quick, experimental, and not too dependant on hand-eye coordination — perfect for this trio of sun-tanning tropical fruits. Also colored with China Marker pencil and Adobe Photoshop.


Day 14 : pika pool party

pika pool party

Pikas are such cute critters, resembling mice or hamsters. (You may not have realized that this Pokemon character was inspired by a pika.) I imagined they’d be fun-loving creatures who enjoy a good pool party. Also created using watercolor + colored pencils.


Day 15 : flying foxes

flying foxflying fox 2

This prompt was intended to have a double meaning: flying foxes could be clever pilots or fruit-eating bats (like those found in my former home of Brisbane, Australia). Please interpret as you please. I suggest using Prismacolor pencils or gouache.


Day 16 : trucks eating tacos

trucks eating tacos

I know this was a tricky one to draw, and it would be challenging to not make it look cartoony. I wanted to have a few prompts that weren’t animal subjects, and it’s a nod to my love of tacos and the many I’ve sampled from taco trucks in Austin and Brisbane, Australia, where we used to live. Drawn with China Marker pencil.


Day 17 : reading rockets

rocket reading

If rockets had a book club, what do you think they’d read? My bet is on science-fiction. This was another quick sketch using my go-to drawing implement: China Marker grease pencils.


Day 18 : aliens skiing

aliens skiing

Aliens aren’t very good at skiing. Especially when they have three legs! These creatures are cut-up from magazines — a super resource for collage. Art recycling is re-creating AND re-using. Also doodled with Faber-Castell Pitt artist pens, another artist’s necessity.


Day 19 : flower painting

flower painting

I purposefully left this prompt open to creative interpretation. I thought of Van Gogh’s iconic Sunflowers painting, as well as the act of painting flowers too. Flowers are a lovely source of inspiration for artists — beginner or advanced, alike — it’s no wonder they continue to be a popular subject. Created with Pentel brush pen and Faber-Castell pastel pencils. Pastel pencils are more blend-able than regular colored pencils, but they also smudge easily, so take care when using them.


Day 20 : skateboarding pigeon

skateboarding pigeon


Day 21 : surfing banana

surfing banana


Day 22 : squirrels wearing scarves


Day 23 : singing sea lions

singing sea lion

Drawing with white and colored chalk pastel on black or dark paper is a terrific artist’s exercise to focus on lighting; it requires you to look at and draw only shadows and highlights. I cheated a bit here because I added the outline (I was being impatient), but ideally, you would try to fill out the figure by ONLY drawing the highlights, mid-tones or shadows. If the paper is dark, such as in this example, you would draw only the highlights and mid-tones, and leave the paper to be the shadows.


Day 24 : hula-hooping hippo

hula-hooping hippo

I animated Harriet the hula-hooping hippo, by making a simple gif in Photoshop.


Day 25 : sock superheroes

Introducing: Super Sock, a mini comic for you!


Day 26 : gorilla wearing glasses

Take a vote! Which #gorillawearingglasses do you like better? Number 1 or 2?

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Day 27 : cactus eating cookies

cactus eating ice cream

Day 28 : octopus enjoying ice cream

octopus eating ice cream


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