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  • Thé Tjong-KhingIllustrator–Netherlands

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Thé Tjong-Khing was born on August 4, 1933, in Purworedjo in Indonesia to a Chinese-Indonesian family. As a child, he was a fan of the Tarzan comic strips of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Thé Tjong-Khing went to the Seni Rupa (arts) institute in Bandung and came to the Netherlands to continue his studies in 1956. In the Netherlands, he started to work as a draftsman at Toonder Studio's, where he drew comic strips. He also contributed to various children's magazines. Between 1967 and 1968, Thé Tjong-Khing drew the science-fiction strip Iris, with Lo Hartog writing the texts; they also created the cartoon strip Arman and Ilva for various provincial newspapers.

In 1970, Thé Tjong-Khing illustrated his first children's book, Total loss, weet je wel (Total loss, you know), written by Miep Diekmann. Ever since, he has been a well-known and much sought-after illustrator of children's books. He worked with famous Dutch children's books authors such as Guus Kuijer, Els Pelgrom, Sylvia Vanden Heede, and Dolf Verroen. Apart from working as a cartoonist and book illustrator, Thé Tjong-Khing taught at the Rietveld Academy. In 1971, he was awarded for his work at the Belgian science-fiction convention.

Thé Tjong-Khing has illustrated some 150 children's books. To the question "Do you still find it a challenge and where do you get your ideas from?" he replied,

It depends a lot on the story you're illustrating, of course. Sometimes you can only draw what's there, which isn't too inspiring. Some texts can be far more suggestive. If I have to draw a child, for instance, then I use pictures of what I see around me, but many early memories as well. I've retained all of them. It's like this, when you're an actor you've only got one part, but as an illustrator, you actually direct all of the parts. That's very appealing.

The work of Thé Tjong-Khing occupies a special place in the Dutch art of illustration. Right from his arrival in the Netherlands in 1956, Thé Tjong-Khing worked as a cartoon artist. In 1966, he designed the cover and the illustrations for Micky en de vreemde rovers (Micky and the strange robbers) by Thea Beckman, and then he gradually turned from being a cartoon artist into a children's book illustrator—sometimes clinging strongly to other drawing styles, like a chameleon, and other times flirting with them, whereby the work, despite this or because of this, always comes across as recognizably Thé Tjong-Khing in its totality. [End Page 58]



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